Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Oscar the Gator to be on Display

The most famous resident of Okefenokee Swamp Park — an alligator that attracted the stares of tourists for decades and was featured in GPB's Original Production Swampwise— will soon be immortalized nearly a year after his death.

The skeleton of Oscar is being assembled and will be put on display like a museum dinosaur. The 14-foot, 1,000-pound alligator had roamed the swamp from the time the park opened in 1946.

As his bones show, Oscar was a tough customer, surviving a shotgun blast to the face, at least three bullet wounds, broken bones and arthritis. Gators have been known to live for decades, and by some estimates, Oscar was a particularly ancient 95 to 100 years old when he died last summer.

The display also will include what park officials found in Oscar's belly — including a plastic dog collar, a dog's tag, a penny and the top section of a flagpole.

The Okefenokee is a 438,000-acre National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Georgia that attracts 350,000 to 400,000 visitors a year. During the first years of the park's operation, alligator wrestling was a popular attraction, park officials have said. That ended in the mid-1950s when, it is said, one of the gators rolled over on a park manager and broke the man's arm.

Learn more about the Okefenokee Swamp by watching Georgia Outdoors: Okefenokee Canoe Trip and Georgia Outdoors: Suwanee River Watershed.

"Orphaned" Wildlife Need no Rescue

Concern for “orphaned” wildlife is simply human nature. Most people who come across a deer fawn, a young bird or a newborn rabbit will initially watch in amazement and then immediately wonder if the animal is in need of help. This spring, as newborn wildlife blossom into existence, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) encourages residents to resist the natural urge to rescue these “orphaned” wildlife.

"While a person may have good intentions, young animals unnecessarily taken into captivity lose their natural instincts and ability to survive in the wild,” says WRD Assistant Chief of Game Management John Bowers. Thus, the urge to “help” or “save” these animals is strongly discouraged both for the survival of the animal and the safety of the individual.

“Most of the time, young animals that appear to be helpless and alone are only separated from the adults temporarily. This separation of adults from newborns is a critical survival mechanism. Adults spend a significant amount of time away from their offspring to minimize predation, but do frequently check on their young,” explains Bowers.

“Additionally, handling wild animals and bringing them into the home poses a health risk for both people and pets. Wildlife can transmit life-threatening diseases such as rabies and can carry parasites such as roundworms, lice, fleas and ticks,” explains Bowers.

Residents who encounter a seriously injured animal or an animal that clearly has been orphaned should contact their local WRD office to obtain a contact number for a certified wildlife rehabilitator who is licensed to provide proper care for the animal until it can be released back into the wild. Individuals who are not trained in wildlife rehabilitation should not attempt to care for wildlife. Georgia law prohibits the possession of most wildlife without a permit.

Residents who encounter an animal such as a bat, fox, skunk, raccoon, coyote or bobcat during the daytime that appears to show no fear of humans or dogs, or that seems to behave in a sick or abnormal manner (i.e. weaving, drooling, etc.), should avoid the animal and contact the local county health office and/or a WRD office for guidance.

The animal may be afflicted with rabies, distemper or another disease. Residents should not attempt to feed or handle the sick animal. Pets, livestock and humans should be kept away from the area in which the animal was observed.

The two most important steps people can take to protect themselves and their pets from rabies is to 1) get pets vaccinated and 2) avoid contact with wildlife. As another precautionary step, adults should instruct children to NEVER bring wildlife home.

For more information on orphaned, injured or diseased wildlife, visit www.georgiawildlife.com.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wild Fact: Tent Caterpillars

The web-like masses you see in tree branches every spring are the handiwork of Eastern Tent Caterpillars. After overwintering as a little black blob of eggs, hundreds of hairy caterpillars hatch out and form a silky nest. Although common, the larvae are quite beautiful: black with white, orange, and yellow stripes plus pale blue blotches on the sides. Caterpillars must leave the nest daily to munch on tree leaves, but they return for protection from predators and the weather. In a few months, after reaching about 2½ inches long, the larvae venture away for good to spin a cocoon. Adult moths hatch out about 3 weeks later.

WILD Facts is a new regular feature written by Linda May, a wildlife interpretive specialist with the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division based at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield, Georgia.

Learn more about moths by watching Georgia Outdoors: Nighttime in Georgia.

Monday, April 21, 2008

25 Ways to be a Green Mama or Papa

1. Paint the nursery with Earth-friendly paint, such as zero-VOC, low-VOC or milk-based.

2. Save the gift bags from your shower and reuse them. They also can be cut up and turned into thank-you notes and borders for scrapbooking.

3. Buy used baby products whenever possible. Consignment shops offer high quality and good prices. (Experts recommend buying some items, such as crib mattresses, new.)

4. Don't overbuy. Babies don't need much stuff.

5. Don't sign up for baby-product catalogs. If companies find you anyway —- and you know they will —- call and ask to be taken off the mailing list.

6. Nurse if you can. If you can't, recycle formula containers.

7. Baby products use a lot of batteries. Recycle —- IKEA accepts alkaline batteries and fluorescent light bulbs —- or use rechargeable ones.

8. Develop Earth-friendly diaper habits. Some parents swear by flushable —- and adorable! —- gDiapers (www.gdiapers.com). Even with disposables, solid waste should be flushed. Offset water used in washing cloth diapers with even shorter showers.

9. If you're using cloth diapers, use cloth wipes. Cut-up T-shirts work well. For a cleaning solution, try water, baby soap and a few drops of baby oil in a spray bottle.

10. Line-dry diapers, cloth wipes and clothing when possible.

11. Save outgrown sleepers for the next child, hand them down to a younger baby, or turn them into dust cloths.

12. Use biodegradable cleaning products. You can clean just about anything with baking soda, vinegar, liquid dish soap, lemon juice and hot water.

13. Organize a neighborhood swap meet to get rid of outgrown baby gear and pick up gently used items.

14. Try making some or all of your baby food (www.wholesomebabyfood.com). Recycle glass baby food jars.

15. Get in the habit of eating local produce by getting a Community Supported Agriculture membership. Shop at farmers markets. Plant a garden.

16. Compost the produce you don't eat. Compost tumblers are easy, fun and don't stink.

17. Find close-by places to play to avoid excess driving.

18. Use public transportation whenever possible.

19. Love the library, not just for children's books but also for parenting advice books, magazines, DVDs and more.

20. Turn recycling, composting, gardening and water conservation into games to play with your child.

21. When a new toy comes in the house, have your child select a toy to donate to charity.

22. Keep birthday parties small and simple.

23. Practice creative gift-giving. For a 2-year-old, try a small saucepan, a wooden spoon and a whisk. When the birthday boy gets bored, Mom's kitchen can absorb the gift.

24. Have a post-holidays gift-swap party. Every child brings a toy or two and leaves with a toy or two.

25. Eat dinner together at the table when possible. Use cloth napkins. You're doing laundry anyway, right?

Source: Metro Atlanta mothers, including members of the Intown Atlanta Parents of Multiples Club, Decatur Mamas, Atlanta Mommas and other parenting groups.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Co-existing with Coyotes

The distinctive call of the coyote or “song dog” can be heard all across our state - from the more welcoming rural areas of wooded forests and open fields to the less inviting backyards of metro Atlanta neighborhoods. Rapid human population growth across the state coupled with the coyote’s unique ability to adapt and thrive wherever food is available, contributes to today’s increased observation of coyotes in urban settings.

While coyotes closely resemble a small dog in appearance, the distinctive characteristics that set the species apart are upright, pointed ears, a pointed snout, low forehead, a mottled color fur pattern ranging from black to reddish-blonde and a bushy tail that is generally carried straight out below the level of its back.

“Historically, coyotes were most commonly found on the Great Plains of North America. However, their range has expanded from Central America to the Arctic. They are one of the most adaptable species on the planet. In fact, coyotes have adapted quite well to living in suburbs and cities like Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta,” says John Bowers, Assistant Chief of WRD Game Management. “Preventive methods are the best solutions for residents to reduce the potential for human-coyote conflicts.”

Though the coyote’s principal diet typically consists of small rodents and fruit, they are characterized as “opportunistic” and will prey on small domestic animals if given the opportunity. Because of this, small house pets (especially cats), young or small livestock and poultry are vulnerable and susceptible prey. Landowners and homeowners to heed the following precautions to ensure the safety of their animals:
  • Take pets indoors during the night, as this is the coyote’s primary hunting time. (In addition to coyotes, small pets may fall preyto free-roaming dogs and great horned owls.)

  • If the pet must be kept outside, install fencing and motion sensitive flood lights to discourage predators.

  • Small livestock or poultry should be kept in an enclosed orsheltered area. Coyotes rarely bother larger livestock although theyare often blamed for such nuisance instances. (It should be noted that free-roaming dogs,
  • rather than coyotes, are notorious for harassing, damaging or killing livestock.)

  • NEVER, under any circumstances, feed a coyote.

  • Keep items, such as grills, pet food or bird feeders off-limits.

  • Clean and store grills when not in use, keep pet food indoors or feed pets indoors and refill bird feeders infrequently and in small amounts.

  • Make trashcans inaccessible. Keep lids securely fastened or store trashcans in the garage until trash day.
Additional solutions against nuisance coyotes include trapping and/or hunting. Because coyotes are a non-native species in Georgia, there is no closed hunting or trapping season. WRD does NOT offer trapping services, but maintains a list of permitted and licensed trappers across the state. Residents interested in hiring a private trapper can contact the local WRD office or call 770-918-6416 for a referral.

And watch Georgia Outdoors: Urban Wildlife for more information about the kinds of critters you just might spy in your part of town.

Wildflower Hikes

Spring is a great time to take a hike. Wildflower abound in north Georgia this time of year. Try one of these spring wildflower hikes at Georgia's State Parks

  • Spring Wildflowers Around Unicoi
    Friday, April 18 – Saturday, April 19
    Unicoi State Park – Helen
    Friday evening begins with a slide show and lecture. On Saturday, there will be wildflower walks and activities that help both the novice and experienced enthusiast better appreciate the colorful and fascinating world of mountain wildflowers. Register in advance. $3 parking. 800-573-9659 ext. 305.

  • Wildflower Walk
    Saturday, April 26, 1:30 p.m.
    Vogel State Park – Blairsville
    This guided wildflower walk through the Appalachian forest will highlight Jack-in-the pulpits, wild azaleas and many other flowering plants. $3 plus $3 parking. (706) 745-2628

  • Wildflower Fever 1
    Saturday, May 3, 10 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.
    Smithgall Woods Conservation Area and Lodge – Helen
    Join nature photographer and master naturalist Debra H. Davis and her husband, Larry, to learn about the incredible beauty, diversity and folklore of Georgia's mountain spring wildflowers. Following a lecture and slide program, everyone is invited to join a short walk on the Laurel Ridge Trail. $3 parking. 706-878-3087.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Georgia State Record Tied.

Angler Larry Poole, Jr. of Martinez (Columbia County) had more than just a great day of fishing on the Savannah River on February 24, 2008 - he managed to catch a fish that tied an existing state record. Poole reeled in a 2 lbs. 8 oz., 17-inch yellow perch, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD). This ties the state
record caught in Lake Burton in 1980.

“It is always exciting for anyone to reel in a state record and this reminds us that Georgia is such a fantastic place for anglers because there are so many fishing opportunities and resources available,” says WRD Fisheries Management Chief John Biagi. “We hope that the recognition of this new state record will inspire experienced and novice anglers to get out and go fish Georgia’s numerous lakes and rivers.”

Yellow perch (Perca flavescens) are members of the perch family, which includes darters, sauger and walleye. They have a golden yellow body, with 6-8 dark vertical bands from back to belly. They prefer cool water lake environments, but also are found in large rivers and ponds. Their
typical diet includes small fish, aquatic insects, small crayfish, snails, midgefly larvae and mayflies. They are great to eat and can be prepared in a variety of ways.

According to the recently published 2008 Georgia Fishing Prospects, some great places to catch a yellow perch this year include the Chattahoochee River (between Buford Dam and Peachtree Creek), Lake Rabun, and if this recent catch is any indication - the Savannah River! The world record weight is 4 lbs. 3 oz. caught in New Jersey in 1865.

Information about state record fish can be found at www.gofishgeorgia.com or in the Sport Fishing Regulations Guidebook available at all WRD offices and all license agents.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Behind the Scenes Georgia Outdoors

Hello there, Georgia Outdoors fans. Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of Georgia Outdoors? Ever woken up in the middle of the night and wondered to yourself, "just HOW DO they make that award winning outdoors show, anyway?" Sure you have, we all have!

Well now all your deepest questions can be answered. I'm Andrew Marshall (your friendly neighborhood Associate Producer) here to take you on your very own photographic tour of day in the life of Georgia Outdoors. Buckle up, folks. It's going to be a wild ride! (Okay...moderately wild. Well, actually, not very wild at all. But interesting. )

We'll start out at my desk...always one step away from total disaster. Notice my highly advanced and patented "sticky note" organizational system.

Production Assistant Lauren Baker and I like to print out pictures and have people around the office color them. We award prizes to the best entry.

Speaking of Lauren, there she is now, doing one of the most important jobs on the show. When tapes come back in from the field, they must be logged and transcribed. This process is basically watching the footage very carefully and entering into the computer the content of every tape. Every shot on the tape must be logged, every spoken word must be typed and filed. I'll be honest, it's a tedious process, but absolutely essential to making the show. More about that later.

Lauren also has a highly advanced sticky note filing system.

Our tape library. Every tape we've shot in the last seven year or so is here. All of these tapes are entered into the computer. If we want a shot of, say, a beaver riding a unicycle, we can search the tape directory, find the number, find the corresponding tape in the library, and then use it for a show.

This coffee machine is the grease that makes the gears of Georgia Outdoors turn smoothly. On days when there is no coffee, not a lot of work gets done. I happen to be the only member of the Georgia Outdoors crew not addicted to the stuff, but I have my own vices...

...such as the secret candy stash owned by co-worker Jenny.

If coffee is the grease that helps the gears turn, then Jenny's secret candy stash is the fuel that makes the engine run. Without this stash, there would be no Georgia Outdoors.

There is Brandon Arnold, our producer, writing a script. Script writing for documentary style television is different than writing a script for fiction. It's kind of a reverse process, like sculpting. You start out with massive amounts of material and gradually shape it into what you want it to be. This is where all the hard work done in the "logging and transcribing" phase comes in handy. Think of it as someone laying out all your sculpting tools for you so that you know exactly where they are and how to use them.

That's Clifford, the Georgia Outdoors van. Guess why we call him Clifford?

Clifford is kind of like our mascot.

Once the tapes have been shot, logged, and transcribed, and the script has been written, it's time for the editing process. Amy is one of our editors. Look at her, hard at work!

Brandon dispenses his bountiful wisdom to Amy during editing.

After the show is complete, the entire crew puts on camouflage hats and dances a jig.

Okay, not really. I'm not actually sure why this was going on when I walked in with a camera, but I took a picture of it anyway.

Well I hope you enjoyed your little tour. Come back later for some "in the field" photographs. Location shoots are the other half of what we do and I must say, they make for much better photographs!

--Andrew Marshall, Associate Producer, Georgia Outdoors