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Monday, March 11, 2013

Where Does the Time Go?

I cannot believe I have missed posting several events over the last few days!

Here is the post I should have sent out two weeks ago about our WHEP meeting.  We met to talk about Black Bear and Northern Raccoon.

Black bear 

General information 
Black bears primarily use mature deciduous or mixed deciduous/coniferous forest interspersed with early successional openings containing soft mast. Young regenerating stands, shrub thickets with dense brushy cover, and riparian corridors are also used. They are generally secretive and avoid human contact; however, black bears are highly adaptable and may occur in and around human dwellings and be¬come problematic, especially if food is available. Black bears are primarily nocturnal, but may be seen anytime during the day. They hibernate in winter (even in warm climates like Florida and Louisiana) and have large home ranges (several square miles) that vary based on sex, age and/or time of year (breeding season, fall for¬aging areas, denning habitat). In general, adult male home ranges (up to 50 square miles) are much larger than female home ranges. Solitary females and females with cubs have consider¬ably smaller (15 square miles) home ranges. Black bears are omnivorous, however more than 90 percent of their diet consists of vegetative matter. Liberalizing or restricting females in the harvest influences population growth. Regulation of bear population densities is influenced by public tolerance toward bear/human conflicts, property damage, livestock and agricultural damage, and the desire to see bears.

Habitat requirements
Diet: spring food sources are typically scarce and consist of early developing plants such as skunk cabbage, squaw root, grasses and insects; occasionally, small to medium-sized mammals such as deer fawns and young livestock (calves and lambs) are preyed upon; during summer and early fall, a variety of soft mast such as blackberry, blueberry, serviceberry, black cherry and pokeweed are important; during late fall, acorns, beechnuts, hickory nuts and other hard mast, as well as field corn and soybeans, help bears prepare for hibernation; when natural foods are scarce, bears may wander near human residences and feed on bird seed, dog/cat food and other food scraps
Water: free-standing water is used for drinking; spring seeps and other shallow water sources are used to cool off and get away from biting insects; water is seldom a limiting factor since black bears have such a large home range
Cover: mature hardwood or mixed hardwood/conifer forests for foraging; brushy areas and young regenerating forest for loafing and escape; early successional openings primarily for foraging, usually for soft mast; rock crevices, excavations, hollow trees, dense mountain laurel/rhododendron thickets for hibernation

Wildlife management practices

  • Decrease Harvest: may be necessary when additional bears are desired and hunting pres¬sure may be limiting growth
  • Forest Management Techniques: forest regeneration, especially clear-cut and shelterwood methods, creates dense escape and loafing cover for bears; an abundance of soft mast (pokeweed, blackberry, huckleberry, blueberry) is usually available in recently regenerated stands; timber stand improvement practices can lead to increased hard mast production if quality trees are retained in the stand, and can stimulate groundcover, which usually increases soft mast production
  • Increase Harvest: where populations can sustain additional hunting pressure for recreation and/or where populations need to be lowered
  • Leave Grain Unharvested: strips of corn, grain sorghum/soybeans should be left standing, especially adjacent to escape cover, to provide food close to cover
  • Manage disturbance: Prescribed fire can stimulate groundcover and soft mast and maintain Stages 3 and 4 
  • Plant/Manage Food Plots: where available food may be limiting, forage and grain plots may be planted to provide additional nutrition
  • Plant Shrubs: crabapple, high-bush blueberry, hawthorn, wild plum and elderberry can be planted within forest openings where soft mast is lacking; this can also 
  • help maintain Stage 4
  • Plant Trees: apple, pear, cherry, persimmon and dogwood are suitable choices to provide additional soft mast
  • Tillage Management: eliminate tillage in the fall to provide additional waste grain during winter, especially when adjacent to Stages 4-6
  • Wildlife Damage Management Techniques: may be needed if bear-human conflicts occur in agricultural or urban settings

Northern raccoon

General information
Raccoons are very common throughout most of the U.S., except in certain parts of the Rocky Mountains, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. Raccoons are found in a variety of vegetation types but are usually most abundant near riparian areas and wetlands. They are also found in urban areas. Raccoons den in hollow trees, burrows under stumps or brushpiles, or in chimneys, at¬tics and crawl spaces of houses and buildings. They are omnivorous and eat a wide variety of foods. Raccoons can become pests in urban areas and in wetlands where waterfowl nesting is important. Raccoons have also been identified as major predators on game bird nests and young game birds. In such cases, wildlife damage management or increased harvest may be necessary.

Habitat requirements
Diet: crayfish, birds, eggs, small mammals, insects, lizards, snakes, worms, fish, carrion, grains, seeds, hard and soft mast and foods prepared for human and pet consumption
Water: require water frequently during warm seasons
Cover: riparian areas, bottomland hardwoods and along other wetlands; natural tree cavities are used for denning and daytime loafing; also dens in ground burrows under stumps, brush and junk piles, old abandoned buildings and rocky cliffs and ledges

Wildlife management practices

  • Decrease Harvest: if hunting pressure is limiting population growth where an increase is desired 
  • Establish Field Buffers: to increase usable space for prey around row crop fields
  • Forest Management Techniques: forest regeneration and timber stand improvement can stimulate soft mast production and cover for prey; relatively large snags with cavities should be retained when implementing for¬est management
  • Increase Harvest: where populations can sustain additional hunting or trapping pressure for recreation and/or where populations need to be lowered for various reasons
  • Leave Grain Unharvested: especially cornfields adjacent to bottomland hardwoods and riparian areas
  • Manage disturbance: prescribed fire is recommended to rejuvenate old decadent wetland vegetation; prescribed fire and disking can maintain Stages 2 and 3; prescribed fire, herbicide applications and chaining are recommended to revert Stage 4 and Stage 5 to Stages 2 and 3; grazing management should prevent livestock from degrading riparian areas and other wetlands; this may include development of livestock watering facilities in uplands to discourage congregation in and overuse of riparian areas
  • Plant/Manage Food Plots: annual grain food plots, especially corn 
  • Plant Shrubs: where soft mast is lacking and to provide corridors across large areas of Stages 2 and 3
  • Plant Trees: especially in riparian areas and adjacent to wetlands where few trees are present; maintain approximately 50 percent deciduous forest cover; maintain forested riparian corridors
  • Create Snags: relatively large dead trees with cavities can provide denning sites
  • Tillage Management: eliminate fall tillage of grain crop residue adjacent to cover to make waste grain available as an additional food source
  • Water Control Structures: to control water levels and provide water less than 2 feet deep and stimulate emergent vegetation and enhance habitat for prey
  • Water Developments for Wildlife: shallow impoundments can provide a water source and additional wetland habitat
  • Wildlife Damage Management: may be necessary if raccoons invade garbage cans, occupy residences or buildings, or prey upon poultry; exclusion is cost-effective; cultural modification such as using wildlife-proof trash cans is effective; trap and euthanize is most effective for problem raccoons

In between animals, we had a fun hands on activity to demonstrate the carrying capacity of Black bear in a habitat.  We then discussed a scenario related to a national park for these animals.

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