Thursday, April 30, 2009

Backyard Buzz: How to Attract Hummingbirds

(ARA) - If the birding world had a rock star, it would be the hummingbird. Swift, tiny, secretive and simply amazing to watch, “hummers” are so hard to spot that catching a glimpse of one can be a summer experience you’ll long remember. But you don’t have to be an avid birder to be thrilled by the sight of a hummingbird.

Hummingbirds can be found across the country, with ruby-throated hummingbirds common east of the Rocky Mountains and a dozen or more species common in western regions. To maximize your chances of seeing a hummingbird this summer, take a few simple steps to attract them to your backyard, where you can enjoy them at your leisure.

In spring, hummingbirds return from their tropical winter retreats in Central and South America, and this is the best time to attract them to your backyard. Like all wild birds, hummers have three basic requirements to make a place their home – access to food, water and a good nesting spot.

Offering nectar-rich flowers and feeders is a good start. But you also need suitable habitat that provides sheltered perches and good nesting places, encouraging females to raise their young.

Research shows that these tiny birds have a remarkable memory and frequently return to the same hospitable sites on the same day of each year. If you feed consistently, you may have return visitors, especially during spring and fall migrations. If you can get them to nest nearby, too, you’ll have fledglings who also may remember your address in years to come.

Female hummers typically settle in deciduous trees over a clearing or stream. They fashion their nests from sticky spider webbing, using lichen to camouflage the exterior and soft plant fibers to cushion the interior. It’s probably not practical for the average hummingbird fan to stock spider webs and lichens in their yard. But there is a man-made alternative.

Hummer Helper is the first commercially available product that has proven appealing to hummingbirds. Introduced by Songbird Essentials, the all-natural material (specially processed with oil left in) is contained in a wire frame painted red to attract a hummingbird’s eye.

The product is endorsed by the Hummingbird Society (, an Arizona-based advocacy group. In the March 2009 edition of the society’s journal, Executive Director Ross Hawkins reported watching females at work gathering the material. “We recommend ‘Hummer Helper,’” he wrote. “It has the potential to help bring in more hummers, close by where you can observe them, and to increase the odds that they will nest near you.”

To start attracting hummers, hang a small feeder. Nectar mixes are available, but it’s easy to make your own. Use four parts tap water to one part ordinary table sugar, heated until dissolved. Red coloring isn’t necessary.

Increase the visibility of new feeders by hanging red ribbons nearby. The hummingbird’s high metabolism drives it to feed about every 10 minutes, and it examines every square yard in its range for food, experts say.

Keeping the feeder clean and the nectar refreshed is critical. Spoiled solutions can turn to alcohol and support mold, both harmful to the tiny birds. In cool weather, fluid can be left for five to seven days, but during hot spells it should be replaced every two days.

For easy cleaning, pick up a specialized brush like Songbird's “Best Hummer Brush.” Don’t use soap or detergents, which can be hard to rinse thoroughly. A solution of ordinary white vinegar is a good non-toxic cleaner.

Two other handy accessories are a water-filled nectar protector ant moat, hung above feeders to keep ants at bay, and an overhead protector like Songbird's Hummer Helmet to keep rain water from diluting nectar solutions. While its shade helps keep nectar fresh longer, the red color acts as a big red “Food Here” sign. Songbird products are sold through outlets catering to birders. The Web site includes a “Retail Finder” directing customers to nearby locations.

To learn more about hummingbird research, visit the Hummer Bird Study Group at

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Manatees Return to Coastal Georgia, Caution Urged for Boaters

Manatees have returned to coastal Georgia, which means the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is again reminding boaters to be on the lookout to avoid collisions with the endangered animals.

With an estimated population of only 3,000 animals in U.S. waters, manatees, also known as sea cows, are protected as an endangered species under federal and Georgia law. Approximately one quarter of all manatee mortalities in Georgia since 1980 were caused by boat and ship collisions. Four manatees were killed last year after a ship collided with the group in the Savannah River, an incident that made headlines throughout the Southeast. Other dangers to the species include entanglement in fishing gear and harmful algal blooms known as red tides.

Although West Indian or Florida manatees are present throughout the year in warm waters off the Florida coast, they are most commonly seen in Georgia during May through September when the slow-moving aquatic mammals venture northward into Georgia’s coastal waters and farther up the east coast. They can be found in all of Georgia’s tidal rivers, estuaries and near-shore marine waters, and are most common in waters to the east of Interstate 95.

Adult manatees are approximately 10 feet long and weigh up to 1 ton. Their skin varies from gray to brown, and their bodies are rounded with two pectoral flippers and a wide, flat tail. Subsisting on marsh grass and other aquatic plants, the animals are gentle and pose no threat to humans. It is illegal to hunt, play with or harass manatees.

Manatees have a slow reproductive rate. Females are not sexually mature until about 5 years old, and males mature at approximately 9. On average, an adult female gives birth to one calf every two to five years, and twins are rare. The gestation period is about a year.

Mothers nurse their young for one to two years, so a calf may remain dependent on its mother during that time. Manatee calves are approximately 4 feet long at birth and about 60 pounds.

The number of manatees along Georgia’s coastline each year is unknown because the turbid, murky waters near the coast make surveys difficult. Georgia residents can help biologists learn more about the movements and habitat use of manatees by reporting any sightings and taking photographs.

Collisions between boaters and manatees are more likely to occur in shallow waters, particularly around docks and at the edge of marshes where manatees feed. Following boater safety regulations in these areas can reduce the risk of a collision. Boaters should also watch for manatee backs, tails, snouts and “footprints” – a series of round swirls on the surface caused by a swimming manatee’s tail.

If a boat accidentally collides with a manatee, the DNR Wildlife Resources Division asks that the boater stand-by and immediately contact the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16 or DNR at (800) 2-SAVE-ME (800-272-8363). Doing so provides biologists the best chance to help the animal and gather valuable scientific data. According to Wildlife Resources, boaters will not be charged if they were operating their boat responsibly and the collision was an accident.

If you see or photograph a healthy, injured or dead manatee, please contact DNR at (800) 2-SAVE-ME or (912) 269-7587. Please note the date, time, location and number of manatees seen, as well as the coordinates, if possible. Photographs of scars on their backs and tails are especially useful because they can often be used to identify previously known manatees.

Here are some other ways Georgia residents can help protect manatees:

· Look around for manatees before cranking your boat’s motor.

· Use caution when navigating in shallow water and along the edge of a marsh. Manatees cannot dive away from boats in these areas.

· Please heed “slow speed,” “no wake” and manatee warning signs, especially around docks.

· Wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare, making it easier to spot manatees below the surface.

· Watch for large swirls in the water called footprints that may be caused by manatees diving away from the boat.

· Dock owners should never feed manatees or give them fresh water. This could teach the animals to approach docks, putting them at greater risk of a boat strike.

· Never pursue, harass or play with manatees. It is bad for the manatees and is illegal.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Statement of The Humane Society of the United States on the Death of a Horse at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in Lexington

Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States, issued the following statement in reaction to the death of Kingpin, a horse competing in the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in Lexington, Ky. Preliminary reports suggest that the horse's death was not the result of a rotational fall, an often-fatal accident that has plagued the sport in recent years, causing industry leaders to implement regulations intended to safeguard its equine athletes.

"The HSUS joins the eventing community in mourning the loss of Kingpin, a veteran Irish warmblood horse who died on Saturday on the cross country course at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in Lexington. We urge event organizers and veterinarians to conduct a thorough necropsy, and to release the results to the public as soon as possible. Any deaths in equine sport are of concern and the causes must be examined to determine how human caretakers can work to prevent them in the future."

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Another Great Year for Loggerheads Waiting?

Sea turtles' nesting season nears
State biologists worry about effects of dredging on the loggerheads

By Teresa Stepzinski

A mass of hard-shelled mothers to be are waiting off the Georgia coast.

Loggerhead sea turtles - many believed to be nesting females - have been sighted offshore, prompting cautious optimism among state wildlife biologists that it could be another good year for the protected species.

"We expect them to move in and start nesting beginning next week. We're kind of expecting it will be.....

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Zoo Atlanta Mourns Passing of Sumatran Tiger

Zoo Atlanta President and CEO Dennis Kelly announced yesterday that Sekayu, a
female Sumatran tiger, was euthanized. The decision was made to euthanize Sekayu because of her deteriorating physical condition. At age 21, Sekayu was the oldest known Sumatran tiger in North America.

Zoo Atlanta’s Animal Management and Veterinary Teams had been treating the tigress for age-related health concerns. Sekayu’s passing is a bittersweet reminder of the natural cycle defining the lives of all animals. “We are saddened by the passing of Sekayu, who was a special part of our family for 16 years. Our Veterinary and Animal Management Teams worked diligently to ensure that Sekayu received the best treatment and care possible,” said Dennis Kelly, Zoo Atlanta President and CEO. “The fact that she was the oldest of her species currently on record is a testament to the excellent care she received throughout her life.”

Born October 23, 1987, at San Diego Zoo, Sekayu resided at the Phoenix Zoo before becoming a beloved member of the Zoo Atlanta family since 1993. Sekayu was an excellent mother to several cubs while at the Phoenix Zoo. She and her longtime mate in Atlanta, 18-year-old Jalal, have one offspring, Bahagia, born in November 2000. Bahagia now resides at the Sacramento Zoo. Zoo Atlanta also houses a younger pair of Sumatran tigers, female Chelsea, 5, and male Kavi, 8. Sumatrans are one of the world’s most critically endangered tigers, with fewer than 400 believed to remain in the wild.

As with all animal deaths regardless of age, a necropsy will be performed through Zoo Atlanta’s partnership with the Department of Pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bear Sightings Not Uncommon This Time of Year

This time of year, young male black bears are roaming and often stumbling into what is considered non-traditional bear range, including urbanized areas and suburbs.

A black bear sighting in an urban area, even in metro Atlanta, is not altogether unusual, especially during the springtime. That’s because during the spring and summer, young male bears on their own for the first time are experiencing territorial competition with other adult male bears.

Adult males typically force these young males out of familiar territory and what is considered traditional bear range. As a result, young males continue to roam as they try to establish their own territory, which sometimes temporarily leads them into neighborhoods or other more heavily populated urban areas.

In an effort to curb the instinctive alarm that residents in these areas may experience when a bear is sighted, wildlife biologists with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division, want to inform residents of the increased possibility of black bear sightings this spring and summer and educate them on how best to respond.

“If a black bear is sighted passing through an area, the best thing to do is to leave it alone,” says Wildlife Biologist Adam Hammond. “Residents should never approach a bear and never, under any circumstances, feed a bear. Even worse, attempting to ‘tree’ or corner a bear in a certain area often compromises both the safety and welfare of the public and the bear.”

If left alone, these young male bears, referred to as ‘transient’ bears, usually make their way back to more traditional bear range – the North Georgia mountains, the Ocmulgee River drainage system in central Georgia, and the Okefenokee Swamp in the southeastern part of the state.

Increased reports of bears sightings from residents in North Georgia indicates that the bear population in this area is healthy and may be experiencing range expansion.

According to Hammond, unless there is evidence of aggressive behavior, or if a bear is continually getting into garbage or other non-natural food sources (i.e. birdseed, compost piles, grills and pet food), there is no real cause for alarm.

While there is no way to prevent a young male bear from wandering into a neighborhood, there are a few steps people can take to prevent a bear from taking up residence:

- Never, under any circumstances, feed a bear. Such activity is unlawful.

- Keep items, such as grills, pet food or bird feeders off-limits to bears. Clean and store grills when not in use. Keep pet food indoors and take bird feeders down if bears are in the area.

- Convert to ‘bear-proof’ garbage containers, or store garbage in the garage or other enclosed area until pick-up day.

Properly securing food and garbage prevents bears from accessing non-natural, human-provided food sources and thereby, helps avoid the unhealthy process of habituation, which occurs when bears easily obtain food sources from humans, begin associating humans with food and as a result, lose their innate fear of people.

The black bear is a treasured symbol of Georgia’s natural diversity. Now considered the most common bear in North America and the only bear found in Georgia, at one point the species was nearly eradicated from the state due to poaching and habitat loss. Yet, because of sound wildlife management practices, Georgia’s current black bear population is healthy and thriving and is estimated between 2,300 and 2,500 bears statewide.

For more information regarding black bears, visit or contact a Wildlife Resources Division Game Management office. The public also can visit their local library to check out a copy of an informational DVD entitled, “Where Bears Belong: Black Bears in Georgia.”

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U.S. House of Representatives Passes Legislation Protecting Rare Species of Mammals and Birds Around the World

The Humane Society of the United States applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing legislation that will provide financial resources for conservation programs to protect rare dog and cat species and imperiled crane populations. The House passed the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act by a vote of 290 – 118, and the Crane Conservation Act by a vote of 288 – 116 on April 21.

Reps. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., John Tanner, D-Tenn., Hal Rogers, R-Ky., and Ed Royce, R-Calif., introduced the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act (H.R. 411). The Crane Conservation Act (H.R. 388) was introduced by Reps. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla. The HSUS expressed its strong thanks to the authors of these bills, and also to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee Chairwoman Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, and Ranking Member Henry Brown, R-S.C., who have made passage of these bipartisan measures a priority.

“These important conservation bills will provide a critical lifeline for rare dogs, cats and cranes around the world,” said Michael Markarian, executive vice president for The Humane Society of the United States. “Many of these species are in crisis and have declined drastically due to habitat loss, disease and human-wildlife conflict. Who could possibly think that Cape hunting dogs or black crowned cranes do not deserve a place on our planet, or jaguars or snow leopards for that matter?”

The Multinational Species Conservation Fund already includes grant programs to help imperiled species — including Asian and African elephants, great apes, marine turtles, rhinoceroses, tigers and neotropical migratory birds. Now, two separate accounts would be added to the fund specifically to assist cranes and rare dogs and cats.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dog Travel Network Joins the Effort to ID Pets

/24-7 / -- National Pet ID Week is underway and in an effort to return missing pets, Dog Travel Network ( is giving away the IDTAG, a Revolutionary Pet Tag, to members of the Dog Travel Network Community. One tag will be given away each day of National Pet ID Week and the winners will be drawn at random. The Dog Travel Network Community is free and fun to join.

Millions of companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of these, only two percent of cats and 15-20% of dogs are reunited with their owners. For this reason, the American Humane Association (AHA) has designated Saturday, April 5, 2003 as Tag Day. National Pet ID Week is April 20-26.

"The Dog Travel Network is based on the love of dog, the last thing we would want is for somebody to lose their pet needlessly, due to lack of identification." said Courtney King, Director of Public Relations, Dog Travel Network. "The IDTAG ( is a really great product that is worn like a regular identification. The difference is, IDTAG supplies an instant alert to shelters & lost-pet websites, allows you to update your pet and contact info online in Real Time, creates lost-pet posters for your use and offers a 24/7 live toll-free hotline. We feel this is a really great product so that is why we are giving them away and helping to raise awareness of the importance to ID your pet."

The Dog Travel Network is a web-based travel resource for folks planning their next dog friendly vacation or just a day out to the best dog-friendly local park or restaurant. The Dog Travel Network also hosts the Dog Travel Channel, the first of its kind with videos of dog friendly places, including parks, beaches, hotels, resorts, getaways and anything dog friendly. The Dog Travel Channel ( is a dog friendly video production service that offers custom videos for businesses in the pet industry.

The Dog Travel Network highly recommends the use of identifications tags and invites all dog enthusiasts to join the community for free, add some pictures, post some videos and show the world your favorite four-legged friend. One IDTAG will be given away to a community member each day this week, ending on April 26.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Georgia Heartland Humane Society Needs You to Cast Your Vote for Rescue

AAG Note: Georgia Heartland does such a great job with the homeless animals. Be sure to support them with your vote.

The Animal Rescue Site is generously giving out grants to rescue organizations, but YOU need to vote DAILY for us to win!!!

Voting begins on Monday April 13th and ends on Wednesday July 29th at midnight.


See the link below to cast your vote:

Thank you all so much for your support-
Christine Kilgore
VP/Director of Fosters-GHHS

"Within The Heart of Every Stray Lies the Singular Desire to be Loved."

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Friday, April 17, 2009

A Litter of Little Ones are Born at Zoo Atlanta

The pitter patter of piglets can be heard at Zoo Atlanta. Warthogs Vern and Shirley are parents to a second litter of piglets a year after the infectiously cute “Georgia P” was born. “We are excited about our new piglets, spring represents a new season and new babies for Zoo Atlanta” said Dennis Kelly, Zoo Atlanta President and CEO.

Shirley gave birth to a litter of five piglets (four males and one female) overnight Wednesday, April 15th. One male did not survive, and one male and female are being raised by staff. The other two are with Shirley however the Veterinary and Animal Management teams are monitoring them closely. “Infancy does carry some risk however I am confident that Zoo Atlanta’s Veterinary and Animal Management teams are providing excellent care,” said Kelly.

Found throughout the savanna of eastern sub-Saharan Africa, warthogs are not currently
endangered. Female warthogs usually give birth to one litter (average three or five piglets) per year after a gestation of five to six months. Piglets are typically weaned by the time they are six months old however they may remain with their mother until her next litter is born.

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Georgia Aquarium Displays Creature from the Deep: Giant Squid to Debut at World's Largest Aquarium

Guests of the Georgia Aquarium will now have the opportunity to see a mysterious creature from the deep. The Aquarium will feature a well-preserved giant squid (Architeuthis dux) in the Cold Water Quest Gallery, presented by Georgia-Pacific. The giant squid is on loan from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.

The giant squid was discovered dead on a beach at the Plum Island National Wildlife Refuge in Mass., north of Boston, in 1980. Its long feeding tentacles were missing, and most of the tips of its arms were broken off. But otherwise, the specimen was in good condition. After being examined, it was determined that while alive, the animal was maroon in color, nearly 30 feet long and weighed approximately 450 pounds. It is now cased in a specially constructed nine-foot-long wood and fiber glass container, covered with a plastic window.

This giant squid has not been on display for more than four years at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. It was originally displayed at the New England Aquarium and was given to the Smithsonian as a gift in 1982. It could be on display at the Georgia Aquarium for up to two years.

Giant squid are deep-ocean dwelling animals and can grow to tremendous size. The most recent estimates for length are an estimated 43 feet for females and 33 feet for males. Prior to 2004, no one had captured a giant squid on camera in its natural habitat. In 2004, a team of scientists took the first still images of a giant squid, and the same team successfully filmed a giant squid in its natural habitat in 2006. By displaying the animal in Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium hopes to introduce guests to this rarely-seen creature.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Newnan Kennel Club Offers Assorted Dog Training Classes

The Newnan Kennel Club will be offering a beginning obedience class, a conformation class and a puppy training program Tuesday, April 21. These classes will be held outside at THE DOG HOUSE KENNEL AND GROOMING INC. located at 22 Jefferson Place, Newnan. The AKC S.T.A.R. puppy program is a 6 week course ($45.00) 6:30p.m. and is for puppies 4 to 6 months of age. The Conformation course is a 6-week course ($55.00) 7:p.m. per person. The Beginning obedience course will be a 9 week course [no dogs on first night] ($85.00)7:30p.m.. For more information or to register for any of these classes please call the club phone at 770-253-1233 and leave a message.
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Tips On Bringing Home The Right Shelter Dog

(NAPSI)-Shelters across the country are home to many wonderful dogs that are just waiting for someone to adopt and love them. A few tips from the experts can make it easier to find the right dog for your home.

First and foremost, make sure that the type of dog you get will fit your lifestyle, says Mathilde de Cagny, head trainer of Birds and Animals Unlimited and trainer of the Jack Russell terrier in the family film "Hotel for Dogs."

If you are very active and spend a lot of time outdoors, then a terrier or a hunting dog might be a good match. But if you lead a more sedentary lifestyle, live in an apartment or have a small yard, then you should choose accordingly. The best way to determine this is by getting a book about the different types of breeds before you go to the shelter to see what they were originally bred for.

When you meet a dog from the shelter, look for a dog that is outgoing with his tail wagging.

Once you get home, keep your new dog on a leash by your side and do not let him roam the house by himself. The reason behind this is so he doesn't take over your house and your life. It will also give you a chance to see if your dog is house-trained or not.

Within a day or so, make sure that your dog has some alone time by leaving him in the backyard or in a crate. Leave for 10 or 15 minutes at a time.

Go outside your house and listen-when you come back, don't make a big deal about being reunited. Be matter of fact; this is how to avoid dogs that develop separation anxieties.

Start training early on and involve your children. That is the best thing you can do for your dog; it fulfills a lot of his needs and you will have a better life together.

Another way to bring a dog home is to check into "Hotel for Dogs," a film that's filled with lovable dogs and ingenious kids.

Now available on DVD, the exciting and inspiring animal adventure tells the story of two orphans who find themselves in a foster home with a strict "no pets" policy. They set out to find a home for their canine companion and end up creating a haven for all the strays in the city.

In addition to the dogs, the film stars Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Kyla Pratt, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon and Don Cheadle.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Hours Offer Chattahoochee Trout Anglers More Opportunity

Previously open to anglers from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Georgia Power now has extended its access hours for the Morgan Falls Dam area of the Chattahoochee River from dawn to dusk. The new hours allow anglers more convenient times to hook a string of rainbow or brown trout.

Trout fishing in this section reportedly can be excellent during this time of year. Catches of 20-30 trout are common, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division will continue to stock this section of the Chattahoochee River with trout through the end of the month.

The Morgan Falls Dam area is outside the delayed harvest section, from Sope Creek to Hwy. 41, so anglers can harvest trout year-round. Natural bait and artificial lures with more than a single hook are allowed. Anglers can cast for trout, shoal bass, largemouth bass, striped bass, yellow perch, sunfish and catfish here.

Visit , “Fishing,” “Fishing Opportunities,” “River Fishing Information” for the 2009 prospects for fishing the Chattahoochee River from Morgan Falls Dam to Peachtree Creek.

For information regarding river conditions below Morgan Falls Dam, contact Georgia Power at (404) 329-1455.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

2009 Bald Eagle Surveys Show Rise in Nests, Young

AAG Note: Fayette County was blessed this year as a number of bald eagles wintered over in Peachtree City. These giant wonders of nature were absolutely gorgeous as they flew around the lake. We'll be on the watch for them again next year.

Bald eagle populations continue to soar in Georgia, with 2009 totals from the state Department of Natural Resources showing increases in nests and young fledged.

Checks done mainly by helicopter this winter and spring counted 124 occupied bald eagle nesting territories, 98 successful nests and 162 young fledged. That’s up from last year when 112 occupied territories, 85 successful nests – those in which eagles are raised to the point they can fly – and 134 eaglets were reported. The 2008 numbers marked a slight dip from the previous year.

Nongame program manager Jim Ozier of the DNR Wildlife Resources Division said Georgia’s eagle population has been gradually increasing for years. These iconic raptors, taken off the federal endangered/threatened species list in summer 2008, are nesting in suitable habitat across the state, taking advantage of reservoirs and ponds that offer their primary prey – fish.

“Thirteen (new) nests were documented this year,” including the first at Lake Blue Ridge, Ozier said.

The surveys led by Ozier, who has monitored Georgia’s bald eagles for two decades, are an example of the programs supported by Georgians who buy a wildlife conservation license plate or donate to the Give Wildlife a Chance state income tax checkoff. Both programs benefit the Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state funds for its mission to help conserve Georgia wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and natural habitats in the state.

Bald eagles are one of more than 600 high-priority nongame animals and plants identified in the Georgia Wildlife Action Plan, a strategy guiding state conservation efforts. But even though eagles and their nests are big – nests average 5 feet wide – they can be hard to find.

Bald eagles typically use the same nest, often built in the tops of tall pine or cypress trees. But each year some established pairs build new ones. If the new nest is near the old, it is usually easy to find, Ozier said. But some nests are much farther away and more difficult to pinpoint.

Reports from the public can help. Georgians who see a bald eagle nest or two or more eagles together are encouraged to download the form at (click “Conservation,” “Species of Concern,” “Bird Conservation” and then “Report Nesting Bald Eagles”). Send the completed form to Jim Ozier, or Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, Nongame Conservation Section, 116 Rum Creek Drive, Forsyth, GA 31029.

When eaglets leave the nest, they are the same size as adults but dark brown, almost black. Bald eagles gain the characteristic white head and tail feathers at 4 to 5 years old

Conservation laws, restoration work and a ban on the pesticide DDT have helped the bald eagle recover from near-extinction through much of its range 40 years ago. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the species off the federally threatened list in August 2008. This American symbol and subject of one of Georgia’s nongame wildlife license plates is still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and other federal and state legislation.

Bald eagle nests numbered in the single digits in Georgia when Ozier started searching for them. Nesting territories steadily increased, then surged from the low 80s to 96 in 2006 and beyond 100 in recent years.

Nests are concentrated along the coast, but can be found across the state, usually near major rivers or lakes where the fish, waterbirds and even turtles that eagles eat are abundant.

BALD EAGLES at a glance

** Size: Adults can weigh 14 pounds, with 8-foot wingspans. Males are slightly smaller.

** Prey: Fish are a staple. Eagles also eat waterfowl, turtles, snakes, rabbits and other small animals.

** Mates: Eagles mate for life. They often use the same nest, adding to it each year. (Nests up to 10 feet wide and weighing a half-ton have been recorded.)

** Offspring: Pairs typically lay one to three eggs by December. The young fledge in three months and are on their own in about four.

** Long-lived: Bald eagles live up to 15-25 years in the wild, longer in captivity.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

National Pet ID Week April 18-24

Many pets can become separated from their owners. Of these dogs and cats who enter into the animal shelters of America, only about 20% will be reunited with their human families.

Please remember to be a responsible pet owner and have collars and tags which include your pet's name, your name and address, telephone numbers (day and evening), any medical problem requiring medication, veterinarian's name and number, and current rabies vaccination information.

Another great option is a microchip which is inserted under the pet's skin, usually between the shoulder blades. The chip is about the size of a grain of rice. The pet's information is then sent
to the agency who supplied the microchip. Most shelters and vets can scan lost animals to see if a chip is located, thus increasing the odds of the animal being reunited with its humans.

Another option is a permanent tatoo that involves marking a code on the skin of the pet. There is a national database that uses the code to find the current owner's address.

Show your pet you care enough to bring them home.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Marbled Godwit Tracking Now Online

From the beach to your computer screen: You can follow the travels of rare marbled godwits as they fly across the country, bound for destinations known – at least for now – only to them.

As part of a continent-wide project, small transmitters were attached to godwits when they were banded on Little St. Simons Island in December. Biologists hope that data from the transmitters will help them determine where the godwits migrate and nest, and what their movements are throughout winter, along with other general location data.

The marbled godwit is a large migratory shorebird that nests in the grasslands of the Plains states and central Canada, as well as in Alaska and, in small numbers, eastern Canada. Godwits winter on the West, Gulf and East coast, including in Georgia. The birds stay here until late April or early May, with a few juveniles remaining throughout the summer. The marbled godwit is as a high-priority species in the State Wildlife Action Plan, a comprehensive strategy that guides Georgia Wildlife Resources and state Department of Natural Resources efforts to conserve biological diversity.

Marbled godwits are in decline, at least in part due to habitat loss, and listed by the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan as a high-priority species. Understanding the connections between winter habitats, nesting areas and migration stops for the various populations is vital to managing habitat for the species. It’s also the focus of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service project encompassing North America.

The Wildlife Resources Division has been banding marbled godwits since 2001. But researchers began the godwit transmitter project in Georgia last fall, thanks to a grant from The Environmental Resources Network, or TERN, the nonprofit advocacy group for Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section.

The travels of the satellite-packing godwits can be followed at (click “Satellite Tracking,” then “Biogeography of Marbled Godwit in North America” on the left-hand side of the page).

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Right Whale Records Set in Whale of a Season

A record-breaking season is drawing to a close as North Atlantic right whales head north for the summer. Research survey results indicate that the number of right whales spending the winter in the South again increased this year, a hopeful sign for these endangered marine giants.

Each winter, pregnant right whales travel to waters offshore of Georgia and Florida to give birth. Many other right whales also make the trip to the Southeast. In spring, the whales make their way back north to waters off New England and Canada, where they spend the summer months feeding on plankton. Research done by conservation partners including the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Trust and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is helping wildlife biologists determine the status of the species.

Decimated by commercial whaling in the 19th century, approximately 400 North Atlantic right whales remain. This winter, almost 200 were sighted off the Georgia coast, up from 150 in 2008. The total includes 39 sets of mother and calf pairs, breaking the previous record of 31 calves set in 2001. The rest of the whales were juveniles and non-breeding adults. Whales are counted using aerial surveys and on-the-water monitoring.

Unfortunately, this season also set another record: five right whales were documented entangled in commercial fishing gear. The Georgia DNR, NOAA and other partners managed to free four of the five young whales. At least one was entangled in Canadian lobster gear. Gear removed from other whales also appeared to be lobster gear. In some instances, more than 500 feet of line had been dragged more than a thousand miles, resulting in potentially life-threatening injuries to the whales.

“Whales have shown up in the Southeast entangled in U.S. and Canadian lobster gear during previous years, also,” said Clay George, a natural resources biologist with the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section. “While we are glad we were able to disentangle four of the whales this year, we need to find a way to keep whales from becoming entangled in the first place.”

Entanglement in commercial fishing rope is a leading cause of right whale mortality. More than 70 percent of the population has scars from entanglements.

From 2005-2007, researchers documented at least one adult whale mortality each year. This winter, however, marks the second in a row during which none were reported. There were two reported cases of calf mortalities, both from unknown causes. Ship strikes are another leading cause of right whale deaths.

Although positive about the increases in sightings, biologists stress that the road to recovery for North Atlantic right whales remains long. While the number of calves has risen, the number of breeding females has not. Right whale conservationists consider the latter number the most important statistic in determining the species’ recovery.

“Only one in four calves on average will live to become a mature breeding female. What that means is that each female right whale must have four calves within her lifetime to ‘replace’ herself within the population,” George said. “Given that it takes about 10 years for each female to reach breeding age, the whales will need many more calving seasons like this one before we see substantial growth in the population.”

Right whales are baleen whales with a bow-shaped lower jaw and a head that is up to one-quarter of the body length. Calves weigh approximately 1 ton at birth and adults can reach 60 tons and almost 50 feet in length. They have no dorsal fin and breathe through two blowholes on the top of their heads. These unique blowholes create a V-shaped blow, which also helps researchers identify the whales from a distance. Right whales can live for up to 70 years.

Protected from whaling since the 1930s, the whales are listed as a priority species in Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan, the blueprint for conservation in Georgia.

Although not hunted, right whales face continued conservation problems including ship strikes and entanglement in commercial fishing gear.

Researchers identify the whales by the unique pattern of callosities, or rough patches of skin, found on the whales’ heads and around their mouths. These patches are usually covered with whale lice, a type of crustacean, making the patches appear white. Photographs are used to tell which whale is being observed.


North Atlantic right whale estimates for winter 2008-09:

** Whales spotted: almost 200

** Mother-calf sets: 39

** Entanglements: 5 (four whales disentangled)

** Adult mortalities documented: 0

** Calf mortalities: 2 (causes unknown)

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Pew Environment Group, Ocean Conservation Coalition Urges Congress to Oppose Pallone Fisheries Legislation

/PRNewswire / -- The Pew Environment Group and 44 national, regional and state conservation groups today pressed congressional leaders to oppose "The Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2009," saying the legislation would allow overexploitation of vulnerable fish populations.

This bill is designed to weaken the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the nation's primary law governing management of U.S. ocean fish which was reauthorized in 2006. The proposed legislation would allow fishery management councils to ignore MSA requirements for rebuilding depleted fish populations to healthy levels in as short a time as possible, depending on the biology of the fish species.

In a letter sent today to Congress, Pew, along with 44 other conservation groups, warns that this legislation would thwart crucial MSA provisions by letting fishery managers put short-term economic benefits before long-term economic sustainability. The bill would also indefinitely delay the environmental and economic benefits of critical rebuilding actions.

"The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that depleted fish populations be rebuilt as quickly as biologically possible," said Lee Crockett, director of Federal Fisheries Policy at the Pew Environment Group. "But shortsightedness and political pressure has kept too many fish populations from reaching healthy, sustainable levels. If this bill were enacted, it would guarantee that many of our coastal fisheries would not be restored in our lifetime."

The "Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2009" would:

* Threaten recovery, long-term sustainability and forego economic benefits of healthy, rebuilt fish populations;

* Abandon congressional intent requiring federal fishery managers to rebuild depleted fish populations as quickly as possible;

* Allow federal fishery managers to avoid making tough decisions by claiming that the health of depleted fish populations is beyond their control; and

* Allow federal fishery managers to continue overexploiting a vulnerable fish population, if it is caught with other populations of healthier fish.

"The current fishery laws provide adequate flexibility to address ecological and socioeconomic concerns," said Crockett. "Congress should give the new reforms in the Magnuson-Stevens Act a chance to work before it starts making changes."

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wild About Wildlife

Observing wildlife is just fascinating. We can't get enough!

The following video is from the Wild Foundation whose goal is to protect wildlife around the globe. We thought you'd enjoy seeing this.

Celebrating the New Year with a Baby Leopard from The WILD Foundation on Vimeo.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Black Bear Sightings a Reality this Spring in Georgia

Each spring and summer the likelihood of bear sightings throughout the state, even in urbanized areas and suburbs, increases.

Whether it’s a young male bear roaming across non-traditional bear range into the metro Atlanta area or a hungry bear sifting through a North Georgia campsite for an easy meal, the possibility exists and residents should be aware.

“A black bear sighting is something that few people ever forget – especially when it is in your backyard. Human populations have grown and expanded into areas traditionally inhabited by bears and when conflicts arise the bear is perceived as a threat or nuisance,” says Wildlife Resources Division Assistant Game Management Chief John W. Bowers.

“All residents, especially those in known bear areas, are encouraged to educate themselves about bears and bear behavior, be responsible and help prevent conflicts from occurring,” says Bowers.

Black bears most commonly are found in three areas of the state - the north Georgia mountains, the Ocmuglee River drainage system in central Georgia and the Okefenokee Swamp in the southeastern part of the state. However, black bears can and do range over larger areas; especially in early spring and late summer, when activity patterns increase. Young male bears are also known to roam larger areas in an effort to establish their own territory.

Because black bears are omnivorous, their diet consists of whatever food is readily available at any given time of year. Thus, black bears are reasonably attracted to the scents of human food, pet food, birdseed, beehives and even compost piles. When bears can easily obtain such food sources, they begin to associate humans with food and as a result, lose their innate fear of humans. Wildlife biologists with the Wildlife Resources Division encourage residents to heed the following tips in an effort to minimize bear attractants and lessen the chance of wild bears becoming habituated to people:

- NEVER, under any circumstances, feed a bear. Such activity is unlawful.

- Keep items, such as grills, pet food or bird feeders off-limits to bears. Clean and store grills when not in use, keep pet food indoors and take bird feeders down if bears are in the area.

- Make sure trashcans are bear-proof or kept indoors.

- When camping or picnicking, keep your site clean. Never leave food or coolers unattended. Never keep food in or near your tent. Store food in properly sealed containers and whenever possible, store these containers in a vehicle. If camping in backcountry areas, hang packs or food bags at least ten feet off the ground and at least four feet from the trunk of a tree.

“The Division receives numerous calls each year regarding bear sightings and requests for bear relocation,” says Bowers. “Relocation is seldom a solution. For example, relocated bears often attempt to return to the same territory, other bears may move into the vacated area and adult male bears often kill other bears, especially young males, when relocated into new territory. Therefore, relocation is rarely utilized.”

Residents initially should take the actions previously described to resolve nuisance bear problems. Most often, if residents remove the attractant, the bear will move on and will not return. However, if the bear persists for several days, residents should feel free to contact the nearest Wildlife Resources Division Game Management office.

Though the American black bear (Ursus americanus) is now considered the most common bear in North America and the only bear found in Georgia, at one point the species was nearly eradicated from the state due to poaching and habitat loss. Yet, because of sound wildlife management practices Georgia’s current black bear population is healthy and thriving and is estimated between 2,300 and 2,500 bears statewide.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

The Secret Lives of Wild Primates

Ask any new dad, and he'll tell you — having a new baby in the house is no picnic.

Anthropology professor Patricia Whitten recently uncovered evidence that, in communities of the earliest primates, newborns stress out the guys. "I'm looking at different aspects of hormones and behavior in wild primates to understand humans better," says Whitten, who specializes in the links between behavior, biology and reproduction.

Whitten's lab at Emory has an international reputation for the analysis of steroid levels in fecal samples of wild primates. The data can help reveal all sorts of complex social dramas, from the emotional impact on baboons after a relative is killed by a lion, to the secrets of monkey mating strategies.

In 1998, she began collaborating with Diane Brockman of the University of North Carolina in a study of sifaka lemurs in Madagascar. Lemurs are prosimian primates –believed to be the forerunners of more advanced primates like apes and monkeys.

The study results, recently published by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that male sifaka become more anxious during the annual birthing season. Whitten initially thought that the rise in glucocorticoid levels in males could be tied to an environmental factor. She was surprised that the data pointed instead to the presence of a new infant.

Males are Nurturing, but Stressed

Field observations revealed another surprise: male sifaka play a nurturing role with infants, grooming and caring for them. But the correlation between higher stress in males and the birthing season remains a mystery.

One hypothesis is that the males are worried about aggression by males from neighboring groups: Sifaka males roam and visit other groups of sifaka during the birthing season. Sometimes the visitors challenge the dominant male of a group. Occasionally, they will even kill infants.

For Whitten, the complex dramas revealed by the initial study raise more questions. For instance, why do the female sifaka sometimes allow visiting males to hold their newborns? "The females are dominant, so they are choosing which males are trustworthy – but sometimes they don't seem to be choosing that well," Whitten says.

Whitten is well-known for her groundbreaking studies of wild vervet monkeys, but the prosimian primates – believed to have originated 65 million years ago – offer her a glimpse further back.

"In anthropology, we commonly talk about one million years of evolution, or five million," Whitten says. "If we start looking at behavior going back 65 million years, think how much more deeply ingrained that may be."

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Co-Existing with Coyotes, Education and prevention best defense as coyote sightings increase

The distinctive call of the coyote or “song dog” echoes 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, contributes to today’s increased observation of coyotes in urban settings.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division encourages residents to educate themselves and take the proper precautions essential in co-existing with coyotes.

“Historically, coyotes were most commonly found on the Great Plains of North America. However, their range has expanded greatly. 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, Wildlife Resources Division assistant chief of Game Management.

“Preventive methods are the best solutions for residents to reduce the potential for human-coyote conflicts,” explains Bowers.

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. The division advises 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 prey to free-roaming dogs and great horned owls.)

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

- Small livestock or poultry should be kept in an enclosed or sheltered area. Coyotes rarely bother larger livestock although they are 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.)

The division encourages residents to also heed the additional following tips in an effort to minimize coyote habituation to humans and ensure public health and safety:

- 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 a secured location until trash day.

Additional solutions for managing coyotes and the problems they may cause include trapping and/or hunting. Coyotes are not native to Georgia and may be hunted/trapped year-round. The division does NOT provide trapping services, but maintains a list of permitted and licensed trappers across the state. Residents interested in hiring a private trapper may contact the local Wildlife Resources Division office or call 770-918-6416 for a referral.

“The division receives numerous calls each year. Most callers report the sighting of a coyote or request coyote relocation,” says Bowers. “Relocation is not a solution. Relocating coyotes only moves the problem into someone else's backyard. It also usually means a slower death resulting from the stress of being released into unfamiliar territory. Trapping and killing habituated or problem coyotes is the only reasonable way to keep them out of backyards.”

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 the back.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Web Cam Again Tracking Peregrine Pair in Atlanta

Atlanta’s most prominent falcons couple is back in the public eye.

A Web camera at is again providing frequent updates on two adult peregrine falcons and their nest outside the 51st-floor offices of the McKenna, Long & Aldridge law firm in downtown Atlanta.

The protected raptors, which typically mate for life, began laying eggs Feb. 27. They have four now. The nestlings are expected in early April. The young will leave the nest at about 5 weeks old.

Clay C. Long, founding partner and a former chairman of the law firm, said the peregrines offer an annual treat, watching the young "from birth through the transition from down to feathers, then learning to fly and to hunt, and finally ending with our couple sending their young off in the world to find their own cliffs on which to dwell.”

Peregrines were removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species because of a successful population recovery effort, but Georgia still lists the birds as rare. There are only two known peregrine pairs nesting in Georgia, both in Atlanta, said Jim Ozier, a Nongame Conservation Section program manager with the state Wildlife Resources Division.

Peregrines are possibly the fastest animal in the world. Their dives, used to catch birds in flight, have been clocked at more than 200 mph.

The Wildlife Resources Division and the world have watched falcons nest at McKenna, Long & Aldridge for five years, thanks to the law firm and a grant from The Garden Club of Georgia. One of the first peregrines nesting there was released in Atlanta by the state, in a partnership with Georgia Power and Zoo Atlanta, Ozier said.

The new falcons will face an urban environment plump with pigeons and other prey on the wing but also packed with potential hazards such as windows and traffic. Two of the three peregrines that hatched on the high-rise balcony last year were later treated for injuries.

“The young have to learn how to survive in the city,” Ozier said.

To see this year’s nest, go to and click “Conservation," then “Species of Concern” and the peregrine falcon Web cam link under “Bird Conservation” label. The view shows the planter in which the birds nest. Frequently hit your computer’s refresh, or reload page, button: The images are updated every 30 seconds.

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