Lead Poisoning in Birds

Cook Forest Conservancy - Lead Poisoning in Eagles from Ammunition

Bald and golden eagles prefer fish, but are opportunistic foragers that scavenge when practical. In most areas, eagles have access to food sources with expended lead bullets – field-shot pest species, offal piles, non-recovered game, and weakened, contaminated live prey. 

Deer pits across the Game Commission’s State Game Lands provide a regular source of food for scavenging eagles.  Hunting season falls in autumn and winter, when scavenging for food becomes more important – and lead poisoning victim numbers spike.

Between 2006 and 2016, lead poisoning was found in one-third of 228 eagles from across Pennsylvania – 30% had detectable levels of heavy metals in their liver.  While the specimens died variously from trauma by car, train, and gunshot (also electrocution and infection), the examined animals mostly accumulated the lead levels as a result of scavenging.  Lead poisoning destroys the nervous system.  If it doesn’t kill the bird outright, the lead poisoning renders it too weak and disoriented to either hunt for food, or protect itself from predators and threats.

One simple way to reduce lead toxicity in eagles and other wildlife is to use non-lead ammunition.

Both performance and cost of non-lead ammunition is comparable to lead counterparts. The PA Game Commission advocates the use of non-lead ammunition to hunters, and it’s safer for people, too, since the lead can’t fragment or leach into game meat. Please ask your local supplier to stock non-lead ammo 🙂

Centre Wildlife Care - tube-feeding lead poisoned eagle
Centre Wildlife Care volunteers tube-feeding a Bald Eagle suffering from lead poisoning

From Centre Wildlife Care:

Since 2013, when we got our blood lead machine, all of the bald eagles that we have taken in have had some level of lead in their blood. Most have needed chelation therapy to remove the lead from the system, plus antibiotics, tube feeding, and months of rehabilitation before they could be released. Some were too sick to save from the lead toxicity/ trauma and died.

We have also seen lead poisoning in hawks, eagles, vultures, crows, gulls, ducks, geese, swans, loons and grebes.

For more information, and to find non-lead ammo, contact: 

Woods not Lawns for Water Quality

Penn State Forest Stewards series article – written by Jim Finley, Professor Emeritus, Forest Resources Management, Center for Private Forests at Penn State.

It’s January and perhaps your thoughts are already turning toward summer activities. For many Pennsylvanians, mowing and maintaining lawns is either a larger or small part of their summer routine. Lawns, as we know them, are part of American culture and history(1). An Internet search on lawn maintenance suggests creating the perfect lawn is a major industry very dependent on labor and chemical inputs.

Annually we spread millions of tons of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizer around our homes to have the envy of the neighborhood – a perfectly green lawn(2). Interestingly, as interest in organic foods increases, there is a disconnect about using despised chemicals where our children and pets spend quality time. At the same time, water quality suffers as excess nutrients from lawns and agricultural fields are one of the largest sources of non-point pollutants impacting water quality in our streams, rivers, lakes, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Penn State’s Center for Turfgrass Science estimates that Pennsylvanians maintain about 2 million acres of grass (about 7% of the state’s surface area), and 1.4 million acres of this are home lawns (about 5% of the state). About two-thirds of Pennsylvania is in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and contains an estimated one million acres of lawns. 

Pennsylvania has set a goal of converting 10,000 acres of these lawns to woodlands or meadows. This seems like a small target and maybe you can help by learning how to convert lawns to woodlands and meadows by participating in a Penn State Extension Winter Workshop series entitled “The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas Around Your Home.” This webinar-based education program will use a full-color, 108-page publication by the same title to guide you through the process of developing and implementing projects to enhance your land’s natural resources. Register by Saturday, 18 January 2020 via the link above, or call 877-345-0691.

A principle focus of the workshop series is to learn about what happens to the rain and snow that falls on your land. There is a very strong link between land use and our water resources. Buildings, pavement, lawns, fields – human changes to the landscape – have affected natural water movement and water cycles Water now moves across the land and into streams in different ways and carries with it nutrients and pollutants.

Interestingly, most lawns are very poor at absorbing water – in fact, they are only a little better than pavement! Your lawn, because of grass root structure and soil compaction, can only absorb about 2 inches of water per hour compared to a forest that can handle 14 inches or more in the same time frame. In the ideal scenario, water does not move across the land – instead, it should move into the soil.

Service Foresters

PA DCNR service forester program for landowners

DCNR service foresters – at no cost to the landowner – will walk your property, and give sound advice on the following:

  • Woodland review & improvement 
  • Tree planting
  • Control of forest pests & invasives
  • Wildlife – habitat & management
  • Woodland recreation
  • Educational & cost-share programs
  • Forest management 
  • Timber harvest 
  • Riparian & water quality practices 

Under the Cooperative Forest Management Program of the DCNR Bureau of Forestry, a Service Forester will assist you in understanding and planning the care and management of your woodland – a service to help you gain the maximum in benefits and enjoyment from this resource acreage.  While they can’t mark or sell timber, and don’t compete with private consulting foresters, they provide an educated, disinterested opinion and help you progress to the next step of managing your woodlot wisely and sustainably. 

To connect with your county’s service forester, contact: 

Clarion, Jefferson, Armstrong, Butler, Beaver, Lawrence & Mercer counties: 

Clear Creek Forest District 8
158 South Second Avenue
Clarion, PA 16214
(814) 226-1901
fd08@state.pa.us

Forest, Venango, Warren, Erie, & Crawford counties:

Cornplanter Forest District 14
323 North State Street
Warren, PA 16365
(814) 723-0262
fd14@state.pa.us

Simplified Trespass Posting in PA

PA Trespass Law Update - purple blaze paint

A new law simplifies some of the confusion & cost of posting Pennsylvania property as private and off-limits to both hunters and general trespassers. Rather than posting plastic or metal signs, which deteriorate and can be unsightly as well as expensive, landowners can now paint border trees with purple paint. It also eliminates the debate over whether such signs must be signed to be effective (they do not, but it apparently once was a requirement).

To comply, the purple stripes must be:

  • vertical lines at least 8 inches long and 1 inch wide
  • 3 to 5 feet off the ground
  • readily visible to a person approaching the property, and
  • no more than 100 feet apart

The law goes into effect following the winter 2019-20 hunting seasons, and applies everywhere in PA, except in Allegheny County and Philadelphia.

CFSPbridges on Giving Tuesday

Facebook is waiving all donation fees, and matching all donations on #givingtuesday! This 3 December 2019, all funds raised for the CFSPbridges campaign will be doubled!  

You can help us by running a fundraiser on your facebook page, and sharing it with your friends and family – here’s how:

raise funds on Facebook for the CFC

Here are links to useful pages:

Thanks for your support! 

Penn’s Parks for All – DCNR Plan

Please take a few moments to review the DCNR’s draft “Penn’s Parks for All” report which features recommendations for managing Pennsylvania state parks for the future, based on public comments gathered the past two years.  The report acknowledges that DCNR is “operating 121 parks with decreasing resources,” while visitation pressure increases, facilities age, and the forests themselves are beset by invasives, disease, and encroachment.

There will be a meeting for Cook Forest and Clear Creek State Parks on 5 December 2019, 6 pm at the Cook Forest State Park Office – all are welcome and encouraged to attend – share your concerns, priorities, and questions for the future of our beautiful, wild spaces, locally and state-wide.  

DCNR needs "more than $500 million due to the appropriated budget for state parks not keeping up with inflation, and due to a reduction in staff, requiring higher costs for contracted labor.
The condition of state park facilities is deteriorating, with some facilities being shuttered, and some recreation activities no longer available — while demand for park use is higher than ever before."

This heavily-used bridge across Tom's Run was closed in the summer of 2019, and requires replacement - cost estimated at $100,000 per bridge. This is one of six bridges slated for closure - several are along the North Country Trail.

 According to a Penn State report,  Pennsylvania’s state parks support 12,630 jobs (part-time and full-time), and contribute $400 million in labor income, and $1.15 billion in sales annually.  For every $1 invested in state parks from the state’s General Fund, $12.41 is returned to Pennsylvania’s economy.  Yet only 0.16% of the state’s General Fund budget goes to state parks.

It’s not only trails, campgrounds, and pavilions that need funding – the forests themselves are under assault from multiple threats that can’t be handled passively.  The parks face “declining forest health from invasive plants and animals, declining plant and animal diversity, and fragmentation impacts from roads, trails,” and utilities.  DCNR needs funds to acquire inholdings and boundary properties, to to implement “projects that will mitigate the effects of climate change and that address habitat resiliency, riparian buffers, and lake and stream restoration.”

Survey respondents were generally in favor of all these projects – land acquisition, water quality improvement, habitat protection – and “the vast majority agreed or strongly agreed (87%) that visitors to state parks should expect a quiet, natural, and/or wild experience.”  Report recommendations also include the establishment of a night sky management program, expansion of educational programs on sustainable and leave no trace practices, and outreach to middle and high school students to create the next generation of stewards of the state park system.

To accomplish this, DCNR will need to meet another of its goals – “ensur[ing] that conservation funding (e.g., the Keystone Fund and the Environmental Stewardship Fund) is used for stewardship purposes to repair and improve park resources.”  To keep our parks healthy and fully functioning, DCNR will need your support, too – in making public lands a priority for legislators.

This report is only the draft – comments will be accepted until 31 December 2019.  Please attend a meeting, or submit comments online.

Some Litter Is Necessary

Penn State Forest Stewards series article – written by Jim Finley, Professor Emeritus, Forest Resources Management, Center for Private Forests at Penn State.

Well once again, Pennsylvania’s forests are a mess – full of litter. Following the annual spectacular display of colors, fallen leaves, twigs, and branches “litter-ly” despoil our forest floors with layers of brown discarded leaves. What a mess!

2019-11 PAFS article Jim Finley on leaf litter

Depending on your awareness of litter’s value and your aesthetic sensibilities it can result in different appreciation levels. If you are a gardener, you would welcome, collect, compost, and hoard tree leaves. If your taste leans toward green grass lawns, you may abhor fallen leaves. Either way, you will likely gather them up; however, there are some who want to leave them in situ and mow them into increasingly smaller pieces to foster quicker decay hoping they will benefit that lawn.

Forests full of fallen leaves are a gift trees give to themselves. No one rakes or mulches them; nonetheless, they do slowly disappear. Estimates are that a mature hardwood forests produce an estimated 2,000 and 3,000 pounds per acre of litter annually. While most of this (about 70%) is leaves, it also contains twigs and branches, which may be partially decomposed prior to falling. It is amazing that through natural decomposition processes, tons of leaves contribute to forest vitality and health in so many ways.

 

Funding Shortfalls in Cook Forest State Park

the first bridge to close in CFSP

While visitation is increasing, state funding of the park system continues to dwindle, and the impacts are being felt here in Cook Forest State Park.

One of the busiest of our steel bridges over Tom’s Run closed earlier this year, with five more slated to follow – which requires trail re-routing away from some of the forest’s most lovely locations. Playgrounds are being removed, and picnic tables are turning into nurse logs. 

This article printed in the Oil City Derrick details the issues affecting our park, which hosts nearly 500,000 visitors annually, which produces $11 million dollars in economic activity in the area.  Please read the full account here – and then urge your legislators to support our beloved state parks, and restore the funding to them:  https://www.thederrick.com/free/cook-forest-facilities-are-being-closed/article_76a74e40-d173-11e9-98fc-d75dcc79ddd4.html

If the webpage link ever doesn’t work, a PDF version is available here:

2019-09-06 Cook Forest facilities are being closed _ thederrick

Betsy the Bat

Betsy is an ambassador for Centre Wildlife Care – she’s non-releasable because she cannot fly, so she educates folks about the wonders and benefits of bats.  Bats, the only mammals capable of continued flight, help us humans by consuming their body weight in insects every night. Unfortunately, the little brown bat, previously Pennsylvania’s most populous, was decimated by white nose syndrome, a deadly fungal disease. They’re slowing coming back, but only have one pup per year — so it’s crucial to help every bat you can. Keep neighborhood skies dark, and consider installing a bat house.
Betsy the bat - Centre Wildlife Care

If you find a bat this time of year (late fall to winter), please don’t release them; they will die in this type of weather. They should be hibernating in caves. Those that aren’t in caves hibernating are at risk. Centre Wildlife Care can care for them until spring when it is warm.

If you’re in the State College area, call Centre Wildlife Care at 814-692-0004 – or call Wildlife in Need Emergency Response, which operates a state-wide network of trained wildlife capture and transport volunteers, at 877-239-2097.

Please remember to never touch them with your bare hands; use thick gloves and pick them up gently with a towel. Place the bat in a box with soft cloth or paper towels with a lid, and air holes no bigger than a pencil. Keep them in a warm, quiet, dark room away from pets and people until they can be transported to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation centre.  And, don’t assume that they can’t escape…if you don’t put a lid on the box and weight or tape it down…they will leave. It happens all the time 🙂

Scouting for deer browse

Penn State Forest Stewards series article – written by Dave Jackson, Forest Resources Educator, Penn State Extension and Matt Russell, Associate Professor/Extension Specialist, University of Minnesota

Many woodland owners take to their woods in October to begin scouting for deer season. A good way to learn more about where white-tailed deer might be found is by understanding what they’re eating. A deer’s diet consists of a variety of crops, herbaceous and woody vegetation, fruits, and nuts. A healthy diet will consist of a variety of different foods. A deer requires an estimated 6 to 8 percent of their body weight daily in forage to stay healthy. For a 150-pound deer, that’s up to 12 pounds of food every day!

PAFS series - Dave Jackson on Deer Browse

Too much browsing pressure, eating twigs and young shoots, from deer can kill or limit the growth of tree seedlings, a fact that foresters and woodland owners know very well. Over decades, deer populations can greatly impact the look of woodlands. Knowing which tree seedlings are growing in your woods and which ones are browsed can give you more details on a deer’s diet.

In Pennsylvania, tree species that rank high on a deer’s list include a number of hardwood trees. Red and white oaks are two of the primary hardwood species that deer prefer to browse, while blackgum, hickory, and yellow poplar are also very high on the preference list. As you move north, species like maple (red and sugar), white ash, and basswood become more preferred species where they are more abundant.

While deer prefer these tree species, they also avoid certain plants. Deer will start by browsing the most preferred or palatable trees first. If there are high populations of deer in an area, preferred plants will see more browsing which can lead to other plants, that deer don’t prefer, taking over.

So what does it mean if deer are browsing beech seedlings/sprouts? Likely that deer are getting desperate and other food sources are limited. Evidence of high deer populations can be seen in a woodland that is dominated by beech brush, striped maple, black birch, black cherry, mountain laurel, ferns (primarily hayscented and New York) and invasive exotic plants. Deer avoid browsing these plants because they are not as digestible compared to other vegetation.

More evidence of deer browse impacts is the presence of a browse line on all understory trees, where there are no green branches until about five or six feet up. Another sign may include the presence of seedlings that are severely hedged and not able to grow above 1-foot in height, as well as understories dominated by species that deer avoid. Deer do not readily eat species like ferns, striped maple, beech, ironwood, mountain laurel, blueberry, and spicebush. As a result, we see these species dominating the forest understory in many areas.

To have a healthy woodland, tree seedlings need to develop into healthy, mature trees. As an example, consider a browse-sensitive species like oak. First, it can take over thirty years for an oak tree to produce acorns. Second, acorn crops only occur every two to five years and truly “bumper” crops much less often. In these good crop years, acorns can make up the majority of a deer’s diet in the late fall. If oaks can never make it from acorn, to seedling, to sapling, to healthy mature tree, the habitat quality for deer can suffer in the long term as oaks are replaced by other, potentially less desirable, species.

Knowing which species are being browsed can also give you insight into which methods can be used to protect seedlings. Although costly, fencing can be constructed around individual trees or larger areas several acres in size. Protecting tree seedlings ensures that you have healthy trees for the future while steering deer towards other food sources.

You may also consider harvesting additional antlerless deer. The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) helps landowners meet their forest management goals by allowing hunters to harvest additional antlerless deer from a property during the regular hunting seasons.

Areas with low deer browsing pressure provide diverse wildlife habitats. They support healthy understories, preparing the forest for future replacement following natural tree mortality or planned timber harvests. Habitat repeatedly damaged by over-browsing continues to decline, losing its ability to support additional deer and other wildlife. It is important to reach a proper balance between desired habitat conditions and deer populations.

Thank you, everyone!

Thank you CFC supporters

Thank you everyone!! 😃 Thank you for joining us on hikes and for yoga, for helping to move injured wildlife and to track invasive species, for participating in the fundraiser, for sharing CFC posts and events and information on how we can protect this amazing resource – your support means so much, to us and to the forest.

Citizen Scientist Training

Citizen Science Training 2019-10-02

HWA (Hemlock Woolly Adelgid) kills trees – and it’s here.  Invasive plants such as Japanese barberry and tree of heaven are threatening the regeneration of important species, while providing little to no habitat or food for wildlife.  But, with your help, we can protect our valuable old-growth forest.

Join us for Citizen Scientist training to learn about imapinvasives, a free tool that you can use to track infestations. We’ll also show you how to identify the invasive pests and plants – then you just report back data whenever you’re in the field. Together we can keep our forest healthy!

Wednesday, 2 October 2019 – 6 pm >> add event to your google calendar

This Free event is open to all, and is co-sponsored by the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History as a project of the Allegheny Forest Health Collaborative.  The Gateway Lodge generously donated meeting space – the address is 14870 PA-36, Cooksburg, PA 16217.  

 

Anthropologie in Cook Forest!

Anthropologie supports the hemlocks of Cook Forest State Park

After shooting their fall lighting catalog along lovely Tom’s Run in Cook Forest State Park, Anthropologie decided to get its charity, Philanthropie, involved in saving the hemlock trees that line the stream & do their own important work – protecting the aquatic residents, cleaning our water, and keeping the forest cool and stable.  They’re under assault from hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), a tiny invasive insect, and the CFC and many other entities – the Bureau of Forestry, the USFS, and the DCNR – are cooperating to keep these essential trees healthy.

You can help too!  Please consider donating via the link below, through which all funds raised will go to hemlock preservation, including education, monitoring, and active treatments:

Or join the Facebook campaign here: Anthropologie Campaign for Cook Forest Hemlocks

Thank you for your support!

HWA Hemlock Seminar Recap 2019

2019 HWA Seminar recap

A solid group attended this year’s Bureau of Forestry seminar on Hemlock Woolly Adelgid – its life cycle, the dangers it poses and the importance of Eastern (Canadian) Hemlock to our biodiversity, and the currently available treatment options – at the Cook Forest State Park office.  Following the classroom session, we trekked a short distance along beautiful Birch Trail, where Forestry scientists illustrated the soil injection method of tree inoculation, which will protect the treated trees for an estimated seven years. 

Jim Altemus explaining the soil treatment procedure to an attendee

As you may know, many of our ecosystems depend upon hemlock to filter our water and contain our streambanks, shade these streams for trout and the aquatic insects they feed upon, clean our air, and create the singular micro-climate that no other tree can reproduce, and on which many species depend.

You can protect your hemlocks at home:

  • minimize stressors by keeping them watered in droughts and not compacting their soil, and 
  • monitoring them closely for health – watch the crown for thinning, and always check wind-blown limbs for evidence of HWA infestation, as they tend to colonize the top half of the tree.   

View the entire photo gallery here – and please join us next year, as we hope to make the HWA Treatment Seminar an annual event!  The Cook Forest area hemlock are relatively healthy now, and by keeping Pennsylvanians aware and proactive, we can ensure their survival for the good of the woods, waters, and people of the coming decades 🙂

Shagbark Jones admires some hemlocks

a Quick Walk for the Woods – 28 Sept 2019

Cook Forest Hike - 28 Sept 10 am

Before the WIN Wildlife Courier Training, before the hour of relaxing yoga on the lawns along Tom’s Run, before a peaceful lunch in the park – walk with the CFC for a brief tour of the hemlocks and cold-water streams they protect. Saturday, 28 September, 2019,  10: 30 am, meeting at the new Cook Forest State Park office, 100 Route 36, Cooksburg, PA 16217.

No fee or registration required – just bring a water bottle, and your patience 🙂 for the CFC director’s first public tour of the forest.  We’ll try to cover the importance of hemlock, why Cook Forest is the best old-growth stand to protect, and how to help do it.  Our hellbenders, warblers, and the future is counting on us to do so!  

Learn more & let us know you’re attending on the Facebook Event here

then join Soul Blossom Yoga of Erie for a refreshing 60 minutes of Yin Yoga amongst the hemlocks – bring your mat and a water bottle – Donations only, generously collected by Soul Blossom to benefit the CFC 🙂