The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

2 months ago

New Indiana bat hibernaculum discovered in Alabama

(Darwin Brack/Environmental Solutions and Innovations, YHN)

Biologists have recently discovered a new Indiana bat hibernaculum (a shelter occupied by hibernating bats) in Alabama, bringing the known number of active Indiana bat caves in the state to four. The location is the southernmost known hibernaculum for the species across its range that extends north to Canada.

“The Indiana bat is exceedingly rare in Alabama, and this new discovery continues to improve our understanding of this endangered species in the state,” said Nick Sharp, Nongame Wildlife Biologist with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (ADCNR) Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). “In 2017, researchers also discovered the southernmost known Indiana bat summer maternity colonies in the forests of the Oakmulgee Ranger District (Talladega National Forest) near Tuscaloosa.”

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The newly identified hibernaculum is located in Shelby County, Alabama, and is closed to the public.

This is the same site where biologists identified a Southeastern bat infected by White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) in 2017. A specimen was collected at that time, and the infection was confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center. An ADCNR press release later that year announced the first Southeastern bat confirmed with WNS in the U.S., adding the species to the list of 13 other bat species known to be susceptible to the disease.

A separate bat research project conducted by the USGS National Wildlife Health Center has discovered that the WNS infected bat from Shelby County was misidentified in 2017. It is now believed the WNS infected bat was an Indiana bat. Additional research also suggests the Southeastern bat may be resistant to WNS.

Dr. Jeff Lorch with the USGS National Wildlife Health Center has developed methods to identify North American bats based on their DNA. Many bat species, including the group to which the Indiana bat and Southeastern bat belong, are challenging to identify based on their outward appearance. The use of DNA sequencing helps distinguish between bat species that outwardly look very similar.

When Dr. Lorch examined the DNA of the bat identified as the first Southeastern bat infected with WNS, he discovered its DNA matched that of Indiana bats and not Southeastern bats. He consulted with the biologists who collected the bat, but a re-evaluation of the bat’s external characteristics could not confirm the identity of the species.

In March 2020, biologists returned to the Shelby County location to conduct a new survey of its bat population. To assist in identifying Indiana bats, Darwin Brack, a field biologist with Environmental Solutions and Innovations in Ohio, also took part in the survey due to his extensive experience with the species.

The new survey identified 70 Indiana bats in the cave, the largest concentration of Indiana bats now known in Alabama. The Indiana bats were found in the same location where the WNS infected specimen was taken, in a cold-air sink within the cave. Southeastern bats were also present in the cave, but only found in an upper, warmer part of the cave. Gray bats were also hibernating in the cave.

“We now believe the bat confirmed with WNS was an Indiana bat and not a Southeastern bat,” said WFF’s Nick Sharp. “At this time, there is little evidence to suggest Southeastern bats are susceptible to WNS.”

Since the Southeastern bat was misidentified in 2017, WFF biologists have collaborated with Dr. Joe Johnson of Ohio University and Dr. Andrew Edelman of the University of West Georgia to investigate the susceptibility of Southeastern bats to WNS. Some bats can carry Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), the fungus that causes WNS, but not become infected with the disease.

In 2018, 62 bats from the Shelby County location and one other cave in the region were examined for the presence of Pd and WNS infection. The bats’ wings were photographed under a UV light, which causes tissue infected with Pd to fluoresce. The wings were then swabbed to collect DNA evidence of the fungal pathogen. Lab results from the swabs showed 56 of the bats tested positive for the presence of Pd. However, no bats exhibited fluorescence indicating WNS infection when photographed under the UV light, suggesting Southeastern bats may be resilient to WNS.

WNS has killed more than 6 million bats in North America. Before WNS was discovered in Alabama, more than 300 Indiana bats were known to hibernate within the Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge in Jackson County. In 2019, only 19 Indiana bats were counted at Sauta Cave.

The continuing effort to monitor WNS in Alabama is conducted through a collaboration between WFF and its partners including the USGS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Solutions and Innovations, Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Copperhead Environmental Consulting, Ohio University and the University of West Georgia.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

2 months ago

Alabama sandhill crane season returns for 2020-2021

(David Rainer/Outdoor Alabama)

Last year, Alabama saw its first sandhill crane hunting season in more than 100 years. The season returns for 2020-2021 with 400 permit holders having the opportunity to hunt sandhill cranes in north Alabama. Registration for the permits opens on September 8.

Norman Haley from Scottsboro, Alabama, has hunted sandhill cranes twice in Tennessee and was excited to have the opportunity to do so in his home state during the 2019-2020 season.

“Sandhill crane hunting is very unique,” Haley said. “The anticipation of seeing the birds approach from a distance is exciting. The slow and graceful circling as they land in a field is a sight to see.”

Today, that sight is more common in north Alabama thanks to the state’s conservation efforts and hunters who purchase their hunting licenses.

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In the early 2000s, sandhill crane seasons in the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways were under consideration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). By 2010, USFWS approved a sandhill crane management plan that included a hunt plan for the Mississippi Flyway, which includes Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama. Kentucky opened its season in 2011. Tennessee’s season soon followed in 2013. Alabama’s season opened in 2019.

“I’ve now been able to take part in the first modern day sandhill crane seasons in Tennessee and Alabama,” Haley said. “It’s nice to know that hunter dollars and conservation efforts have brought sandhill cranes to sustainable and harvestable levels in the state. Alabama’s sandhill crane season is just another example that conservation works.”

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (ADCNR) Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) receives no funding from the state’s general fund. The WFF’s Wildlife Section is primarily funded through a portion of hunting license sales that is matched on a three-to-one basis by the USFWS through the federal Pittman-Robertson Act. Alabama State Duck Stamp sales are also matched through the same process, but earmarked by state law to be utilized for wetlands and waterfowl conservation.

“Monies from these two revenue sources directly benefit sandhill cranes by providing habitat protection, management and restoration work in the areas of Alabama that cranes utilize as migration routes and wintering habitat,” said Seth Maddox, WFF Migratory Game Bird Coordinator. “Over the long term, conservation of habitat has played an integral part in the population growth of sandhill cranes.”

Those conservation efforts have benefited both sandhill cranes and hunters in Alabama like Haley.

“There was a time I thought the only way I would be able to hunt sandhills was by taking a trip to Texas or Oklahoma,” Haley said. “Now that I can hunt them in my home state, I don’t ever see myself passing up the opportunity as long as it’s available.”

Registration for Alabama’s 2020-2021 sandhill crane hunting season will open at 8 a.m. on September 8 and run until 8 a.m. on September 29, 2020. The WFF will conduct a computer-controlled random draw of 400 sandhill crane hunting permits on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, at noon Central Time. To register, visit here during the dates listed above. A $10 registration fee applies.

Registration is limited to Alabama residents 16 or older or Alabama lifetime hunting license holders. Applicants must have their regular hunting license and a state waterfowl stamp to register.

If drawn, hunters must complete an online test that includes species identification and regulations. After passing the test, WFF will issue the permit and tags to the hunter. In addition to a hunting license and state duck stamp, hunters must also acquire a federal duck stamp and Harvest Information Program certification, and, if hunting on a Wildlife Management Area (WMA), a WMA license.

The season is restricted to north Alabama and consists of two segments. The first segment runs from December 4, 2020, to January 3, 2021. The second segment will be January 11-31, 2021. The daily, season and possession limit will be three birds per permit. Hunters can harvest all three birds in one day if they choose. Both state and federal wildlife refuges are closed to sandhill crane hunting.

For more information about Alabama’s 2020-2021 sandhill crane hunting season, click here.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visitwww.outdooralabama.com.

(Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources)

3 months ago

Hunting season dates announced for 2020-2021

(Michael Padgett/Contributed)

The 2020-2021 hunting season will bring big changes for white-tailed deer hunters in a few parts of Alabama with the creation of two new deer zones. The newly created zones D and E will allow hunters to gun hunt before and during the peak of the rut (deer breeding season) in those locations.

Zone D includes areas in Cullman, Franklin, Lawrence and Winston counties. Zone E includes areas in Barbour, Calhoun, Cleburne and Russell counties. Archery season for zones D and E will open on October 1, 2020. Gun deer season for antlered bucks will open in both zones on November 7, 2020. Antlered bucks can be taken in zones D and E through January 27, 2021. The unantlered deer harvest dates differ between zones D and E, and both zones close to unantlered deer harvest earlier in January.

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Archery deer season opens in zones A, B and C on October 15, 2020. For complete deer season dates and zone information, visit www.outdooralabama.com/seasons-and-bag-limits/deer-season.

In Alabama, the peak of the rut varies throughout the state. This is due, in part, to deer restocking efforts that occurred decades ago. Deer population data collected over the last 25 years by Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) biologists is leading to a better understanding of the state’s deer population. That data is also providing improved hunting opportunities, including the fine-tuning of the state’s deer hunting zones to allow hunters to hunt the peak of the rut statewide.

“The creation of these new deer zones highlights the hard work of our wildlife managers and the importance of harvest data provided by Alabama’s hunters,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). “The Department strives to offer the best hunting opportunities available, and I’m happy to announce the new deer zones.”

Hunters are reminded to record their deer harvest before moving the animal using a paper harvest record or through Game Check in the Outdoor AL smartphone app. If using the paper harvest record in the field, hunters must still report their harvest within 48 hours through Game Check using the Outdoor AL app or online at outdooralabama.com.

DOVE SEASON COMES EARLY THIS YEAR
Dove season for the North Zone will open on Labor Day weekend this year, a week earlier than in previous years. Both the north and south zones feature split seasons.

This year’s North Zone dove season will open on September 5 and run through October 25 for the first segment. Hunters on opening day can hunt from noon until sunset. After opening day, hunting is allowed from one-half hour before sunrise until sunset. The second segment runs November 21-29, and the final segment is set for December 12 through January 10, 2021.

The South Zone season opens on September 12 and runs through November 1. The final two segments mirror the North Zone dates. The daily bag limit is 15 birds of either mourning doves or white-winged doves or a combination of the two.

Registration for the state’s youth dove hunts will open in August 2020. For complete dove season dates and zone information, visit www.outdooralabama.com/seasons-and-bag-limits/mourning-and-white-winged-dove-season.

SANDHILL CRANE SEASON RETURNS
Sandhill crane hunting returns for the 2020-2021 season. Last year saw the first sandhill crane season in Alabama in more than 100 years.

The season is by limited quota permit only – prospective hunters must apply online. Registration is currently closed but will open this fall with an associated registration fee. The permits will be chosen by a computer-controlled random draw in October 2020. A total of 400 permits will be issued.

The season dates are split into two segments with the first running from December 4 to January 3, 2021. The second segment will be January 11-31, 2021. The daily, season and possession limit is three birds per permit. Hunters can harvest all three birds in one day if they choose.

For complete sandhill crane season dates and zone information, visit www.outdooralabama.com/seasons-and-bag-limits/sandhill-crane-season.

TURKEY SEASON OVERVIEW
For most of the state, the 2020-2021 turkey season will run March 20 through May 2, 2021. Zone 4 (Clarke, Clay, Covington, Monroe, Randolph and Talladega counties) has both a fall and spring season. The fall season in Zone 4 runs November 21-29, and December 12 through January 1, 2021.

Spring turkey season will be delayed for research purposes on the following Wildlife Management Areas: Barbour, J.D. Martin-Skyline, Hollins, Oakmulgee, Lowndes, Choccolocco and Perdido River. The delayed season will run March 27 to May 2, 2021.

Hunters are reminded to record their turkey harvest before moving the animal using a paper harvest record or through Game Check in the Outdoor AL smartphone app. If using the paper harvest record in the field, hunters must still report their harvest within 48 hours through Game Check using the Outdoor AL app or online at outdooralabama.com.

Special youth hunts will take place on the Saturday and Sunday the week prior to all opening days of the spring season. For complete turkey season dates and zone information, visit www.outdooralabama.com/seasons-and-bag-limits/turkey-season.

ADDITIONAL SEASON INFORMATION
All other hunting seasons including waterfowl, feral pig, bobwhite quail, squirrel, rabbit, trapping information and more can be found on the seasons and bag limits page of outdooralabama.com or in the 2020-2021 Alabama Hunting & Fishing Digest (now available).

Alabama’s recreational hunting and fishing licenses expire annually on August 31. The presale for 2020-2021 licenses will open on August 24, 2020. Licenses can be purchased from various vendors throughout the state or online at outdooralabama.com.

ADCNR is once again offering hard card licenses for the 2020-2021 season. For an additional $5 fee, purchasers can select from six new designs including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, wood duck, crappie, redfish and a “We the People…” design featuring the Second Amendment.

HUNTER RESOURCES
WFF’s Adult Mentored Hunting (AMH) program was designed for those new to hunting or interested in learning how to hunt. The program provides new hunters with a one-on-one hunt under the guidance of a veteran mentor. To apply for an AMH hunt, you must be at least 19 years old, have a valid driver’s license and be new to hunting or have limited hunting experience. More information about the AMH program can be found at www.outdooralabama.com/mentored-hunting-program.

Alabama is rich in natural diversity with more than 1.3 million acres of public hunting land and some of the most liberal seasons and bag limits in the nation. Public land hunting opportunities in the state include Wildlife Management Areas, Special Opportunity Areas, Physically Disabled Hunting Areas, Forever Wild land, U.S. Forest Service land, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land, Tennessee Valley Authority land and several National Wildlife Refuges.

While hunting is one of the safest outdoor recreational activities, each year unnecessary hunting accidents happen and some are fatal. ADCNR reminds hunters to practice hunter safety including routine treestand maintenance and safety checks, always using a full-body safety harness when hunting from a treestand, wearing hunter orange and practicing firearm safety. For additional hunter safety tips, visit the hunter education section of outdooralabama.com.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natual resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

(Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources)

1 year ago

Import ban vital to prevent the spread of CWD

(Alabama Outdoors/Contributed, YHN)

As deer season approaches, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) remind hunters that it is illegal to import whole carcasses and certain body parts of any species of deer into either state.

The import ban on deer in Alabama and Tennessee is part of a larger effort throughout the country to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) – a fatal neurological disease of white-tailed deer and other deer species, including mule deer, elk and moose.

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“Working closely with our counterparts in neighboring states is one of the best ways we can prevent the spread of CWD,” said Chris Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner. “It is vital to the health of our deer herd that out-of-state hunters know and follow the hunting regulations in both the state in which they live and the state in which they plan to hunt.”

Under the import bans no person may import, transport, or possess a carcass or body part from any species of deer harvested anywhere outside of either state without properly processing it before bringing it home.

Importation of the following is allowed in both Alabama and Tennessee: deer meat that has been completely deboned; cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; raw capes, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft tissue is present; and finished taxidermy products or tanned hides. Velvet antlers are illegal to import into Alabama unless they are part of a finished taxidermy product.

Similar laws addressing the import of deer carcasses and body parts are on the books in other southern states as well.

“Our greatest allies in the fight against CWD are hunters,” said Chuck Yoest, CWD coordinator for TWRA. “With hunters’ assistance, we can help keep CWD from spreading, keep the number of diseased deer to a minimum, and reduce disease rates where possible.”

CWD is caused by a mutated protein called a prion. The disease is infectious, communicable, and always fatal for white-tailed deer. To date, no deer has tested positive for CWD in Alabama. CWD was discovered in parts of Mississippi and Tennessee in 2018. Since then, both states have implemented response plans in order to determine the prevalence of the disease and minimize its spread.

Once CWD arrives, infected deer serve as a reservoir for prions which will shed into the environment through saliva, urine, blood, soft-antler material and feces. There are no known management strategies to lessen the risk of indirect transmission of CWD once an environment has been contaminated. This makes eradication of CWD very difficult, if not impossible.

“Alabama has had a CWD surveillance program in place for white-tailed deer since 2001,” Blankenship said. “We have been fortunate so far, but we need the help of hunters to maintain our CWD-free status. To do so, it is very important for those who hunt out-of-state to know the laws before traveling.”

The public can assist the ADCNR Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division with its CWD monitoring program by reporting any illegal transport of deer or elk on Alabama’s roads and highways. Call the Operation Game Watch line immediately at (800) 272-4263 if you see deer or elk being transported in Alabama. In Tennessee, contact the TWRA Law Enforcement Division at (615) 781-6580.

For more information about how Alabama and Tennessee are working to prevent the spread of CWD, visit www.outdooralabama.com and www.CWDinTennessee.com.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

(Courtesy of Outdoor Alabama)

1 year ago

Youth dove hunts provide a gateway to the outdoors

(Outdoor Alabama/Contributed)

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) provides several youth dove hunt opportunities throughout the state each fall. A simple hunting setup combined with a fun, family-friendly atmosphere makes WFF’s youth dove hunts an ideal way to introduce young people to the outdoors.

Registration for this year’s hunts will open at 8 a.m. on August 19, 2019. Although the hunts are free, online registration is required. For most of the state, the hunts begin on September 7. For more information including a complete hunt schedule, visit www.outdooralabama.com/youth-hunting/youth-dove-hunts.

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Josh Burnette from Gadsden, Alabama, has taken his son Logan to an ADCNR youth dove hunt each year since he was six years old.

“When he was a younger kid, it was a good, safe way to introduce him to the outdoors,” Burnette said. “As he has gotten older, he has progressed to learning more about gun safety and taking good shots.”

Since his introduction to the youth dove hunts, Logan – now 10 years old – has also harvested his first deer, been turkey hunting several times, and even has his own squirrel dog named Clover.

Burnette, who is a forester for the Tennessee Valley Authority, said that in addition to being a gateway to the outdoors for young people, the youth dove hunts help build relationships between landowners and hunters.

“It can be hard to find places to introduce kids to hunting,” Burnette said. “We are thankful for the landowners who donate their time and money to prep their fields for these hunts.”

To participate in the hunts, youth hunters must be age 15 or younger and accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old (or a parent) who has a valid state hunting license, a Harvest Information Program (HIP) stamp and a Conservation ID number.

Alabama’s youth dove hunt events are held in open fields and staffed by WFF personnel, which encourages a safe, secure environment for both parents and participants. Before each hunt, a short welcome session with reminders on hunting safety will be conducted. All hunters are encouraged to wear eye protection and earplugs.

Doves are migratory and covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has special rules and regulations that apply to dove hunting which all hunters must follow. To review the Alabama Cooperative Extension System recommendations for plantings related to dove management, visit www.outdooralabama.com/what-hunt/mourning-dove-hunting-alabama.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

(Courtesy of Outdoor Alabama)

1 year ago

Alabama announces two additional days of red snapper season for private anglers

(D. Rainer/Contributed)

After completing a review of the 2019 private angler red snapper season through August 5, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has determined two additional days can be added to the private angler recreational season. The additional days will begin 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, August 31, 2019, and run until midnight on Sunday, September 1, 2019.

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Landing estimates are derived from mandatory angler reports submitted through Alabama’s Snapper Check Program. Anglers are reminded that greater amberjack is available for voluntary reporting through the Snapper Check app.

Detailed red snapper landing information from the 2018 and 2019 seasons is available at www.outdooralabama.com/saltwater-fishing/exempted-fishing-permit.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.