By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJuly 18, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (July 18, 2013) -- Wildlife conservation and sustainability have been at the forefront of Fort Rucker's and the Army's environmental mission for some time, and the installation wants to share its knowledge of land conservation and management with local landowners.
In a partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Alabama Association of Conservation Districts, Fort Rucker will co-host the Wildlife School for Landowners course Aug. 22 and 23 to help educate local landowners on the most effective ways to manage their lands, said Doug Watkins, Directorate of Public Works Natural Resources Branch manager.
"This is an opportunity for Fort Rucker to showcase some of the work that we're doing in forestry and wildlife management," said Watkins.
The course is a two-day event that will encompass time in the classroom and time spent out in the field. The indoor sessions will take place on the first day at Heritage United Methodist Church in Enterprise, and will cover topics such as wild pig damage and control, introduction to timber management, managing pine for native wildlife plants, deer management, and managing food plots and wildlife openings.
The following day, participants will be taken on a tour throughout Fort Rucker to showcase the various programs and initiatives on the installation for wildlife conservation and management.
"We've set up a tour now that we will take the people out on installation lands and illustrate various techniques of forest management and wildlife management that we have under way," said Watkins. "We will actually get into the field and get our boots on, and showcase the individual sites and talk with local landowners that are fighting the same battles we are here with predator coyotes and feral pigs."
Feral pigs are pigs that have gone wild, and have been a problem on the installation for their destructive nature, said Watkins. Years ago, people in the area used domesticated pigs to clean their fields of corn and peanuts, and although electric fences were used to keep the pigs contained, many have gotten loose over the years, he added.
"After one or two generations, they are no longer domesticated animals and they become feral," he said. "Their color will change and their body size will change, and they become carriers of pseudo rabies and brucellosis," which can serve as a source of infection for domesticated animals.
These pigs are most destructive in the woods and can cause lots of damage to crops. On Fort Rucker, the issue with the wild pigs is that they create holes in the different raining grounds with constant rooting and digging.
"We've had numerous sites on airfields and landing sites that have been getting a lot of rooting and holes, and the sites become unstable to the point that it's very difficult to even mow the grass," said Watkins. "One of the main issues is that these wild pigs don't have any natural predators that prey on them in the area."
Watkins said that these pigs can have up to three litters a year and anywhere from eight to 10 piglets per litter, which makes for difficult population management.
During the wildlife course, they hope to showcase the most effective ways for landowners to reduce the pig population.
"It's something that all landowners are faced with in the South, and right now the populations are just exploding, so this is an issue that all landowners are really interested in," said Watkins. "It's fairly expensive when you consider the time, trapping and everything involved with trying to eradicate the wild pigs, and we want to show how to be the most effective at the least expense."
Along with wild pig and damage control, the course will also showcase various techniques for burning, as well as longleaf pine tree management and site prep.
Longleaf pine management is important because it's the native species of pine tree to the area, said Watkins, and due to their slow-growing nature, these trees have been replaced by other faster growing species.
"The longevity of the longleaf pine can be 300-400 years under the right conditions, but for production and forestry, loblolly, shortleaf and slash pines (have been replacing the longleaf)," said Watkins. "Here on Fort Rucker, the goal is to get back to a native habitat and convert a lot of the acreage back to the natural habitat," adding that many landowners are interested in restoring their land to the natural habitat as well.
Early registration deadline is July 31, and cost for early registration is $50, and $30 for a spouse. Late registration deadline is Aug. 19 and cost is $60.
For more information, call (205) 387-1879.