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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rattlesnakes dropped by DNR from helicopters; nope, it didn't happen

Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently posted on its website, a list of several myths related to the department and the outdoors, and followed with the facts.
The myths were part of a feature written by Michelle Cain, a DNR wildlife information specialist. Two in particular caught my attention, since I have heard them repeated so many times, especially in southern Indiana.
One I heard frequently in the area in and around the Hoosier National Forest in Perry County was that “the DNR released rattlesnakes to control turkey populations.” And, I’m sure no matter what the DNR says, this legend will continue. Numerous people will always believe it is true.
According to Cain, “This myth has been circulating for many years and it is untrue. The idea is that the rattlesnakes would eat the turkey eggs. However, rattlesnakes rarely eat eggs and are not effective in controlling the turkey population. 
“It has been said that these snakes were dropped from helicopters…..All I have to say about this is, if we have a DNR helicopter readily available…I’d love to ride in it. The Indiana DNR has never released rattlesnakes into the wild (although we have tagged some snakes and released them back to the same location). In fact, most rattlesnake species in our state are species of special concern or endangered.”
The DNR has acknowledged in the past that some study of the snakes has been done, but no releases other than releasing a captured snake back into its natural habitat.
For more than a half century, I’ve heard rumors of mountain lions, panthers and other big cats in the state. A related myth says the DNR released cougars/mountain lions into the wild to control the deer herd.
Cain writes that the DNR has never released any big cats and would never do so without public input. 
“Although, one cougar has been confirmed in Indiana, it is believed to have escaped from a licensed owner. The chances of you seeing a mountain lion in Indiana are virtually nonexistent,” adds Cain.
“The DNR annually receives reports of mountain lion sightings around the state, but typically the evidence points to a housecat, dog, bobcat, or coyote,” according to Cain.
More and more large cat sightings are being reported in the midwest. Numerous confirmed sightings are being reported in Missouri, and a reader from central Kentucky recently emailed me information about unconfirmed sightings there.
Bobcats probably do contribute to a number of big cat reports. The population seems to be growing and both Indiana and Kentucky are studying these cats, which are double or more the size of a large housecat, but certainly smaller than a mountain lion.
One myth Cain didn’t mention is that of a “Bigfoot” roaming the area of Lake Monroe, Brown County or the Morgan-Monroe State Forest. Maybe Bigfoot didn’t care for our cold winters and decided to head to milder climates.
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DNR INTERNS SOUGHT -- The DNR is looking to recruit 38 volunteers to work on trails this summer at four state parks for the Indiana Heritage Corps (IHC) program. 
IHC is an AmeriCorps program administered through the DNR Division of State Parks & Reservoirs. 
IHC volunteers receive onsite housing, a living allowance of $340 per month, an education stipend ($1,468 before taxes) and hands-on experience, as well as a chance to earn college internship credit and live at a state park. 
The state parks that will have IHC are Pokagon (in Angola), Fort Harrison (in Indianapolis), Brown County (in Nashville), and O’Bannon Woods (in Corydon). IHC members will clean, restore, and construct 25 cumulative miles of trail in the four parks. 
IHC candidates should be at least 17 years old, U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, be able to pass a strict FBI background check, and be able to make a three-and-a-half-month commitment (Monday–Friday, May 13–Aug. 16) to the program. 
Interested and qualified candidates should email a résumé and cover letter More information is at

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