Sunflower Fields At The Forks Of The River Wildlife Management Area Draw Wildlife As Well As Spectators

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Forks of the River WMA in Knox County is in full color as sunflowers planted for wildlife management are in full bloom, but the fields are not only drawing in wildlife.  Local residents are also flocking to the area to enjoy the bright, showy blooms.

TWRA managers and technicians annually plant around 70 acres of the WMAs 600 acres in crops that are beneficial to wildlife, but none of them offer the aesthetic value that sunflowers do.

However, while the large blooms are pleasing to the human eye, the seeds that the flowers leave behind are the greater purpose.  WMA Manager Bill Smith says that the fields are planted primarily to attract mourning doves, which rely heavily on planted crops as their food source.  Smith also says that the Forks of the River WMA is the best area in the region for mourning dove hunting.  Hunters harvested over 1,300 birds on opening day last year, which offered the highest average per hunter in TWRA’s east Tennessee region.

The sunflowers also benefit a host of other nongame birds including Gold Finches, Northern Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, as well as a variety of sparrows and other songbirds.

Mr. Smith plants the fields on a two-year crop rotation in order to prevent diseases or insect problems that might develop.  Other crops rotated with sunflowers include millet, buckwheat, grain sorghum, corn and popcorn.

The WMA, which came under TWRA ownership and management in the 1990s, is also being managed for early successional habitat.  By use of herbicides and mechanical means, some areas are being converted into native grasslands and shrub/scrub habitats benefitting Prairie Warblers, Northern Shrike, Yellow-breasted Chad, Red-eyed Vireo, Northern Bobwhite (quail), American Woodcock, a variety of sparrows, and Eastern Wild Turkey nesting and brood habitat.

While hundreds of visitors, hikers, bikers, and wildlife watchers enjoy the showy sunflowers and benefits of the wildlife management area, the sportsmen and women of the state who purchase hunting and fishing licenses pay the cost.  “If it were not for the seed, sweat, and upkeep of our WMAs by the TWRA and the funding from hunting license dollars, theses areas wouldn’t be available for all to enjoy,” said Mr. Smith. “If you enjoy them, thank a hunter.” 

The 2014 dove hunting season will open at noon on Sept. 1, and will have a daily bag limit of 15 birds.  Along with the Tennessee Small Game Hunting and Fishing License (Type 001), an appropriate WMA Small Game Hunting permit will be required to hunt doves at the Forks of the River WMA.  An Annual or Lifetime Sportsman License covers both the license and permit requirement.  Hunters will also be required to possess a Tennessee Migratory Bird Permit except for the following: disabled veterans, Tennessee residents over age 65, Tennessee residents under age 13, Lifetime Sportsman License holders, and military personnel on leave or furlough.

Tennessee Aquarium To Open Southeast's Only Independent Freshwater Science Center Oct. 27

The Tennessee Aquarium will open the Southeast’s only independent freshwater science center next Thursday at 10 a.m. This new home for the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute will be the base of operations for their research scientists, and a central location for other freshwater scientists to convene. (click for more)

TWRA Announces Availability Of Riparian Tree Planing Grants For 2017

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency announces the availability of grant dollars to assist cities, schools, community organizations, civic groups, watershed organizations, and conservation groups, etc., with riparian tree planting projects.  All seedlings must be purchased through the Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry. Tree planting season in Tennessee is ... (click for more)

Howard Simmons, 47, Shot And Killed In St. Elmo Monday Morning; Police Interview Person Of Interest

Howard Simmons, 47, was shot and killed in St. Elmo Monday morning. Police said they had interviewed a person of interest in the slaying. Chattanooga Police at 8:30 a.m. responded to a person shot at the 5000 block of Florida Ave. Upon police arrival the victim, Simmons, had already succumbed to his injuries. Ms. Simmons suffered at least one gunshot wound. At this time ... (click for more)

Erlanger To Open Cancer Center On Gunbarrel Road At East Campus

Work is set to begin soon on construction of a new Cancer Center by Erlanger Health System at its Gunbarrel Road East Campus. Erlanger is joining with a development firm, Chatt East 3 LLC of Alabama, on the four-story project located just south of Women's East Hospital on a wooded five-acre tract. Erlanger will be leasing the bottom three floors at a rate of $16.05 per square ... (click for more)

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Picture a sold-out baseball game at Wrigley Field or Nationals Park packed with 40,000 fans. That image represents roughly the same number of women and men who die from breast cancer each year.  In Tennessee alone, an estimated 900 women will die from the disease in 2016. It is a sad statistic, but there is some good news: thanks to early detection and improved treatments, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Testerman Forum

I badly misjudged how long it would take me to do my “early voting.” I was in-and-out in no time so I got to the Hamilton County School Board’s agenda meeting well enough beforehand to have an “educational forum” with board member David Testerman. If you haven’t noticed, forums and summits and “community enlightenment” groups are the new rage and, as my friend David laughed, “They ... (click for more)