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Bill Cosh
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Outdoor Report for February 20, 2014

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View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
Check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism (exit DNR).

For current statewide information on statewide snow conditions, log onto the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).

A major winter storm moving into northwestern Wisconsin Thursday was forecast to bring as much as 15 to 18 inches of snow in some areas. In the south, precipitation was falling as rain and sleet. Temperatures in the 40s mid-week stood in sharp contrast to the frigid temperatures that had gripped Wisconsin much of the winter.

As a result of the storm, trail conditions are expected to change dramatically across the state. It may take snowmobile and ski groomers some time to groom the wet heavy snow that was forecast. People planning on traveling this weekend should call ahead to destinations for the latest conditions.

The storm is posing some challenges for the American Birkebeiner Foundation (exit DNR), which is holding the 41st American Birkebeiner ski race this Saturday. More than 10,000 skiers are registered for the largest ski race in North America. Also as a result of the storm, the National Park Service has temporarily closed access to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore sea caves as of 5 p.m. Thursday. People should check the Apostle Island (exit DNR) website for updates as to when the trail to the sea caves may reopen.

Prior to this week's warm-up, both snowmobile and cross-country ski trails had continued to be in good to excellent condition statewide. Counties in roughly the bottom third of the state closed snowmobile trails prior to the warm temperatures arriving in an effort to preserve them for the cold temperatures that are forecast to arrive again this weekend. Check the Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR) to see if trails reopen this weekend or next week.

Even with the milder weather, difficult access has continued to keep ice fishing pressure at a minimum. A few anglers have been accessing fishing spots via plowed trails, but the wind and blowing snow seem to change conditions daily. Many ice anglers have all but given up and removed their ice shacks, especially with more heavy snow predicted.

Anglers on Green Bay are reporting they have to go through 30 inches of ice to fish. There continued to be some good action for whitefish and a few anglers continued to report success for trout at southern Lake Michigan harbors. Mississippi River anglers are reporting the best ice for ice fishing in many years, with some action for sauger.

Due to an equipment malfunction at the Hatfield Dam, a drawdown of Lake Arbutus on the boarder of Clark and Jackson counties began this week. This will result in a lowering of the water levels that could potentially create dangerous conditions. As a result access to Lake Arbutus is being closed. Snowmobile trails that cross the lake are closed as well as entry points to the lake including the boat landings to prevent vehicular access onto the ice.

This week Wisconsin birders submitted 2,830 checklists of 114 species during the Great Backyard Bird Count, a four-day citizen science bird survey. Snowy owls held strong on winter territories across the state with nearly 300 individuals tallied, marking one of the largest irruptions ever recorded here. There were some signs of spring migration with arrival of lesser scaup, green-winged teal, American black duck, and other species. Other hints of spring include great horned owls incubating eggs, cardinals and chickadees singing courtship songs, and eagles tending to nest sites.

Statewide Birding Report

This week Wisconsin birders submitted 2,830 checklists of 114 species during the Great Backyard Bird Count, a four-day citizen science bird survey coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon. Across the globe birders reported more than 16 million individual birds of nearly 4,000 species! Snowy owls held strong on winter territories across the state and are expected to linger until mid-late March. Nearly 300 individuals have been tallied, marking one of the largest irruptions ever recorded here. Unusually extensive ice cover across the Great Lakes has forced many diving water bird species to move inland in search of water and food. Most notable have been white-winged scoters and long-tailed ducks at unusual inland locations, while a common loon in Marathon County and red-throated loon in Oneida furnished very rare mid-winter finds. Unfortunately, rehabilitation centers, especially along Lake Michigan, are reporting high admittance of stranded goldeneye, scaup, mergansers, and other divers that have been stranded in fields, roads, and other upland areas mistaken for water. Rock County birders reported some apparent spring migration with arrival of lesser scaup, green-winged teal, American black duck, and other species. Other hints of spring include great horned owls now incubating eggs, horned larks returning to some northerly locations as far as Burnett County, cardinals and chickadees singing courtship songs, and eagles tending to nest sites. American robins are singing now, though many overwintered in southern Wisconsin this year. Other rare birds spotted this week include gyrfalcon in Portage County, northern hawk owl in Door, gray partridges in Kewaunee, Townsend's solitaires at Devil's Lake State Park, and varied thrush in Eau Claire. Find out what others are seeing and contribute your sightings to www.ebird.org/wi. - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland

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Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - The afterhour's trails were groomed and tracked Tuesday. We had 8 new inches of new snow earlier this week. Conditions are expected to deteriorate Thursday as a winter storm warning has been issued for the area, forecasting 10-12 inches of snow. Forestry staff are reporting that work in the woods is difficult with the deep snow. Snow is waist deep in most areas, even with snowshoes it is tough going out there. Most of the bucks shed their antlers in late December to January. Occasionally some bucks are seen still sporting their antlers. The propane shortage/price increase has many people looking for alternate sources for heating their homes. The Brule River State Forest sells firewood permits for personal use. Due to the emerald ash borer quarantine, all firewood must remain in Douglas County. Please call the Brule River State Forest Headquarters for further details at 715-372-5678. - Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Bayfield County - Hundreds of snowmobilers were checked over the weekend, and all were commenting that local trails are in excellent condition. Some stated this is what brought many of them back for a second visit. With more than a foot of snow expected this week, trails should again be in excellent condition for the upcoming weekend. "It's a real good work out' was the comment heard from local snowshoe enthusiasts, with more than 3 feet of snow in area woods. Cross-country ski trials have an excellent base and trials should be freshly groomed just in time for the weekend. Ice fishing activity on area lakes has been slow this winter, due to the deep snow and slush conditions causing poor traveling. Those getting out onto the lakes are walking or are traveling by sled. A mixed bag limit was seen last weekend on Lake Owen, consisting of bass, northern, and walleye. Those fishing the Eau Claire Chain (Upper and Middle) were catching northern, bass and a few walleye's just before sundown. Lower Eau Claire happens to be the lake for panfishing activity this weekend with bag limits of crappie and bluegill being caught. - Jill Schartner, conservation warden, Drummond

Snowmobile trails continue to remain in excellent condition in northern Bayfield County. The ice caves continue to be a huge attraction with record numbers and with excellent ice should remain open into March. Fishing is slow right now, but Lake Trout are being caught on buck tails with herring bait, and whitefish are being caught among the Apostle Islands, with brown's, coho's, and splake being caught in the Bay. Always remember that if traveling on the ice be aware of changing conditions and have a floatation device with you. - Jonah Lottig, conservation warden

Pattison and Amnicon state parks - The parks are bracing for a winter storm that may drop as much as over a foot of new snow. For the snowshoer, conditions couldn't be better. Currently, Pattison's weather station has 19 inches of snow on the ground. - Kevin Feind, property supervisor

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Burnett County - The Grantsburg area is coated with a thick blanket of snow giving us approximately 24 to 34 inches of snow on the ground. Turkeys, whitetail deer, and pheasants can be observed frequently feeding in cut cornfields along the highways. Snowmobile trails in the area are open and being groomed regularly. Area lakes have been very difficult to travel on because of deep snow and heavy slush. Ice conditions vary across the county with some lakes now requiring extensions on ice augers. Governor Knowles State Forest cross-country ski trails are opened and being groomed regularly. Use caution when traveling on any frozen lakes. Panfishing on area lakes has been slow over the last few weeks but will improve with warmer temperatures. - Christopher Spaight conservation warden, Grantsburg

Interstate Park - Winter recreation trails are open and snow-covered. The Skyline Ski Trail is open to cross-country skiers only. Ice depths vary on the St. Croix River and the spring-fed Lake of the Dalles. Check with park staff upon arrival for current conditions. Watch for bald eagles congregating near open water on the river. Mammal tracks indicate activity and movements of deer, coyote, fox, fisher, otter and mink. Winter camping is available at 40 walk-in sites, two of which are plowed. Electricity is not available at these campsites. Water is available at the Ice Age Center and outside the Stone Building. Join naturalist Julie Fox at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. on Saturdays, February 22 and March 8, to experience Wisconsin Interstate Park by snowshoe. Meet at the Ice Age Center for an introduction to basic snowshoe skills followed by an opportunity to snowshoe at your own pace. Snowshoes available for ages 6 & up, free of charge. The walks are dependent upon snow conditions; call the park for updates. - Julie Fox, natural resources educator

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Even with the milder weather in the past week, the difficult access conditions have continued to keep ice fishing pressure at a minimum. Ice depths have been holding in the 18 to 20 inch range, but deep snow and slush have severely limited most travel on the lakes. A few anglers have been accessing their fishing spots via plowed trails, but the wind and blowing snow seem to change conditions daily. Many regular ice anglers have all but given up and removed their ice shacks, especially with more heavy snow predicted in the next few days. The major draw for getting people out on the ice in the last few weeks has been some weekend ice fishing contests. This has bumped up pressure on a few targeted lakes, but overall fishing action continues to be on the slow side. Walleye action continues to be spotty and some of the best success has come during the mid-day hours. The majority of action has been from smaller fish in the 10 to 13 inch size, but a few nicer walleye have also been landed. Medium suckers and XL fatheads have been the most productive, and fished just off the bottom in 8 to 14 feet of water. Panfish success has also been very erratic, with crappie being especially hard to find. Perch have provided the most action, and some fair catches have been made on small minnows fished in the 6 to 12 feet depths. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

Flambeau River State Forest - There is approximately 30-plus inches of snow in the woods and are expecting another foot with this new front moving through over the next 24 hours. Snowmobile and ski trails are in good condition. Snowmobile enthusiasts are out and about enjoying our wintery conditions. The Flambeau Hills Ski trail has been rolled and track set on Rim, Short Swing, Squirrel Tail & Pinery Grade loops. Plans are to groom and track the entire trail system weather permitting Friday, Feb. 21. Snowshoe trail are also in great condition and recently packed. We are seeing more deer activity but they are sticking close to roads and packed trails. - Judy Freeman, visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The cross-country ski trails on the Northern Highland American Legion State forest were last groomed and tracked on Feb. 16 and were in very good condition. There is 24 inches of snow on picnic tables at Escanaba Lake Trail. There is more snow forecasted Feb. 20 so crews will be plowing first, then packing ( with just snowmobiles if deep snow) and grooming by mid-day Friday. Some of our equipment is in for repair so it may be Saturday before all four trails are groomed. - Dan Jacoby and Tony Martinez, forestry facilities workers

Florence DNR at the Florence Natural Resource Center

Florence County - Trails are open and groomed in Florence and Forest counties. There was lots of fresh snow last weekend and more is expected for this weekend. Keyes Peak Ski area is open, and the national forest ski trails will be groomed; county ski trails may be groomed depending on Thursday snowfall. Warmer weather has re-opened some rivers so caution should be used on flowage ice. There have been warm daytime temperatures counteracted by cold night, so no major impact to snow has occurred. Snowshoeing should be better than it has been all season as snow firms up. Now is a great time to hike waterfall trails on the Pine-Popple Wild Rivers. - Anna Jahns, wildlife technician, Florence

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled by David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay

Marinette County - Anglers caught some northern pike north of the Peshtigo Harbor using tip ups with large shiner minnows and smelt. No anglers were seen fishing the Menominee River and a few vehicles were parked at the Little River Boat Launch, where anglers used ATVs and snowmobiles to fish the Trout Bar in search of whitefish. Remember changing ice and weather conditions occur so you should always use caution when accessing your favorite ice fishing areas. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - The Oconto Parks and Oconto Breakwater Park saw a few northern pike anglers who used tip ups with large shiners or smelt in 5 to 12 feet of water with mixed success. A few whitefish anglers fished the mouth of the Oconto River jigging with wax worms or Rap's. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Door County - With anglers reporting up to 3 feet of ice everywhere from Little Sturgeon to Sturgeon Bay with access to favorite fishing spots ranging from easy to somewhat difficult, fishing pressure varied throughout the week. Whitefish anglers had good success off Clafin Park using minnows and wax worms in 32 to 40 feet of water. Carmody Park was also a hot spot for whitefish anglers to access the ice where anglers had success using wax worms in 40 feet of water. At Lime Kiln Road driving onto the ice was difficult but anglers accessed the ice by walking or using snowmobiles and reported catching whitefish using Swedish pimples with wax worms in 35 to 40 feet of water. At Wood Lane fishing pressure was high but anglers struggled to catch any perch or whitefish. In the Sturgeon Bay area fishing pressure was high with many anglers limiting out on whitefish using wax worms, minnow heads, jigging Rapalas and artificial baits in 40 to 70 feet of water. Most anglers fished off Birmingham's and the Stone Quarry where some northern pike were also caught using golden shiners in 26 to 28 feet of water. - Bobbi Kolstad, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Manitowoc County - Several snowy owls have been providing entertainment for folks in northeast Manitowoc County. As in other parts of the state, the irruption of snowy owls has been a sight to see. These birds seem to be less wary of humans than many other birds of prey, allowing bird watchers to get somewhat close to photograph them. Snowmobile trails are in good condition, except for some windblown spots on open farm fields. - Robert Stroess, conservation warden, Mishicot

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - Snow depth varies up to 25 inches. Watch for icy/slippery conditions throughout the park. Ski trails were groomed on Feb. 18, and are in good condition. Warm temps during the day make trails sticky and soft. Snowshoe and hiking trails are open. Sledding Hill is open. Snowmobile trails are open and in good condition. - Jane Barnowsky, visitor services associate

Potawatomi State Park - Cross-country ski trails were rolled on February 19. New track should be set later this week. Call the park office at 920-746-2890 for the latest trail conditions. Snowmobile trails were last groomed on February 18 and are in very good condition. For snowmobile trail conditions, please check map.co.door.wi.us/parks/snowmobile.htm (exit DNR). Potawatomi Park is in the South-East zone of Door County's snowmobile trail map. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - After Monday's 6 inches of fresh powder, we have 24 plus inches on the level. The snowmobile trails are in the best condition for the longest period of time seen in years. All trails of both motorized and non-motorized propulsion are in excellent condition. Ice fishing pressure has been very light, as it's just too difficult getting around right now with all the snow on the ice. Deer are getting increasingly active during daylight hours. It's shaping up to be a very tough winter for them. There have been lots of reports of coyotes howling, as it is their breeding season. Most wildlife has either flown south or is really hunkered down in these tough conditions. My reports must be sounding like a broken record by now, bring on spring! - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Milwaukee County - As the days get longer, the cardinals are singing, the owls are calling, and the coyotes are howling. Despite the snow storms and cold weather, spring is in the air. Take the opportunity for one more excursion in the snow, or another chance at some fishing activity at Lakeshore State Park. - Dianne Robinson, wildlife biologist & regional educator, Waukesha

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - Lapham Peak received about 6 inches of snow on Monday. All trails were groomed and a new track was set on the entire system. The skate deck is in excellent condition but might be a little soft. The tracks are at full depth and in excellent condition as well. Try to ski before the temps warm up. Trail lights are on until 10 pm except Sundays. - Brett Johanen, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Pike Lake Unit - Cross-country ski trails: received 4 - 5 inches of snow overnight on Feb. 17. The trails were last groomed and tracked Tuesday, Feb. 18 and are in good to excellent condition. Trail passes are not required for cross country skiers at the Pike Lake Unit. When trails are snow covered hikers, snowshoers, and dogs are not allowed on trails east of Powder Hill Road (groomed ski trails). Multi Use Trails: are all open and in good condition for hiking and snowshoeing. Pets are not allowed on the Black Forest Nature Trail and must be on a leash 8' or less at all times in other areas. Wildlife Wonders Hike is a wildlife tracking hike with the naturalist on Sunday Feb. 23 starting at the Nature Trail Parking Lot at 11 a.m. No dogs are allowed on this trail. Trail has a moderately difficult terrain, but the hike itself is only a mile in length. - Andrew Krueger, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - Warm temperatures and rain have diminished the snow depth, and created some sticky ski conditions. Staff groomed all but the yellow trails at Zillmer on Feb 17, and will keep an eye on the weather. If temperatures drop as predicted, they may be able to groom again on Friday. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - The Southern Unit received about 4 inches of new snow on Monday. All three cross-country ski trail systems at the Southern Unit were groomed on Monday night. Scuppernong, which is for classical skiing only, has a new double classical track set that is full depth and well formed. Nordic and McMiller were groomed - the skate lanes have a firm base with the new snow packed on top of it remaining somewhat soft. New classical tracks were set on both Nordic and McMiller. The tracks are full depth and look very good but the snow is not expected to set up very firm. Conditions in general are very good with the only thing keeping them from being rated excellent is the softness of the fresh snow. Get out and enjoy the new snow and some tolerable temperatures. - Paul Sandgren, property supervisor

Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee

Sheboygan County - In Sheboygan a few anglers have been ice fishing off the docks in the marina, as well as near the boat launch ramps. A few browns have been reported in the harbor, and golden shiners have taken the most fish.

Ozaukee County - In Port Washington a few browns and rainbows have been caught on crankbaits and spawn sacs near the power plant. The discharge area will provide an open water fishing opportunity throughout the winter months, and decent numbers of browns should remain in the harbor.

Milwaukee County - In Milwaukee the river mouth and harbor are covered in chunks of ice and the Riverfront Ramp was not usable as of Monday, February 17. Ice conditions near the river mouth can change quickly based on air temperatures, the winds, and freighter traffic. Brown trout will remain in the Milwaukee harbor throughout the winter months, and at times can be accessible from shore and by boat. The lower Menomonee River near the MMSD offices stays open this time of year and provides a good spot for brown trout fishing. At the lakefront, ice anglers in McKinley Marina report ice depths up to 15 or more inches, and some brown trout have been taken through the ice. Minnows and jigging spoons have been more productive than spawn sacs recently.

Racine County - In Racine, the ice depth in Reefpoint Marina is variable, but anglers report 10 to 12 or more inches in many locations. Brown trout in the 4 to 5 pound range and a few rainbows have been caught on tube jigs, minnows, and jigging spoons. Other anglers have had success fishing for browns through the ice in the lower sections of the Root River.

Kenosha County - Ice anglers in Kenosha have been working the area around the boat docks in Simmons Island Marina. Browns and rainbows should be in the area, but fishing has been slow overall.

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - Locally nesting Canada geese are starting to set up nesting territories. With this week's melting and expected rain, ice conditions on rivers and lakes are getting spotty and dangerous for ice fishing and snowmobiling. During the fisheree on Pike Lake last weekend many fish were caught, but few were of large size. Turkeys and deer are becoming more visible and active. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford

Sturtevant DNR Service Center area

Racine County - Red-tailed hawk pairs have been seen sitting in trees in Racine and Kenosha Counties. This is an indication that the birds are courting and have established a territory. Keep an eye on the sky to catch a possible glimpse of aerial courting displays. Pairs will be in the process of building new nests or repairing old nests and will begin egg laying in early March. Small flocks of robins and eastern bluebirds continue to be seen at Richard Bong Recreation Area. Small flocks of bluebirds have been overwintering at Bong for several winters. - Marty Johnson, wildlife biologist, Sturtevant

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South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Grant County - Due to the recent warm weather the county snowmobile trails are closed. Bluegill fishing has been slow throughout most of the area. Bertom Lake, O Leary Lake, Sunfish Lake (North of the Lock and Dam #11) report a few bluegills and occasional perch. The long cold winter has created good Mississippi River ice conditions before the recent warm weather influence. This past weekend saw ice anglers on the Mississippi River below the Eagle Point fishing barge below Lock and Dam #11 in search of sauger and walleye. A few small sauger were caught and released. Anglers have not had good river ice to fish in 8 to 10 years. Anglers reported 12 inches near shore and 6 inches 100 yards off shore. Anglers are continuing to catch sauger on the Iowa side of the river below Lock and Dam 11. One angler noted that the ice thickness was measured at 30 inches in the area off the bull nose of the locks. Sunfish Lake north of the Lock and Dam reported 24 inches of ice. For those looking to see a rare winter visitor, a snowy owl has been seen perched on top of a power pole north of Bloomington along Fairground road, South of Crubel Lane, each evening and also a few mornings. - Richard S. DeWitte, conservation warden, Cassville

It has been an interesting winter for birdwatchers. The early cold and snow pushed many of the usual short distance migrants further south than normal. However, a few small flocks or robins and bluebirds decided to spend the winter near Boscobel. We were also treated to an irruption of snowy owls in southern Wisconsin. At least two snowy owls have taken up winter residence near Bloomington. Recently small flocks of drake green-winged teal and mallards have also been seen in the area. - Daniel Goltz, wildlife biologist, Boscobel

Green County - Snowmobile season may be nearing the end with upcoming temperatures forecasted to be above freezing. Green County trails have been groomed and are seeing a large amount of traffic. For current trail conditions and to check if the trails are open, please see the State Line Trailblazers website and their Facebook page. Be sure to obey all regulatory signs and stay on the trail. Ice fishing has been spotty, with a few anglers reporting a few fish being caught on tip ups. All anglers be aware that as of March 1 through May 3, 2014 the Albany, Decatur, and the Old Brodhead Powerhouse dams become refuges from the dam downstream for a distance of 500 feet. This means that all fishing will be prohibited in these areas during this time period. As always, please report any violations you observe and stay safe. - Ryan Caputo, conservation warden, New Glarus

Cadiz Springs State Recreation Area - All hiking and interpretive trails are open for hiking, snowshoeing and back country skiing. Trails have several inches to a foot of snow over them and some areas have packed snow from visitors snowshoeing. Snow is very wet at this time and my freeze as temperatures drop. Trails are not groomed for cross country skiing. Pets are permitted on the trails provided they are on a leash 8 feet or shorter, and the owners pick up after them. Snow is very heavy and wet and may become icy if temperatures drop below freezing. - Brad Bates, ranger

Lafayette County - With the warm weather all of the area snowmobile trails are closed in an attempt to save what snow there is for when temperatures cool back down. - Nick Webster, conservation warden, Darlington

Richland County - With the recent warm-up to check on snowmobile trails before riding. Local officials have closed many trails in order to preserve them for potential use in the future. The ice fishing activity remains slow along the Lower Wisconsin Riverway. - Michael Nice, conservation warden, Richland Center

Blue Mound State Park - Cross-county ski trails are open and in good condition. They were last groomed and tracked on Feb. 18. Please note it is prohibited to have pets, hike, bike or snowshoe on groomed ski trails. The park has 15 miles of snowshoe / hiking / mountain bike trails in addition to the cross-country ski trails. Mountain Bike Trails are open but do close often when the weather warms and the track becomes soft. A bald eagle was seen flying over Blue Mound State Park Tuesday. Three bald eagles have been spotted in the last week around the park. - Kevin Swenson, Park Manager and Megan Helt - Baldwin, ranger

Horicon DNR Service Center area

Dodge County - Walleyes are being caught on the Rock River north of the highway 60 bridge near Hustisford. - Paul Nell, conservation warden, Horicon

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - All of the snowmobile trails in Columbia County are currently open. Make sure to call the Columbia County Snowmobile Trail Hotline before you ride, as the trail conditions can change rapidly. The Columbia County Association of Snowmobile Clubs report that the trail groomers have been out all week and the fresh snowfalls should have the trails in excellent condition. The clubs also remind riders to stay on the trails and to not cut corners. Ice fishing has slowed to a halt in southern Columbia County with very little success reported. - Ryan Volenberg, conservation warden, Poynette

Indications that spring is just around the corner are popping up as birds are really starting to sing. DNR staff reports at Mud Lake Wildlife Area several waves of wood ducks flew over, totaling about 150 birds, along with 32 robins. A brief reminder to clean out your wood duck houses and prepare them for the new season, as now is the time to do it. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette

Devil's Lake State Park - Cross-country ski trails were groomed on Feb. 13, and were in mixed condition: very good to excellent for Steinke Basin (tracked) and poor for Johnson Moraine (packed) due to severe drifting on the ridge top. - Richard Hesed, visitor services associate

Mirror Lake State Park - The park's 19 miles of cross-country ski trails are groomed and in good conditions. The 1 mile Newport Trail is for classical skiing only with all other ski trails groomed and tracked for both classical and skate skiing. The trails offer a wide variety of difficulty levels, so skiers of all levels have much to enjoy! For the most up-to-date conditions, please contact the park at 608-254-2333 or on the web at www.travelwisconsin.com under the Snow Report. Snowshoeing and hiking trails: The Sandstone loop is an easy 2-mile trail which encompasses the Lakeview and Echo Rock Trails. The Wild Rice Trail is an easy 0.6-mile trail at the west end of the lake. Hikers and snowshoers are reminded that there is no walking on the cross-country ski trails. For more snowshoe and hiking opportunities in the area you can also visit Rocky Arbor State Park, the Dells of the Wisconsin River State Natural Area and Devil's Lake State Park. - Becky Green, park manager

Governor Nelson State Park - Cross-country ski trails were groomed Feb. 18 and were in good condition. Warm temperatures and rain could change conditions this week. Please call the park office at 608-831-3005 for the most up-to-date ski trail conditions. Please note that it is prohibited to hike on any groomed cross-country ski trail when it is snow covered. - Rene' Lee - park manager

Lake Kegonsa State Park -All cross country ski trails are in good condition and were last groomed and tracked on Tuesday, Feb. 18. Conditions are expected to deteriorate over the next few days due to forecasted warm temperatures and rain. Cross-country ski only trails are closed to hiking, snowshoeing and pets. - Sarah Bolser, park manager

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West Central Region

Baldwin DNR Service Center area

St. Croix County - Snow conditions remain great for both snowmobiling, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Additional snow is coming this Thursday so plans are being made to be out grooming the ski trails as soon as the snow ends. They should be in excellent shape for Friday and the weekend. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. After your done skiing the Berkibeiner and you want to unwind, get away from the crowds and enjoy a backcountry experience stop at the trail head off Highway 70 or County Highway W and unwind on the Flambeau Hills trail. Fishing is a bit slow, deep snows are limiting access to many of the hotspots. If you have a snowmobile or a pair of snowshoes be sure to bring them. Deer are actively moving to many of the active timer sales in the forest along with on the trails and river edges. It looks as if it will be a beautiful weekend. - Harvey Halvorsen, wildlife supervisor, Baldwin

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Merrick State Park - Trails are snow covered and open for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The trails are not groomed. - Lois Larson, park manager

Perrot State Park - The cross-country ski trails are in very good condition. All trails have been groomed and tracked. The skate lane around the campground has been groomed and is in very good condition. Snow is predicted over the next 24 hours. Trails will be regroomed and tracked once the snow has stopped. - Lois Larson, park manager

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - Warmer temperatures are in the forecast for Black River the next four days, with highs in the upper 30s and low 40s expected. Temperatures are expected to turn colder for the weekend. The Black River area received around 4 to 5 inches of snow on Monday. Warm daytime temperatures will prevent us from being able to groom this week until Friday when temperatures are expected to be in the 20s for a high. Grooming the trails when the temperatures are above freezing results in icy conditions as the night time temperatures drop below freezing. Even though there will be some melting this week we have enough snow where we believe the coming weekend should bring very good skiing conditions. - Peter Bakken, superintendent

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Clark County - Due to unexpected equipment malfunction at the Hatfield Dam, Hatfield operators began drawing down Lake Arbutus Feb. 18. Lake Arbutus is expected to be drawn down a total of six feet over the course of two to three days. This drawdown will result in a lowering of the water levels on Lake Arbutus. This lowering of water levels will potentially create dangerous conditions on the ice on Lake Arbutus. As a result of the unscheduled drawdown and the potential impact on ice conditions access to Lake Arbutus is being closed. Snowmobile trails that cross the lake are closed as well as entry points to the lake including the boat landings to prevent vehicular access onto the ice. The snowmobile trail across Lake Arbutus will be rerouted in Jackson County to Clay School Road to Highway K. The snowmobile trail in Clark County will be rerouted via County Road J to Clark County Trail Intersection Number 1. The Black River snowmobile crossing at Black River Falls will also be closed. It is unknown how long access to Lake Arbutus will be closed. People should not venture out onto the ice for any reason once the drawdown has begun. - Adam Hanna, conservation warden, Neillsville

Wausau DNR Service Center area

Marathon County - Snowmobile trails are in good to excellent condition with more snow scheduled in the upcoming days. Travel on area lakes has become tough due to snow depths and some slush over the ice. Ice shacks south of Highway 64 must be off by the end of the day on March 2 so a reminder to people that have shacks out to make preparations. DNR staff spoke with several people last weekend who were getting their shacks off the ice who ran into some problems because of snow and slush. - Benjamin Herzfeldt, conservation warden, Wausau

Rib Mountain State Park - Trails are in excellent condition for a hike or snowshoe. Trails are not groomed for cross-country skiing, Cross-country skiing is available at the nearby 9-Mile County Forest Recreation Area. Due to an equipment breakdown, we will not be able to remove snow from the walking path for a while. The equipment is being repaired and we will be working on snow removal as soon as we are able. Thank you for your patience during this time. Also please note that due to the large amounts of snow this winter and cooler temps that roads in the park are narrow and parking lots will not hold as many vehicles, please drive with caution in the park. - Bill Bursaw, manager

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - Ski trails will be re-groomed after the current winter storm is over and plowing completed in the park. Trails are half packed for snowshoeing and half tracked for skiing. Snowshoes are available to check out and use in the park when we have at least 6 inches of snow. Pets are not allowed on groomed ski trails, but you can park at the boat launch and hike up 19 towards the new campground. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Roche-A-Cri State Park - The main gate and campground are closed for the season. Parking is in the winter lot on Czech Ave and park stickers are required. Bald eagles can be seen flying around the open water of the Wisconsin River at the Hwy 21 bridge. - Heather Wolf, park manager

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Last Revised: Thursday, February 20, 2014