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NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 603 days

Weekly News Published - February 26, 2013 by the Central Office

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aquatic species monitoring to be updated

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release has been removed and will be updated next week after confirmation of preliminary results.

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The loon has disappeared in Wisconsin - from the state income tax form, that is

MADISON -- This tax filing season, donors can no longer "look for the loon," the traditional slogan referencing the icon in the donation section of the Wisconsin income tax form to aid filers in gifting a portion of their tax return to the state Endangered Resources Fund.

Though donations through the tax check-off program can still be made, this year's message asks donors "Where did the loon go?" because recent legislation removed all such icons from the tax forms.

"Losing a species on the tax form is one thing. Losing a species from the landscape is obviously something entirely different," said Erin Crain, director of the Department of Natural Resources endangered resources program. "We couldn't keep the icon from disappearing, but together we can surely help keep natural treasures from disappearing on the landscape."

"That's where we hope for continued donor support, despite the changes to the tax form. We need to be able to continue such conservation successes like the restoration of the bald eagle, trumpeter swan and vital native prairie habitats," said Crain.

The endangered resources program preserves and manages more than 200 endangered and threatened Wisconsin plants and animals, as well as some of the state's remaining examples of prairies, forests and wetlands.

Private donations account for 25 percent of the funding received by the program. Each dollar contributed through the tax check-off, or through a direct donation, is matched by a state dollar up to $500,000.

"Every donation made through the income tax check-off is an investment in the future of Wisconsin's plants, wildlife and natural areas that make the state so special," said Crain. "Any contribution, big or small, is a way to make sure Wisconsin's plants and wildlife are around for future generations to enjoy."

A series of features illustrating successes funded by private donations, is available on the DNR website.

To donate through the tax check-off, look for the "Donations" area on the Wisconsin income tax forms. Specifically, look for Line 37a on Form 1, Line 27a on Form 1A, and Line 14a on Form WI-Z.

For more information on the Endangered Resources Program or to make a donation immediately, please visit dnr.wi.gov, search keyword "ER."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Erin Crain, 608-267-7479

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Trout anglers being asked to report incidents of gill lice in brook trout

FITCHBURG, Wis. - Alert trout anglers' reports to state fish biologists have brought to light a potential threat to Wisconsin's native brook trout, and all trout anglers are now being asked to help track that threat.

Populations of a small parasitic crustacean -- called a copepod by scientists but known commonly as gill lice -- appear to be increasing in some southwestern Wisconsin trout streams.

Brook trout and gill lice have always lived together in Wisconsin streams, according to Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologists, but recently the balance appears to be tipping toward higher gill lice numbers in some streams. The creature attaches to a brook trout's gills making it difficult for the fish to breath and slowing normal growth and development. This increase in gill lice in some streams may be reducing trout numbers.

DNR fish scientists will be taking a closer look at gill lice in select Wisconsin trout streams during the 2013 field season seeking a better understanding of why gill lice populations may be increasing and where they are increasing. In addition to streamside research, a website has been set up to make it easy for anglers across the state to report the appearance or absence of gill lice in the streams they fish.

"Gill lice are not new in Wisconsin streams," said Matthew Mitro, research scientist with the DNR Bureau of Science Services, "they've always lived in balance with our native brook trout with neither having a significant negative impact on the other. Many trout anglers are familiar with them and the lice pose no threat to human health. What is new to us was an increasing number of anglers telling our fish biologists about increases in gill lice in waters where they'd seen few or none previously. That's what got our attention.

"Reports from anglers of a growing gill lice population in some streams first started coming in 2010 and 2011. Our early survey work in 2012 showed a dramatic increase in infections between April and October 2012 in one stream where in April, 42 percent of fish surveyed had the lice. By October we found 95 percent infected. This is far ahead of anything we'd expect to find. Many of the infected fish had high numbers of the gill lice. With so many fish infected so heavily the end result may be lower growth rates, smaller fish, a higher death rate and a smaller brook trout population in the stream."

While researchers know that gill lice have been present all along they don't have good knowledge of how widespread they are in Wisconsin's trout streams or at what level. There are historic anecdotal reports of severe infections in Seas Branch, a small creek in Vernon County, and Duncan Creek in Chippewa County, but nowhere else. Wisconsin fisheries scientists know that gill lice are present in other states with native brook trout populations, such as Minnesota, but little hard data are available.

Partners lend a hand

"This is where Wisconsin trout anglers can really help us document the concern," said Mitro. "It's through a process called citizen-based monitoring and doesn't require any science training to participate.

"All trout anglers are asked to do is go fishing, as they would otherwise, and for each location they fish, fill out a simple report on the species of trout caught and if they observed any gill lice on brook trout. It's equally important to report when they didn't observe any gill lice where they fished. Location information is general so favorite fishing spots are not disclosed."

Survey information will go into a master database and will be available to the public as the information is entered.

A website has been set up for the angler reports with the help of Wisconsin Trout Unlimited which maintains the website and the River Alliance of Wisconsin (all links exit DNR). The effort is funded by a Citizen Based Monitoring grant.

Potential long-term impacts

Mitro says it is too early in this investigation into gill lice populations to identify trends but suggests the lice are appearing in younger trout more frequently than before, potentially affecting population growth.

During the 2012 field season researchers found trout less than one year of age with the parasites. Slower growth and development in young-of-the-year fish means surviving their first winter is more of a challenge. This in turn may negatively affect brook trout population growth rates.

"There are a number of factors we hope to evaluate as we look into this more deeply," says Mitro. "We just do not know at this time how things like water temperature, fish population density, the presence or absence of other trout species and the physical characteristics of trout stream habitat may contribute to an increase in gill lice, if at all. These are some of the questions we hope to answer."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Matt Mitro, 608-221-6366

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New fishing, hunting licenses go on sale March 6

Conservation patron, first-time buyer deliver great bargains

MADISON -Wisconsin hunting, fishing, trapping and other licenses for the 2013-14 seasons go on sale Wednesday, March 6. Annual licenses are valid from April 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014. Hunting and fishing licenses for the 2012-13 license year expire March 31, 2013.

"We've had many people calling in asking us when they can buy their new licenses and that's a great reflection on the fantastic fishing and hunting Wisconsin offers," said Diane Brookbank, DNR customer service bureau director. "We're excited that they're excited and we want to let anglers and hunters know they can purchase their new license starting next week."

The new license sales coincides with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sport Show, where Wisconsin DNR has a large presence with exhibits, informational displays, and of course, the very popular license booth. "Many Sport Show visitors buy their licenses from us during the show as part of their annual tradition," Brookbank said.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show runs from Wednesday, March 6, through Sunday, March 10, at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis.

Any license bought before March 6 would be for the current license year, which ends March 31.

Conservation Patron and first-time buyer license

DNR licensing staff encourage longtime license buyers to take a look at purchasing a Conservation Patron license, which gives the license holder all of the basic fishing and hunting privileges at a great price, $165 for Wisconsin residents and $75 for Wisconsin residents under age 18.

"The Conservation Patron license is for the avid angler and hunter, and offers them a great way to combine their passion for hunting and fishing with conserving Wisconsin's resources," Brookbank says.

"In just one purchase, buyers will get nearly everything they need to fish and hunt in Wisconsin at a great price."

The adult Conservation Patron license includes fishing; sturgeon hook and line; small game; spring and fall turkey; archery; trapping; gun deer licenses. It also includes the early and exterior goose permits or Horicon goose application; drawing applications for spring and fall turkey, otter and fisher; state waterfowl, pheasant, turkey, inland trout and Great Lakes trout and salmon stamps; resident annual park stickers; state trail access; and a subscription to Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine. The Junior Patron includes everything except the park admission sticker, trail pass and magazine subscription.

Revenues from Conservation Patron license sales are proportioned among the fishing, wildlife and trapping programs and also pay for fish and wildlife habitat improvement programs that benefit a wide variety of game and nongame species.

License buyers also will want to let family and friends know about the first-time buyer license, offered for the second year. Certain resident licenses are available for as little as $5 for those who have never purchased a Wisconsin license or those who have not done so for more than 10 years.

Three convenient ways to buy

Hunting and fishing licenses, including the Conservation Patron license, can be purchased through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website, at all authorized license agents, at DNR Service Centers (Hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays), or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).

DNR Customer Service staff is available to assist the public by phone and online from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Spanish and Hmong bilingual customer service representatives are also available. Customers may reach customer service at 1-888-WDNR INFo (1-888-936-7463) or by e-mail at csweb@wisconsin.gov. An online chat link is also available.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bureau of Customer Service and Licensing, 608-266-2621

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Time to check that boat registration decals are still valid

MADISON - Time to check boat decals to make sure they're still valid and if they expire March 31, to use one of several convenient ways to renew them, including the one-stop solution of vehicle registration agents, state boat registration officials say.

There are 290 vehicle registration agents in the state, most of them with longer hours and open on more weekends than the Department of Natural Resources customer service center. Boat owners can renew a registration or get a duplicate and walk out with their decal that same day.

"Now is the time to check your decals to make sure they are still valid and if they're expiring, to renew them before the ice goes out so you're ready for the boating fun ahead," says Susan Cook, operations section chief in the DNR Bureau of Customer and Outreach Services.

DNR has sent out 263,000 boat renewal notifications and has emailed 40,000 boat owners with a reminder in the last few weeks. Boat registrations are on a three year cycle; registrations renewed in 2013 will be good until March 31, 2016.

There are several convenient ways to renew, including since 2010 the option of using the vehicle registration agents. Agents include hotels, chambers of commerce, marine supply stores, and the like.

Cook says that boat owners can also renew registration online or by mail. More information on these options and a link to DNR's online licensing center can be found on the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, by searching keywords "boat registration."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Cook, 414-261-0742

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Citizen-based monitoring conference set for April 5-6 in Wisconsin Rapids

MADISON - Volunteers from more than 150 organizations and projects across Wisconsin -- who assist state conservation and environmental officials in gathering a wide variety of data on the health of Wisconsin's environment -- will gather April 5-6 for the Citizen-based Monitoring Network conference at the Hotel Mead in Wisconsin Rapids.

"Citizen-based monitoring helps the DNR by filling priority data gaps while also providing fun and educational experiences for the volunteers," said Owen Boyle, coordinator of the Citizen-based Monitoring Network (exit DNR) for the Department of Natural Resources. "Many enjoy knowing they are making a difference and contributing directly to natural resource conservation."

This is a collaborative event that is held by the Wisconsin Master Naturalists, River Alliance of Wisconsin, Water Action Volunteers, Citizen Lake Monitoring Network and the Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Network. This year's conference is all about "Making Connections."

Highlights at this year's conference will include the Water Action Volunteers symposium, the launch of the Wisconsin Master Naturalists program and an awards ceremony honoring achievements in citizen-based monitoring. Presentations will also be given on state water monitoring priorities and the importance of citizen collected data in tracking climate change impacts.

"The conference aims to provide project coordinators and volunteers with resource support, access to DNR scientists and a social network of people excited about scientific monitoring," said Boyle. "Those with an interest in monitoring animals, plants, water quality and other natural resources are encouraged to attend this enriching conference."

The conference will end Saturday with "Specialist Office Hours" which will feature one-on-one access to an array of natural resource and project development specialists. The registration deadline is March 24. Information about the conference and online registration materials can be found on the Network's website: wiatri.net/cbm/Conference (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Owen Boyle, 608-261-6449

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Spring turkey events are a great place to start learning to hunt

MADISON - People who want to eat healthy while helping the environment and enjoying the outdoors can achieve a healthier lifestyle - and be involved in conservation at the same time - by participating in a Learn to Hunt event, according to the state's hunting and shooting sports coordinator.

In fact, Keith Warnke of the Department of Natural Resources said a spring Learn to Hunt Turkey event is the place to start.

"You'll be paired up with an experienced hunter, learn about conservation, hunting tactics and firearm safety," Warnke said. "Then you head outside to experience the excitement of turkey hunting in Wisconsin."

Learn to Hunt events welcome novice adult and youth hunters. DNR organizers encourage families to sign up together. "Our hunting tradition is all about families learning and hunting together and there's no better place or time than the woods and fields of Wisconsin in the spring."

No license is required, and since novices will be hunting with a mentor, hunter education requirements are waived. People can find an event and get registered by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "LTH." Learn to Hunt events are usually free and take place during a weekend in late March or early April.

Sustainable food means healthy living

"Sustainable use of renewable resources for food is a perfect fit in an increasingly conservation-oriented world," Warnke said. "There is a strong and growing interest in lower impact living, food co-ops, farmer's markets and local food sources. Hunters and hunting have long been at the forefront of this movement."

Recently, however, the "natural path" of initiation into hunting - from parentor other family member to child - has become more difficult.

"Kids and parents are busier today and live in urban centers far removed from hunting land," he said. "The demands of work, school and other activities cut into the available time to hunt, let alone initiate new hunters."

But the interest remains.

"Whether the motivations are nature and conservation interests, camaraderie or sustainability, we are witnessing a growing interest in hunting from adults who missed the natural path as kids," Warnke said.

The DNR hopes enthusiastic hunters and interested novices will take advantage of the LTH program and further Wisconsin's strong conservation and hunting heritage, he says.

For more than a decade, novice hunters have participated in these events to learn about hunting, be involved with a hunting mentor and start their own tradition.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Keith Warnke, hunting and shooting sports coordinator, 608-576-5243; Joanne M. Haas, law enforcement public affairs manager, 608-267-0798

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Ice anglers may want to remove ice fishing shelters before deadlines

MADISON - With a wide range of ice conditions throughout Wisconsin, state recreational safety specialists are asking anglers to consider removing their ice fishing shelters prior to established deadlines.

The first of a number of deadlines for ice anglers to remove ice fishing shelters from boundary waters was last week, when all ice fishing shelters had to be removed from Wisconsin-Iowa boundary waters by Wednesday, Feb. 20. This earlier date, applying to Mississippi River south of the Minnesota-Iowa border, corresponds with Iowa regulations.

The deadlines for other boundary waters are March 1 for Wisconsin-Minnesota boundary waters and March 15 for Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters.

For inland Wisconsin waters, ice fishing shelters must be removed by the first Sunday following March 1 for waters south of Highway 64 and by the first Sunday following March 12 for waters north of Highway 64. For 2013, those dates are: Sunday, March 3 for waters south of Highway 64; and Sunday, March 17 for waters north of Highway 64.

The priority is safely getting the shanties removed and depending upon conditions in your area it may be best not to wait until the legal deadlines.

Shanties break through the ice and become boating hazards this spring and summer. They also cause dangerous and unsightly shoreline litter.

After these dates for removing ice fishing shelters from a frozen lake or river, an angler may continue to use a portable shelter but must remove it daily and when it is not occupied or actively being used.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Todd Schaller, conservation warden, 608-267-2774; Joanne M. Haas, law enforcement public affairs manager, 608-267-0798

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DNR's Facebook page exceeds 11,000 fans

GREEN BAY -- Less than 16 months after its launch more than 11,000 people "like" the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Facebook page. The page focuses on recreating in Wisconsin's outdoors.

"Our Facebook page was designed to create excitement about the wonderful outdoor opportunities our state provides," saidTrish Ossmann, public affairs manager for the DNR Northeast Region and one of DNR's Facebook administrators. "We are seeing great success in Facebook as well as our other social media channels. It's great to see so many people sharing their winter experiences like ice fishing, snowmobiling or taking part in other great activities like candlelight ski and hike events in our state parks."

DNR launched its page, facebook.com/WIDNR, in November of 2011 as a way to create another venue for customers to contact the agency and share their experiences in Wisconsin's outdoors.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Trish Ossmann, 920-662-5122

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The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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Last Revised: Tuesday, February 26, 2013