Weekly News Published - May 14, 2013

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Free fun in store for weekend of June 1-2

MADISON - Free fun is on tap June 1 and 2 for everyone in Wisconsin's great outdoors.

On these two days, Wisconsin residents and visitors can fish for free, hike or bike state trails for free, and ride public ATV trails for free. On Sunday, June 2, they can enjoy free admission to state parks and forests.

"Wisconsin great outdoors is always the ticket to fun and on June 1 and 2 it gets even better," says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "The fun's on us."

More information about "free fun" in Wisconsin's outdoors is available on DNR's website. Go to dnr.wi.gov and search "free fun."

Stepp says the free fun weekend is a great chance for people to get together with families and friends and try new outdoors activities, or return to an activity they haven't done for a long time.

The free activities also highlights the work DNR and partners have done to provide clean water, clean air and great outdoor recreation, and how important they are to Wisconsin's quality of life and state and local economies, Stepp says.

The 2012 Outdoor Industry Association's Outdoor Recreation Economy survey (exit DNR) shows that Wisconsin's outdoor recreation economy generates $11.9 billion annually in consumer spending, directly supports 142,000 jobs and generates $844 million in annual state tax revenue.

ATV/UTV free riding new this year

New this year, Wisconsin residents and nonresidents can ride their ATVs or UTVs on public trails for free on those two days. A law advanced by the Wisconsin ATV Association and passed in 2012 created the free weekend.

Normally, Wisconsin residents have to register their ATVs or UTVs with DNR for public use to operate on public trails, or other areas open to the public like frozen water bodies. Nonresident riders normally have to buy a nonresident trail pass to ride on these areas in Wisconsin. On June 1 and 2, the registration and trail pass fees are waived. All other ATV and UTV regulations apply during the weekend.

Free fishing June 1 and 2

The free fishing in Wisconsin on June 1 and 2 applies to all waters. No fishing license is needed to fish any waters -- this includes inland trout and Great Lakes trout and salmon fishing, which normally would require a trout stamp in addition to a license. Fishing rules such as limits on the size and species of fish that can be kept do apply, however.

Dozens of free fishing clinics are being hosted around the state by conservation groups and others to help encourage people to try fishing. Free loaner equipment is available at 50 state parks, DNR offices, and partner organizations, according to Theresa Stabo, DNR aquatic education director.

On June 1 and 2, all state trail pass fees on all DNR-owned state trails are waived. Cooperatively-run state trails also may waive fees.

On Sunday June 2, all state park vehicle admission sticker fees on all DNR-owned properties are waived.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: on Free Fishing Weekend contact Theresa Stabo, angler education, 608-266-2272; on ATVs, Joanne Haas, law enforcement public affairs manager, 608-267-0798; on state parks and trails, Paul Holtan, state parks, forests, trails and recreation public affairs manager, 608-267-7517

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No signs of white-nose syndrome in bats here but neighboring states infected

Good news from search of Wisconsin caves for deadly bat disease

MADISON - For the third year in a row, a statewide survey of bat wintering sites has found no clinical signs of a deadly bat disease -- white-nose syndrome -- that has killed upwards of 6.7 million bats in the Eastern United States and Canada.

The disease, white-nose syndrome, has continued to spread to neighboring states, however: Illinois has confirmed the disease in four counties in 2013 and an Iowa cave 30 miles from Wisconsin's border was found in 2012 to have the fungus known to cause white-nose syndrome.

White-hose syndrom map
Locations where white-nose syndrom has been found.

"We are happy to report from the sites visited and bat samples analyzed that we did not observe any clinical signs of white-nose syndrome or the fungus known to cause the disease," says Paul White, the Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist leading the Wisconsin bat program's white-nose syndrome response.

White believes that the work done by DNR, cave and mine owners, other partners and citizens to delay the arrival of white-nose syndrome in the state is paying off and buying more time for researchers to learn more about the disease and potential treatments.

At the same time, White says, "The harsh reality is that the spread of white-nose syndrome across the U.S. has not stopped. The Illinois confirmation of white-nose syndrome in four counties reminds us that this disease is not just an eastern U.S. issue but a very real and imminent threat to our state's bat population. "

White-nose syndrome, so-called because the fungus leaves a powdery white fuzz on hibernating bats' noses, ears and wings, kills 70 to 100 percent of bats in contaminated caves. It was discovered in New York in 2006 and has since spread to more than 22 states and five Canadian provinces.

Wisconsin has one of the highest concentrations of hibernating bats in the Midwest, and its population of little brown bats in the largest remaining in the world. Some bats from neighboring states of Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan -- up to 300,000 bats -- spend their winters here so any disease affecting Wisconsin's hibernacula has far reaching impacts on the summer landscape and on the industries that depend on bats for natural pest control.

Bats are voracious insect eaters, helping keep crop and forest pests and mosquitoes in check. A recent national study estimated the insect-eating services that bats provide between $658 million to $1.5 billion alone for Wisconsin's agricultural industry.

To help protect Wisconsin cave bats from the threat of white-nose syndrome, the state added four bat cave species to the state threatened species list, which makes it illegal for people to kill, transport or possess bats without a valid permit.

DNR staff also worked with private landowners to help them take voluntary steps to keep the disease out of caves and mines and with commercial tourist cave operators to educate visitors about the disease and prevention steps. Recreational cavers are required to decontaminate their gear between caves to avoid accidentally spreading the fungus. These and other efforts are described in "Cave Drama," in the February 2013 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

In 2013, to determine if the disease was present in Wisconsin caves and mines with wintering bats, DNR's bat crew searched 73 sites for signs including a fuzzy white fungus on the nose, mouth and ears of hibernating bats, and unusual behavior like bats hibernating near cave entrances where it's colder or bats flying outside during the day during winter.

They also enlisted the help of the public by sending out informational magnets to adjacent landowners to the largest hibernacula in the state. Landowners were asked to report any unusual bat activity near hibernacula, which can be a sign that a nearby site has white-nose syndrome, White says.

DNR will continue to collect important baseline information on bat activity in the spring, summer and fall seasons. "Knowing what bat species are here now and in what numbers, along with what habitats they are associated with, will focus any future conservation efforts," he says.

Two such projects that help gather the much-needed data are the Acoustic Bat Monitoring Project and the Bat Roost Monitoring Project. Both projects heavily rely on citizen volunteers and are always looking for new participants. More information on each project can be found on the Wisconsin Bat Program website (exit DNR) or search the DNR website for "bats."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul White, 608-267-0813

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People reminded of bat exclusion period June 1-Aug. 15

Cold, wet spring has reports of sick, dead bats rising

MADISON - Wisconsin's cave bats have seemingly avoided a deadly bat disease for another year, but a cold wet spring has been tough on them, prompting lots of citizen reports about sick or dead bats and underscoring the need for people to avoid accidentally separating mother bats from their babies during nursing season, state bat experts say.

"The cold weather extending into the spring months has been tough on bats and that's been reflected in the high rate of sick or dead bat reports we've been receiving," says Heather Kaarakka, Department of Natural Resources bat roost coordinator.

"People can help give already-stressed bats a break by following rules aimed at protecting nursing mothers and their babies, by continuing to report sick or dead bats, and by volunteering to help monitor bat roosts," she says.

Four Wisconsin cave bat species are listed as threatened because they are vulnerable to white-nose syndrome, a deadly bat disease that has killed up to 6.7 million bats in the U.S. and Canada and was confirmed in Illinois this year. The bats' threatened status means it's now illegal to kill these bat species in most cases. It's also illegal to exclude bats from buildings from June 1 through August 15 when bats may seek to roost in attics, barns and other warm places to have their young and nurse their babies. There are exceptions for health and safety reasons and for public buildings.

Bats in 2013 have already been under stress due to the cold spring, Kaarakka says. Bats have been emerging during their "normal" time only to discover the cold and rain and that the insect activity is lower so the bats can't find enough food to replenish their fat reserves.

"Bats only have fat to last a certain amount of time, so emerging from hibernation into cold weather and not being able to feed means they run the risk of starving," she says.

Bats are voracious insect eaters: a nursing female can consume her weight every night in mosquitoes and/or other insects and a national study estimated that the natural pest control bats provide to agricultural operations can exceed $1 billion annually.

To help these already stressed bats, it's important that people who don't want bats in their attics or barns or other places take steps by June 1 to safely and humanely get any bats out and seal off the bat entry points, or wait until after Aug. 15 to do so, Kaarakka says.

"Baby bats are not able to fly for that first month or two after they're born, and their mothers need to be able to leave to feed and then return to the roost and nurse them," she says.

If the mothers can't return to their roost, the pups will die of starvation, and the action will likely backfire for the property owner; the mother will frantically seek to get back to her pups and likely end up finding her way into the owner's home.

There are a few exceptions that may be granted for exclusion during this time, specifically for roosts that are in hospitals, schools, daycare centers and other public buildings in which the bats roosting - and their droppings -- may cause health issues, Kaarakka says.

Wisconsin's four cave bat species emerge in April and May from a winter of hibernating in Wisconsin caves or mines. They move toward summer sites near water to find hatching insects. Females give birth in June and July, with most bats giving birth to one baby a year, called a pup. Bat mothers have their babies, or "pups," in maternity colonies with hundreds of other mothers and pups; male bats are usually solitary roosters.

DNR's Bat Exclusion guide [pdf] provides step-by-step instructions for excluding bats from an attic or other structure. People who don't want to take the exclusion steps themselves can contact professional bat exclusion experts, Kaarakka says. Search online for "bat removal."

People who don't want bats inside but don't mind having them on their property also can build a bat house as an alternative roosting location; follow instructions in Build a Bat House and be patient; the bats may not take to the new digs in the first or even second year, she says.

People interested in getting involved in roost monitoring, or want more information about the project they should contact Heather Kaarakka at Heather.Kaarakka@Wisconsin.gov or 608-266-2576.

People who find sick or dead bats can report it to Wisconsin's Bat Program by filling out the online dead bat report. For more information, search the DNR website for "bats."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Heather Kaarakka, 608-266-2576

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Bat Fest June 1 in Madison a chance to see big bats up close

A bat with a 6-foot wingspan?

MADISON - People can see rare bats from around the world, including one with a 6-foot wing span, listen to top bat researchers and enjoy unique raffle prizes, hands-on activities and displays when the Wisconsin Bat Festival (exit DNR) flies into Madison June 1.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Warner Park Community Recreation Center, 1625 Northport Dr. in Madison. The admission is $5 for adults; children 16 and under are free with a paid adult admission.

New this year, "Bat Science Night" will follow the festival from 7-10 p.m., and is included as part of the admission to the festival. During this portion of the festjval, help local bat biologists as they use bat detectors and mist nets to demonstrate how the biologists catch the wild bats and "listen" for bats in the area.

All proceeds from the event go to the Wisconsin Bat Conservation Fund.

"This is a great opportunity to see amazing, enormous wild bats close up in a way that even most zoos are not able to offer," says Jennifer Redell, a Department of Natural Resources cave and mine specialist and coordinator of the event. "These bats are very beautiful and majestic and the diversity is pretty impressive. We're excited to be able to give people a chance to look at them up close."

The bats featured will include the world's largest bat species, the Malayan Flying Fox, which has a nearly 6-foot wingspan. The event aims to raise awareness about the importance of bats, the role they play in our lives and our environment, and the threats they are facing, Redell says.

Other favorites from past years will be back: the chance to build a bat house, an inflatable cave for kids to explore, unique raffle prizes, hands-on activities, games, crafts and displays that allow attendees to discover the night-time secrets of bat biology, understand bat conservation needs, and learn how to become a Citizen Scientist for the Wisconsin Bat Program.

New this year presenters from the U.S.G.S. National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and DNR will address the latest research about the deadly bat disease white-nose syndrome and share how the state is addressing the threat of this devastating bat disease, Redell says.

"I'm really excited about our speaker line up this year," Redell says. "Our whole event is very family friendly; I am glad we can offer something more in depth for people interested in the latest white-nose syndrome research."

The U.S.G.S. wildlife center played a key role in identifying the disease and fungus and played a really important role in figuring out details about the disease that have really furthered scientists understanding how the bats being affected and why.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennifer Redell 608-267-0281

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Gypsy moth aerial spraying to start soon

MADISONóSome Wisconsin residents will see and hear loud, low-flying planes at around sunrise beginning in late May. Planes will be spraying for gypsy moth caterpillars, an invasive and destructive pest that feeds on the leaves of many species of trees and shrubs.

Stay updated

Spray dates and times are weather dependent. Sign up online to receive e-mail notifications about spray plans at gypsymoth.wi.gov (exit DNR) People also can listen to a recorded message about our spray plans by calling the toll-free Gypsy Moth Information Line at 1-800-642-6684. Press menu option 1 for updates.

Spraying is expected to begin in southern Wisconsin in late May and end in northern Wisconsin in July or August. View maps of the specific spray areas online at gypsymoth.wi.gov (exit DNR).

Spraying will be completed by two programs:

  • This year's Slow the Spread treatments conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, are planned in the following 24 counties: Barron, Bayfield, Chippewa, Clark, Crawford, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jackson, La Crosse, Lafayette, Monroe, Polk, Richland, Rock, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, Trempealeau, Vernon and Washburn.
  • The Suppression Program, conducted by the Department of Natural Resources, serves eastern Wisconsin where gypsy moth is well established. These areas are treated to reduce damage from currently high populations of gypsy moth caterpillars. This is a voluntary program that works with landowners and local governments. It has one gypsy moth spray treatment planned this year: on the property of Governor Dodge State Park in Iowa County.
Know what to expect

Spraying depends on favorable weather conditionsócalm winds, no precipitation and high humidity. Planes may start spraying as early as 5 a.m. The planes fly very low and loudly over treatment sites and surrounding areas. Planes will remain in the area until the completion of the day's spray plans and as long as weather conditions remain favorable. Spraying may last into the late morning or afternoon.

Gypsy moth spraying
Gypsy moth spraying
WDNR Photo

Spraying could occur any day of the week, including weekends.

Most sites will be sprayed with Foray, which contains Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk). Btk is a naturally-occurring soil bacteria that kills gypsy moth caterpillars when they ingest it.

Btk is not toxic to people, bees, pets or other wild animals. However, some people with severe allergies may wish to stay indoors during spray application or avoid areas to be sprayed on the day that spraying occurs.

The formulation of this bacterial insecticide used by the state's cooperative gypsy moth program is listed with the Organic Materials Review Institute as acceptable for use in certified organic food production.

DNR Suppression sites will receive one application of Btk, while some DATCP Slow the Spread sites in western Wisconsin will receive two applications of Btk, three to five days apart, weather permitting.

In areas with endangered species of butterflies and moths, a gypsy moth specific product called Gypchek will be used instead of Btk.

The Slow the Spread program also will spray a mating disruptor to additional sites in western Wisconsin from mid-June to as late as early August. The pheromone in the mating disruptor makes it difficult for male moths to find female moths in low, isolated populations, preventing reproduction.

For more information about the programs or gypsy moths, visit the website gypsymoth.wi.gov. Or, call the toll-free Gypsy Moth Line at 1-800-642-MOTH (1-800-642-6684) to hear a recording of the programs' current spray plans or talk to staff.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Colleen Robinson Klug, DNR 608-266-2172 or Jim Dick, DATCP communications director, 608-224-5020

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Turtles, Roads, and the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program

MADISON - Wisconsin motorists and others can join a new effort to help reverse the decline in turtle populations by helping identify the deadliest road crossings for turtles so that crossing safety measures can be taken to help save turtles.

"Road mortality is a major factor in the decline of many of our turtle species," says Andrew Badje, a conservation biologist with the Department of Natural Resources. "Slowing down when driving by rivers and wetlands and reporting where you see dead or live turtles along the road are ways citizens can help protect and conserve these animals in the future."

In Wisconsin, every year from mid-May to early July female turtles leave their aquatic habitats for dry upland nesting grounds to deposit their eggs. Many of these seasonal expeditions require treacherous passages over roads more than once. As some wetlands dry up over the course of the summer, turtles also cross roads in search of nearby deeper-bodied wetlands to live.

"Too often, the turtles never make it to the other side," Badje says. While some motorists accidentally hit turtles, research has shown that some motorists will actually swerve to hit and kill turtles.

Road mortality has a significant effect on turtle species such as Blanding's, painted, snapping, and wood turtles, Badje says. Other reasons for the decline of turtle populations within Wisconsin include habitat loss and fragmentation, illegal pet trade, egg predation, disease, and slow reproductive rates.

"Road mortality is one thing we can reduce if we're cautious and alert for turtles crossing roads and highways, avoid them, and take the extra step of letting DNR know where that turtle crossing was," he says.

Motorists and other citizens can record road crossing observations online through the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program website. They also can access turtle road crossing report forms online, print them, fill them out, and mail them in to the address on the form. wiatri.net/inventory/WIturtles (exit DNR).

Submitted data will be shared and distributed statewide with agencies and organizations willing to make roadways safer for Wisconsin's 11 turtle species. Projects include implementing wildlife friendly underpasses and using a stencil to mark roadways where people need to use caution and slow down so they don't hit turtles.

Other steps motorists can take to save turtles include:

  • Slow down when driving by rivers and wetlands in the spring, summer, and fall.
  • Stop and help turtles cross roadways, only if it's safe to do so.
  • Carefully move turtles crossing roads to the side of the road in the direction they are moving.
  • If assisting a snapping turtle, use a stick or an object for the turtle to bite down on. Then handle its tail and gently guide the turtle across the roadway, in the direction it was heading.

"Turtles are an important part of the food chain in lakes, rivers and wetlands and people really enjoy seeing them in the wild," Badje says. "Citizens are the key to protecting and conserving Wisconsin's turtles, and we hope the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Project can help more people get involved and help reverse the decline."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Andrew Badje, 608- 266-3336, DNRHerptiles@wisconsin.gov

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Comment sought on proposed changes to Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest master plan

Online chat through DNR website scheduled for May 23

RHINELANDER, Wis. - The public will have upcoming opportunities to comment on how five parcels recently acquired within the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest should be integrated into the forest management plan, whether camping should be established at the Rainbow Flowage and whether there should be increased motorized access at the Willow Flowage.

Department of Natural Resources forestry officials are initiating public dialog on these amendments to the master plan for Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest and Willow Flowage Scenic Waters Area. The existing management plan, approved in 2005, is not scheduled for a complete review and update until 2020. Complete information about the State Forest and the amendment is available at: Northern Highland American Legion State Forest (click on tab for management and business).

The Willow Flowage Scenic Waters Area is managed as a unit of the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. Together these properties encompass over 250,000 acres of public lands in Oneida and Vilas counties managed for sustainable forestry, fish, wildlife, recreation, endangered resources and research.

Issues to be considered in the master plan amendment process include:

  • How five parcels totaling approximately 2,000 acres that were recently acquired as additions to the NHAL State Forest should be integrated into the master plan for the property, including forest management, recreational opportunities and the potential use for deer research, and including establishing camping at the Rainbow Flowage,
  • Increased public interest in additional motorized road access to the Willow Flowage. The current Willow Master Plan, approved in 2000, provides limited property access by motorized vehicles. Information and maps are available at: Willow Flowage Scenic Waters Area .

The public comment and review period will run from May 14-31, 2013. People can provide comments on the proposed amendments online by searching the DNR website [dnr.wi.gov] for "Northern Highland" or "Willow Flowage." Copies of the proposed amendments can also be requested from Bob Dall, DNR, 107 Sutliff Ave., Rhinelander, WI 54501, 715-365-8993, robert.dall@wisconsin.gov

People can discuss the master plan amendments with Department of Natural Resources staff during an online "chat" session Thursday, May 23, from 6 to 7 p.m. To participate, visit the DNR home page, dnr.wi.gov, and look for the advertisement to enter the chat, or search the phrase, "ask the experts".

People can send written or email comments to Steve Petersen, NHAL Superintendent, or Tom Shockley, Willow Flowage Property Manager, at DNR Service Center, 8770 Highway J, Woodruff, WI 54568 (715-356-5211), steven.petersen@wisconsin.gov or tom.shockley@wisconsin.gov.

Department staff will use public comments to develop a proposal for the future use and management of the new parcels as well as motorized access on the Willow that will be shared with the public in the summer of 2013.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bob Dall, 715-365-8993

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Ice Age Trail corridors proposed for Langlade and Marathon counties

MADISON - The public has an opportunity to review and comment on proposed corridors for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail through Marathon and Langlade counties in north central Wisconsin.

Draft corridor plans and environmental assessments for the Ice Age Trail delineates a 2- to 6-mile wide "preferred alternative" corridor in Langlade County and 3- to 5-mile wide "preferred alternative" corridor in Marathon County within which the trail may be built. The plans also identify possible route options. Depending on the where the trail is built, the Langlade County portion of the completed trail could total approximately 74 miles and the Marathon County portion of the completed trail could total approximately 50 miles. Currently, about 54 miles of the Ice Age Trail has been built within Langlade County and about 16.5 miles of the trail has been built within Marathon County.

The draft plan and EA were prepared by a group of partners who are working together to complete the proposed 1,200-mile Ice Age Trail across the state, including the Wisconsin Department of Resources, National Park Service, and Ice Age Trail Alliance.

The proposed Langlade County Ice Age Trail corridor is in south central portion of the county and extends east northeast from the Marathon County line to an existing trail segment in the town of Evergreen. It lies just south of the City of Antigo, which has a population of approximately 8,500 and is the county seat. The proposed corridor generally follows the undulating terrain of the Hancock, and Almond moraines, which formed approximately 20-30,000 years ago.

The proposed Marathon County Ice Age Trail corridor is located in a north south direction in the far eastern part of the county, from the Langlade County line to the Portage-Marathon county line. It is about 15 miles east of the City of Wausau, the largest population center in the county. The proposed corridor generally follows the undulating terrain of the Hancock, Almond, and Elderon moraines deposited approximately 15-20,000 years ago. The communities of Hatley, Ringle, Pike Lake, and Galloway are located within the proposed corridor.

The corridors were intentionally designed wide to allow options for routing the trail, according to Pam Schuler, National Park Service Ice Age Trail manager.

"Securing lands for the trail is done only on a willing seller-willing buyer basis," Schuler says. "This plan will serve to guide agencies and volunteer organizations as they work to obtain a permanent route for the trail."

Support facilities such as food, overnight facilities, and parking for the trail will be provided by villages and cities and state and county lands located near or within the corridor.

Efforts to establish the Ice Age Trail have been underway since the 1960s through the volunteers of the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation, known today as the Ice Age Trail Alliance. In 1980, Congress authorized it as a National Scenic Trail. The Wisconsin legislature designated it a State Scenic Trail in 1987.

When Congress authorized the Ice Age Trail, it only designated a general route for the trail. More specific routes are being identified and selected through a planning process in each county through which the trail passes. The plans identify a "corridor of opportunity" within which lands for the trail may eventually be acquired from willing sellers.

When completed, the Ice Age Trail will meander approximately 1,200 miles through some of the finest glacial scenery in Wisconsin providing day walkers, backpackers, school children, and outdoor enthusiasts with a premier hiking and educational experience. Currently, approximately half of the trail is built and open to public use. To complete the trail, the NPS, DNR, and Ice Age Trail Alliance are working with county and local units of government, interested organizations and citizens, and landowners to establish a permanent route throughout the state, including Langlade and Marathon counties.

According to the document, the work of establishing the trail in Langlade and Marathon counties is not expected to cause any significant adverse environmental effects. The National Park Service and DNR have made a preliminary determination that an environmental impact statement will not be required for this action.

Copies of the Draft Ice Age National Scenic Trail Corridor Plan and environmental assessment for Langlade and Marathon counties, Wisconsin can be viewed online through the National Park Service Web site at parkplanning.nps.gov (exit DNR) and search for Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Copies may also be obtained from: Pam Schuler, manager Ice Age NST, National Park Service, 700 Rayovac Drive, Suite 100, Madison, Wisconsin 53711. The plan is also available at the following public libraries: Marathon County Public Library, 435 Curtis Ave., Hatley, Marathon County Public Library Wausau Headquarters, 300 North First St., Wausau, and Antigo Public Library, 617 Clermont St Antigo.

People may also comment on the corridor plan and environmental assessment through June 7, 2013 through the NPS Web site parkplanning.nps.gov and search for Ice Age National Scenic Trail or by U.S. mail to Pam Schuler at National Park Service, 700 Rayovac Drive, Suite 100, Madison, Wisconsin 53711. Questions or concerns regarding the document may be addressed to her by e-mail at Pam_Schuler@nps.gov, or by phone at 608-441-5610.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brigit Brown, DNR, 608-266-2183 or Pam Schuler, NPS, 608-441-5610

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"Universe in the Park" returns this summer to Wisconsin State Parks

First session May 18 at Mirror Lake State Park

MADISON - If the weather cooperates, visitors to Wisconsin state parks will 40 opportunities at 21 different parks this summer to view and learn about the night sky by participating in the "Universe in the Park" outreach program conducted by the Department of Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

If the sky is clear, after a short talk and slideshow about astronomy, participants can gather around telescopes to view astronomical objects.

"Universe in the Park," [www.astro.wisc.edu/uitp] which began in 1996, is predicated on the idea that the best environment in which enjoy astronomy is outside under dark skies, according to Prof. Eric M. Wilcots, who coordinates the program. The sessions are conducted by students and staff of the University of Wisconsin Department of Astronomy.

A typical session begins just after sunset, usually about 9 p.m., with a 20-30 minute talk and slide show about astronomy. Topics are left up to the speaker, and present a broad overview of astronomy and recent astronomical news such as the discovery of new solar systems and the latest results from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Most of the question-and-answer period takes place around the telescopes. During the height of the summer, the sessions can attract audiences of 70 to 80 people.

Visitors can show up for the slide show and question-and-answer period even if it is cloudy and the sky cannot be viewed through the telescope. The sessions are held if it is raining only if there is a shelter available.

Universe in the Park events themselves are free, but visitors to Wisconsin State Parks and Forests must have a daily or annual vehicle admission sticker.

Anyone interested in attending a session should always contact the park to make sure the program is on as scheduled, because the schedule occasionally changes.

2013 Universe in the Park schedule
  • May 18 Mirror Lake State Park
  • May 25 Governor Dodge State Park
  • May 26 Lake Kegonsa State Park
  • June 01 Kohler-Andrae State Park
  • June 15 Governor Dodge State Park
  • June 15 Mirror Lake State Park
  • June 20 Devil's Lake State Park
  • June 29 Kettle Moraine State Forest--Southern Unit
  • July 06 Governor Dodge State Park
  • July 12 Buckhorn State Park
  • July 13 Mill Bluff State Park
  • July 13 Peninsula State Park
  • July 17 Devil's Lake State Park
  • July 20 Mirror Lake State Park
  • July 27 Blue Mound State Park
  • July 27 Copper Falls State Park
  • July 27 Hartman Creek State Park
  • July 28 Big Bay State Park
  • August 03 High Cliff State Park
  • August 07 Devil's Lake State Park
  • August 09 Willow River State Park
  • August 10 Blue Mound State Park
  • August 10 Interstate State Park
  • August 10 Rock Island State Park
  • August 11 Peninsula State Park
  • August 12 Newport State Park
  • August 16 Kohler-Andrae State Park
  • August 16 Pattison State Park
  • August 17 Amnicon Falls State Park
  • August 24 Hartman Creek State Park
  • August 24 Roche-A-Cri State Park
  • August 31 Governor Dodge State Park
  • September 01 Kettle Moraine State Forest--Southern Unit
  • September 01 Lake Kegonsa State Park
  • September 07 Mirror Lake State Park
  • September 14 Buckhorn State Park
  • September 21 Kettle Moraine State Forest--Southern Unit
  • September 28 Kohler-Andrae State Park
  • October 04 Peninsula State Park
  • October 05 Newport State Park
  • FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul Holtan, state parks public affairs manager, 608-267-7517 or Universe in the Park, Dept. of Astronomy, UW-Madison, 608-262-3071

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    Slow spring means hungry bears and the need to remove yard attractants

    MADISON - Spring's slow start has further limited already stretched natural food sources for black bears for this time of year prompting state wildlife officials to urge homeowners statewide to take precautions to reduce the potential for problems with bears

    "With the drawn-out winter, bears are hungry and looking for any available food sources," said Brad Koele, wildlife damage specialist for the Department of Natural Resources. "In recent weeks bear activity has been increasing, so it is especially important to remove attractants when natural food sources are limited."

    Bears are often attracted to bird feeders, garbage cans, grills, or other common attractants found in yards, according to Koele.

    "Taking steps to remove any food attractants will greatly reduce the likelihood of having problems with bears," said Koele. "Black bears normally avoid contact with people. However, bears can quickly learn to associate humans with food and can become a nuisance."

    Highly habituated bears can be dangerous and may need to be euthanized.

    "Preventing the problem in the first place is the best solution for both humans and bears," said Koele.

    Wildlife biologists encourage residents to follow these steps to avoid attracting bears:

    • Don't knowingly feed a bear;
    • Completely remove bird feeders, even during daytime hours. Bears are active during the day and may cause problems even if the feeders are out only during that time.
    • Reduce garbage odors by rinsing food cans before putting them in recycling containers or garbage cans;
    • Keep meat scraps in the freezer until garbage day, and if possible, keep garbage cans in a closed building until the morning of pick-up. Commercial dumpsters should be locked;
    • Keep pet food inside or inaccessible to bears even during daytime hours;
    • Keep barbeque grills and picnic tables clean.

    If a bear finds food such as bird feed or garbage near a home, it will likely return. The visits will eventually stop when food is no longer available. Bears will periodically check sites where food was once available, so it may take several days to weeks before the bear will quit visiting a site once the food source has been removed, Koele said.

    "If you encounter a bear while in the woods, stay calm and do not approach it. Give it space, walk away, and watch from a distance. Never approach a sow with cubs," said Koele.

    The department would also like to caution that it is unlawful and unethical to shoot at bears. Each year DNR receives reports about bears that were shot with bird shot.

    "Shooting bears with bird shot is illegal, extremely inhumane and could result in significant injuries or death for the bear," said Koele. "There are a variety of non-lethal, humane abatement options available to resolve conflicts with bears."

    The Department of Natural Resources partners with USDA-Wildlife Services for responding to black bear complaints. Homeowners who are unable to resolve a conflict with bears should contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture -Wildlife Services toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for properties in Southern Wisconsin, and 1-800-228-1368 for properties Northern Wisconsin.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Koele, DNR wildlife damage specialist, 608-266-2151; or Dan Hirchert, DNR nuisance wildlife specialist, 608-267-7974.

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    Wildlife Damage Abatement and Claims Program available for agriculture producers

    MADISON -- Agriculture producers are reminded the Wildlife Damage Abatement and Claims Program is available for crop or livestock owners who have or anticipate agricultural damage caused by white-tailed deer, elk, black bear, wild turkeys, cougar or Canada geese.

    Producers experiencing problems with one or more of these species should contact the respective wildlife damage technician for their county. A list of county contacts can be found on the DNR's Website at dnr.wi.gov, search "WDACP county contacts."

    "Early detection of damage is key," says Brad Koele, the Department's wildlife damage specialist who oversees the program. "The earlier damage is identified the earlier we can work with producers to implement damage abatement methods and limit the losses."

    The program's primary goal is to provide damage abatement assistance to reduce agriculture damages from eligible species. The secondary goal is to provide partial compensation for crop loss.

    In order to be eligible for program assistance, producers must:

    • Own the crop.
    • Control hunting access on all contiguous lands of same ownership or control on which the damaged crops are located.
    • Allow public hunting access for the species causing damage.
    • Sign an enrollment form detailing all lands suffering damage and where hunting access will be allowed.
    • Agree to be cooperative. Abusive language, behavior or threats of violence or otherwise will be considered a failure on the part of the applicant to cooperate.

    To be eligible for damage compensation, the producers must follow the above provisions and additionally must:

    • File a complaint with within 14 days of first damage for deer, elk, bear, turkey, cougar and goose damage. Complaints must be filed each year.
    • Implement recommended abatement.
    • Call each time they want a crop appraised. Contact must be made prior to harvest, or the field/crop will be ineligible for compensation that year.
    • Allow staff 10 days to conduct an appraisal. If the field is harvested before an appraisal is done, that field will be ineligible for compensation that year.
    • If a shooting permit has been issued, the conditions of the shooting permit must be complied with.

    There is no cost for producers to enroll in the program and receive program services. For more information, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "wildlife damage."

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Koele, DNR wildlife damage biologist, 608-266-2151

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    State Natural Resources Board meetings to be streamlined live

    MADISON - Beginning with the May 21-22 Wisconsin Natural Resources Board meeting, the public will be able to follow board meetings live over the Internet as well as see meeting archives through the Department of Natural Resources website.

    The meeting will be webcast live using a software product called Mediasite.

    In the near future, stakeholders who register to testify before the board won't necessarily have to travel to Madison or other locations where the board meets. They will be able to "appear" at a DNR office or identified location to testify remotely using the Internet to speak to board members in a two-way communication.

    To view the meetings live, people should visit the DNR website (dnr.wi.gov) and search "NRB" then click on the link for "webcasts" below the "Meeting materials" tab. Meeting agendas, meeting minutes and the catalog of NRB meeting recordings will also all contain links that enable citizens to "tune-in" to the live Webcasts and to traverse previously recorded meetings.

    Webcasting board meetings is one part of a broader effort by the Natural Resources Board to improve workflow and communications and provide the public with broader access to information and increase citizen statewide participation.

    Other improvements include: providing assigned personal computers to board members so they can more easily access information and reducing the number of "rule making" steps and documents.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurie Ross, NRB board liaison, 608-264-7420 or Brent Alderman, Mediasite administrator, 608- 228-9750

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    The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
    Read more: Previous Weekly News

    Last Revised: Tuesday, May 14, 2013