RHINELANDER - Wisconsin's eagle population continues to soar, with statewide aerial surveys in 2015 documenting a record number since the surveys started 43 years ago, according to the Wisconsin Bald Eagle and Osprey Nest Surveys 2015 report [PDF] released earlier this month.
"It's certainly a great story," says Jim Woodford, one of the eagle surveyors and a section chief for the Department of Natural Resources' Natural Heritage Conservation Program. "Eagle populations have recovered from near-extinction in Wisconsin in the 1970s thanks to protections and a cleaner environment, and their numbers continue to increase and exceed our expectations.
"Ten years ago we thought 800 breeding pairs were likely but the current total is well over that. We've seen them recolonize almost every county in the state while increasing even in those areas where they're likely reaching carrying capacity and running out of room."
The aerial surveys found 1,465 bald eagle nests occupied in 2015, 121 more than in 2013, the last year in which a statewide survey was conducted, the report says.
DNR pilots and biologists from the agency's Natural Heritage Conservation and Wildlife Management programs conduct the surveys in late March and April and consider a nest occupied if they see incubation, eggs, young or a repaired nest. Landowners, birders, volunteers and raptor banders provide more ground observations to supplement and check aerial data.
As in past years, Vilas County, with 162 nests, and Oneida County, with 143, had the highest number of occupied eagle nests. These two counties represent most of the Northern Highland Ecological Landscape, which has one of the highest concentrations of lakes in the world. Bald eagles usually build their nests in tall trees near lakes and streams.
Bald eagles occupied nests in 69 of the state's 72 counties in 2015 and the number of occupied nests continued to increase in the southwest and northwest portions of the state, the report says.
DNR pilots and biologists returned to the skies in late May and June 2015 to count young eagles and determine nest success. Observers counted 1,248 bald eagle nestlings and a statewide nest success rate of 66 percent.
Limited osprey survey shows increasing numbers
A limited osprey survey completed in May 2015 found 167 occupied osprey nests in the 14 counties surveyed. Numbers of nesting ospreys were greater than or equal to numbers observed in 2014 within 11 of the 14 counties, Woodford says. Past statewide surveys have shown osprey populations trending upward, with 2014 recording the highest numbers yet of occupied osprey nests, 542, up from 535 the previous year.
Surveys provide important foundation for protecting eagles and osprey
Wisconsin's bald eagle and osprey surveys are one of the longest running wildlife surveys in North America and provide information crucial to protect bald eagles, says Steve Easterly, a DNR wildlife technician in Oshkosh and a surveyor for the past nine years.
"The survey allows the department as well as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to maintain an accurate monitoring tool for eagles, and the population as a whole," he says. "If at some point it (the population) starts to go in a negative direction we will have clear picture of where the population stands and will be able to react to changes faster than not knowing where the "starting point" was."
Easterly and Woodford say the survey information also enables DNR to provide up-to-date information to land owners, companies and communities that have an active nest on their property so they can avoid disturbing the nests and eagles during breeding season. In the past 25 years, DNR staff had made management recommendations that protected more than 80 percent of all known eagle and osprey nests.
The federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty continue to provide protection for all eagle nests, nest trees, and habitat adjacent to nests.
Eagle populations nationwide and in Wisconsin declined due to habitat loss, decline in prey numbers (shorebirds and ducks), shooting because of perceived threat to livestock, and DDT exposure. Eagles were placed on the state and federal endangered species lists in the 1970s.
Eagles' recovery resulted from the banning of DDT nationally in 1972 (and in Wisconsin in 1969), prohibition of killing of eagles, improved water quality in lakes and rivers, nest protection, and reintroduction of eagles in some areas. Eagles were removed from Wisconsin's endangered species list in 1997 and from the federal list in 2007.
Adopt an Eagle Nest, new eagle license plate help continue work to protect eagles
Citizens and organizations can help make sure these important annual surveys continue by sponsoring an eagle nest or purchasing a new eagle license plate, which provides a $25 annual donation to the Endangered Resources Fund. A new printable holiday card is online to make giving the eagle plate even easier and more fun.
DNR's Adopt-An-Eagle Nest program allows sponsors, for a minimum contribution of $100, to receive an adoption certificate, an aerial photo showing the location of your eagle nest, results from the surveys and a full-color eagle calendar.
MADISON - Wisconsin's new eagle license plate makes a great holiday gift and a new printable holiday card makes it even easier on the giver.
People can print off the whimsical holiday card, enclose a check to purchase the specialty license plate, and give it to the outdoors lover, bird watcher or first-time driver in their life.
"Our new eagle plate will look great on their car or truck and they'll feel good knowing they're helping care for the Wisconsin wildlife and wild places they love," says Tyler Brandt, marketing specialist for the Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Conservation program.
Purchase of an eagle license plate provides an annual $25 donation to the Endangered Resources Fund, which pays for work by DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation program and partners to protect and restore rare wildlife, natural areas, and nongame species in Wisconsin. Donations, including from the license plate sales and tax check off, can provide up to 40 percent of funding for such conservation work.
DNR and the Department of Transportation unveiled the new eagle plate in August 2015 to help celebrate bald eagles' recovery in Wisconsin and help lay the financial foundation for the next conservation successes. The wolf plate is also available for sale to raise money for endangered resources; the badger plate is no longer sold.
Read more about the photo and photographer behind the new eagle plate and eagles' recovery in Wisconsin in "Talon a Great Story [PDF]," in the October 2015 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.
MADISON -- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is completing its review of the city of Waukesha's water diversion application.
Within 30 to 60 days, the department intends to forward the technical review, a preliminary final environmental impact statement and application materials to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body and Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council, which is composed of the other Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario for regional review.
This summer, DNR invited the public to provide input on the draft documents through written comments for more than 60 days and received public testimony at three hearings held on August 17 and 18. The department has reviewed the comments, and is incorporating the comments and responses into the technical review and environmental impact statement.
"To those who took the time to provide input, thank you," said Eric Ebersberger, deputy division administrator for DNR's environmental management division. "We received approximately 3,600 comments. The feedback demonstrates the public's strong interest in this extensive process and we appreciate the involvement. As we work with the other Great Lake states and provinces on a regional review, there will be additional opportunities for input."
If the application is approved by the Great Lakes states through the regional review process, the city of Waukesha would begin the necessary steps to obtain the required state permits for diverting Lake Michigan water. The city of Waukesha has applied to withdraw up to an annual average of 10.1 million gallons of water per day with a maximum of 16.7 million gallons per day to serve the water supply service area. The city proposes to obtain water from the Oak Creek Water Utility and discharge treated wastewater to the Root River.
General information on the city of Waukesha's diversion application can be found at dnr.wi.gov, search "Waukesha diversion application." More information about the Great Lakes Compact is also available.
MADISON -- Wild turkey and black bear hunters have until close of business Dec. 10 to submit an application for 2016 hunting season permits.
Bear hunters are reminded that harvest permits (Class A licenses) are issued via drawing, and hunters must apply for several years in some management zones before they receive a permit.
Harvest numbers from the 2015 black bear season are not yet finalized, but preliminary estimates show that hunters harvested close to 4,200 bears. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff and the Bear Advisory Committee are currently in the process of determining 2016 harvest quotas.
Bear hunters are reminded that they can apply for a permit or purchase a preference point for future years. In order for bear permit applicants to retain their accumulated preference points, they must apply at least once during any period of three consecutive years or all previously accumulated preference points will be lost.
If a bear management zone is selected at the time of purchase and the hunter is selected in the February drawing, their preference points will be reset to zero, even if they do not purchase the harvest permit. It is the applicant's responsibility to know their drawing status. Those selected in the drawing will be notified by mail shortly after the drawing, and may purchase their 2016 Class A bear license beginning in March 2016. Applicants may also check their status through the online licensing service or by contacting a DNR Customer Service Representative.
The season structure for the 2016 bear hunt is as follows.
Zone C (dogs not permitted):
All other zones (use of dogs permitted):
Spring 2015 turkey season
The 2016 spring turkey season will begin April 9 with the annual Spring Youth Turkey Hunt. The regular turkey season will begin the following Wednesday, April 13, and will consist of six seven-day time periods, with the final period closing May 24.
A permit drawing will take place in late December. Successful permit applicants will receive a postcard by late January 2016. Applicants may also check their drawing status online through the Online Licensing Center beginning in late January.
Permit winners may purchase their required 2016 Spring Turkey License ($15 for Wisconsin residents and $60 for non-residents) and 2016 Wild Turkey Stamp ($5.25) in early March. Each permit (also known as a carcass tag) will be printed at the time of purchase. Conservation Patrons and Senior Citizen Recreation Card holders are required to purchase a turkey license or stamp when they pick up their permit.
Leftover permits following the initial drawing for 2016 spring turkey season will be available for purchase in late March.
Turkey hunters are reminded that Wisconsin's state park turkey management zones were eliminated Sept. 1, 2014. However, state parks remain open for hunting. For more information, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "hunting state parks."
Harvested turkeys must be registered by 5 p.m. on the day following harvest. In-person registration stations are no longer available, and hunters can use the call-in registration hotline at 1-888-HUNT-WIS or the online registration webpage (keywords "turkey registration").
Youth turkey hunt
The eighth annual Spring Turkey Youth Hunt will be held prior to the opening of the regular spring turkey season April 9-10.
In conjunction with the Mentored Hunting Program, the Spring Turkey Youth Hunt will be open to resident and non-resident youth hunters ages 10-15. A Hunter Education Certificate of Accomplishment is not required for Spring Turkey Youth Hunt participants. Special rules and regulations apply to those who choose to participate in the Mentored Hunting Program, and interested hunters should carefully review these rules prior to entering the field.
A spring turkey license, stamp, and valid permit/carcass tag is required to participate in the youth hunt. All other existing turkey hunting rules and regulations apply.
Youth hunters who do not harvest a turkey during the youth hunt may use an unfilled permit during the zone and time period for which the tag was issued. Interested youth hunt participants should apply for a spring turkey permit before the Dec. 10 deadline.
Applications for turkey hunts for hunters with disabilities are due Dec. 10
Hunters with disabilities who wish to turkey hunt next spring on private land are reminded of an additional opportunity to hunt using a separate application and authorization form.
Applications to conduct a Spring Wild Turkey Hunt for People with Disabilities on private land must be submitted using DNR Forms 2300-271 and 2300-271A. Forms must be submitted before Dec. 10 to a local DNR wildlife biologist or department office for the county where the hunt will take place. Please note that any applicant who applies for a disabled turkey hunt on private lands using the above forms may not apply for a permit through the regular spring turkey drawing.
First-time license buyer discount
Certain resident hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses are available for as little as $5 for those who have never purchased that same type of license or have not purchased a Wisconsin license authorizing that activity in any of the prior ten years. Certain non-resident licenses are also discounted for first-time buyers.
Hunting and fishing licenses and applications for permit drawings can be purchased through the Online Licensing Center, 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), or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).
Those interested in receiving email updates can sign up for the DNR's GovDelivery service. Visit dnr.wi.gov, and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page to "Subscribe to DNR Updates."
MADISON - A December four-day antlerless hunt will give hunters an additional opportunity to pursue antlerless deer Dec. 10-13.
All deer hunters with a valid antlerless tag for the county and land type they are hunting, except qualified U.S. Armed Forces members and Class A and C disabled permit holders, may only harvest antlerless deer during the four day gun season. The "holiday" gun deer hunt will not be offered in 2015. The archery and crossbow season will remain open through Jan. 3 statewide, and runs through Jan. 31 in metro sub-units; however, no archery buck hunting is allowed during the December four-day antlerless gun season. All hunters except waterfowl hunters are required to wear blaze orange clothing during any open firearm deer hunt.
Hunters asked to participate in online Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey
The Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey will remain active until all deer seasons have ended, and wildlife managers ask that hunters submit a report of what they saw during their time in the field. This information will provide valuable data used to improve population estimates for Wisconsin's deer herd and other species.
For additional information, search keywords "deer hunter wildlife."
MADISON-Wisconsin's County Deer Advisory Councils are now accepting applications to fill vacant seats, beginning in 2016. These councils provide local deer herd management recommendations to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Councils provide an opportunity to play an active role in deer management through the development of management recommendations based on annual harvest data and deer management issues specific to each county. These recommendations help the department determine antlerless quotas, antlerless permits and annual season options.
Both hunters and non-hunters are welcome to apply for these vacancies, but applicants must have experience or involvement with at least one of the seven stakeholder groups represented on the council. Applications may be submitted at any time. However, interested individuals are encouraged to submit their application by Jan. 1 to be an active participant in 2016.
Several councils currently have at least one seat available for qualified applicants. To view open seats in your county and determine if you may be a good representative for one of the stakeholder groups, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "CDAC," click "find," and select your county using the drop-down menu.
Qualified applicants are asked to attend all meetings, represent the views of their stakeholder group and contribute feedback during discussions. Council members serve three-year terms, and will be required to attend between two and four meetings annually, depending on the year.
For additional information regarding CDAC recommendations, agendas and membership, search keyword "CDAC" - any additional questions can also be sent to DNRCDACWebMail@Wisconsin.gov.
MADISON -- People interested in cutting their own Christmas trees can obtain Department of Natural Resources permits to cut trees from northern state forests.
Permits can be obtained from the property headquarters for a nominal fee, typically $5 per tree, said Teague Prichard, DNR forest management specialist. Fresh evergreen boughs also may be harvested with the non-commercial forest products permit.
"We typically issue about 400 to 500 Christmas tree permits per year," Prichard said. "We know people enjoy our state forests throughout the year and the opportunity to find that special tree or bring home some fresh-scented evergreen boughs provides another reason to visit."
Balsam firs -- known for their beautiful fragrance and dark green needles -- are among the most sought after species in the northern state forests. Various types of pines also find their way home with visitors, Prichard said.
Before heading into the woods with a freshly sharpened saw and permit in hand, DNR encourages visitors to know a few basics. For example, harvesting is prohibited within 100 feet or visual distance of roads, trails and water and there is no harvesting from campgrounds or day use areas.
Trees must be cut at ground level with a maximum height of 30 feet and the trees taken from state forests cannot be resold. Trees cannot be moved outside of the gypsy moth quarantine area (moved from eastern Wisconsin into western Wisconsin).
"Wisconsin's state forests are renewable resources that provide a wide variety of benefits including wildlife habitat and numerous recreational opportunities," Prichard said.
A popular state forest for finding a Christmas tree is the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest near Minocqua. For a complete list of state forests and their locations, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "state forests." Use the keyword "Christmas trees" to learn more about the non-commercial harvesting process and download the "forest products permit."
Not all forests issue Christmas tree cutting permits, so people should be sure to contact the state forest in advance to ensure there are no special harvesting restrictions. Many county forests also allow non-commercial harvest of Christmas trees with information available through www.wisconsincountyforests.com (exit DNR); before venturing out it's a good idea to contact the county forest as well.
The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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