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NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 582 days

Weekly News Published - May 10, 2016 by the Central Office

 

White-nose syndrome spreads in Wisconsin; Volunteers needed for summer bat counts and surveys

MADISON - Winter 2016 bat survey results found that white-nose syndrome has spread to new bat hibernating sites in Wisconsin and is starting to decimate bat populations.

"We are finding white-nose syndrome on a widespread basis, and the largest sites are all home to the fungus responsible for this disease," said Paul White, Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist leading the Wisconsin Bat Program (exit DNR).

A hibernating eastern pipistrelle with white-nose syndrome.
A hibernating eastern pipistrelle with white-nose syndrome.
Photo Credit: Heather Kaarakka

White-nose syndrome does not affect people or other animal species, but causes hibernating bats to frequently wake, depleting their energy and causing them to die from starvation, dehydration or exposure to the elements. Since the discovery of white-nose syndrome in 2006 in New York, upwards of 6 million bats have died and the disease has spread to 28 states.

Click on image for larger size
Click on image for larger size

Visual surveys and genetic tests this winter found white-nose syndrome or the fungus that causes it in 42 of 74 sites examined, including in six new counties. Surveys showed a 94 percent drop in bat populations at the Grant County mine where the disease was first detected in Wisconsin in 2014, and one site where the disease was first found in 2015 had zero bats.

"Those results are what we expected based on what's happened in the eastern United States, but it is still very devastating," White says. "We will continue to look for ways to minimize the effects of white-nose syndrome, but unfortunately, the tools to combat this disease are few and far between."

DNR biologists worked with University of California-Santa Cruz researchers this winter to experimentally treat bats in one mine; results of those tests are still pending.

Bats play an important role in Wisconsin's ecosystems and economy and our state has one of the highest concentrations of hibernating bats in the Midwest. Bats are voracious insect eaters, and a 2011 North American study estimated that bats save Wisconsin's agriculture industry between $658 million to $1.5 billion annually in pesticide costs.

Over the last decade, DNR took actions in Wisconsin that helped delay the arrival of the disease and may have slowed its spread, according to Owen Boyle, species management section chief for DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation Program. Steps included adding four bat cave species to the state threatened species list, working with private landowners to help keep the disease out of caves and mines, requiring cave -users to decontaminate their gear between caves, and enlisting volunteers to help track bat populations.

Volunteers needed for summer bat counts and surveys

With white-nose syndrome spreading, volunteers are critically important to collect information about how the disease may be affecting cave bat populations.

"Volunteers played a vital role in advancing knowledge about bat populations in Wisconsin and now that white-nose syndrome is here, their help is even more important to understand how the disease is impacting our bats," White says.

Volunteers are needed to count the bats emerging from bat houses and buildings in the evening several times during the summer and for the Great Wisconsin Bat Count, scheduled for June 3-5 and July 29-31. Information and observations from roost monitoring volunteers have enabled the Wisconsin bat program to create a database of more than 200 roost locations and population estimates across Wisconsin, shed light on bat roosting behaviors, and fuel more research.

2015 little brown bat roost report. Click on image for larger size
2015 little brown bat roost report. Click on image for larger size

Volunteers also are needed to drive, paddle and hike along pre-set routes with bat detectors, listening for bat echolocation calls that can help identify bat species and locations. Such acoustic monitoring volunteers have enabled Wisconsin to identify ranges of species found in the state while also investigating relative abundances.

For more information regarding volunteer opportunities, visit the Wisconsin Bat Program website or contact Paul White at 608-267-0813 or Heather Kaarakka at 608-266-2576.

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Anglers, boaters play key role in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species

MADISON, Wis. - Anglers and boaters play an important role in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species and proper handling and disposal of live bait is more important than ever following the discovery of the fish egg-eating, invasive round goby in Little Lake Butte des Morts last year.

Bob Wakeman, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said anglers should never use aquatic invasive species as bait or dump unused live bait into the water. Wisconsin's bait laws are designed to prevent the spread of both obvious hitchhikers and other, less visible invaders capable of harming waterways and healthy aquatic communities.

"You may take leftover minnows purchased from a Wisconsin bait dealer away from any state water and use them again on that same water," he said. "You may use leftover minnows on other waters only if no lake or river water, or other fish were added to the container."

When deciding to use minnows, anglers must remember minnow harvest is prohibited on all viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) known and suspect waters. VHS is a deadly fish virus threatening Wisconsin fish such as muskies, walleye, lake whitefish, yellow perch and more. The prohibited area includes Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, the Winnebago system, the Mississippi River, the Wisconsin River up to the Prairie de Sac Dam and all waters connected to these waters up to the first barrier impassable to fish.

This year, anglers fishing the lower Fox River and Lake Winnebago system are being asked for special help to guard against further spread of the round goby. Round gobies can survive even in poor quality water, spawn multiple times per season and displace native fish by eating their eggs and young, taking over optimal habitat.

Round goby
Round goby
Photo Credit: DNR

Gobies have become common in some areas of the state such as Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Gobies are on the Chapter NR 40 list as a restricted invasive species and it is illegal to possess, transport, transfer or introduce live gobies, including using them as bait.

While there is no evidence that gobies have reached Lake Winnebago, DNR continues to encourage Winnebago area anglers to report any goby catches through an online survey tool to help determine the extent of gobies in the region and develop a management strategy. The online tool also allows anglers to upload photos of suspected gobies for positive identification.

Anglers who catch gobies on Lake Winnebago, other parts of the Winnebago System or the lower Fox River below the Neenah and Menasha dams during the 2016 fishing season are encouraged to kill the fish by putting them on ice and bring them to the DNR Oshkosh office, 625 E. County Road Y, Suite 700, Oshkosh, Wis., 54901-9731. The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Anglers also may call 920-424-7880 to report gobies.

Other tips to prevent the spread of AIS include bringing your day's catch home on ice rather than transporting live fish in water. And, it's important to check trailers and live wells to avoid giving other types of unwanted aquatic hitchhikers a lift.

"Boaters and other water users are making a difference by not transporting plant material, water and debris between lakes and rivers," Wakeman said. "We are grateful for these efforts and want to encourage the continued vigilance. Boaters and anglers only need to 'Inspect, Remove, Drain and Never Move live fish" to help stop aquatic hitchhikers. If every boater and angler took a few minutes to perform these actions before leaving a lake or river, new discoveries of AIS could be even lower."

To learn more, visit the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search "aquatic invasive species." The general Wisconsin fishing season runs from May 7, 2016 to March 5, 2017. To learn more about statewide fishing regulations and rules that apply on specific lakes, search "fishing regulations." For a complete calendar, search "fishing season dates."

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Public comments invited on Great Lakes beach listings

MADISON, Wis. - Public comments and feedback are needed to help the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources complete its annual listing of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior beaches.

Following significant water level changes in 2014, DNR intensified its annual review of Great Lakes beaches and updated the listing. DNR is now encouraging feedback on the latest list, which can be found by visiting the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and searching "Great Lakes beaches." The public comment process plays an important role as beach locations, local names and conditions may change over time. The updated maps show current beach locations for each coastal county.

Donalea Dinsmore, DNR Wisconsin beach program manager, said Great Lakes beaches provide a wide range of recreational opportunities for nearby communities while drawing visitors from other states. The beaches also serve as home to an incredible variety of plants, animals and birds.

"Our beaches contribute to our quality of life in many ways," Dinsmore said. "Through the annual listing, we hope to bring more attention to these natural assets and identify changes for the public when conditions evolve as a result of restoration work, public land acquisition or water levels."

Beach health efforts represent a combination of federal, state and local initiatives, including operation of the Beach Health (exit DNR) website, water monitoring and regular efforts to identify and control sources of bacteria that lead to swimming advisories. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires all Wisconsin beaches along the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior shorelines to be identified and prioritized for water quality monitoring.

A "beach" is defined as any place where the public has recreational access to the water for swimming or other water-related activities. Some boat launches and natural areas are included. Inland beaches are not included in the federal program; however, several communities and state parks participate in these efforts voluntarily, posting information on the Beach Health website. These beaches are not included on the published list.

In preparing the annual beach list, DNR considers:

Changes to the 2016 beach list

Additions to the 2016 list include:

Beaches removed from the 2016 list include:

Other changes include:

To maintain eligibility for funding under the federal Beach Act, state programs must provide an opportunity for public comment when changes to the list or monitoring program occur. Public comments on the listings and potential program changes should be emailed by the close of business on May 20 to Donalea Dinsmore, donalea.dinsmore@wisconsin.gov.

Watch for new signs at monitored beaches


To help beach-goers understand current water quality conditions at beaches, new signs will appear at beaches providing information about water quality monitoring. While existing colored signs or flags appear on the beach indicating the advisory status, the new signs include a QR code that links to the beach health website and multi-lingual messaging to explain the three levels of advice on water quality conditions.

On the signs:

Before heading to the beach, visitors also may want to check the Beach Health (exit DNR) website for updated information.

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Funding available to support volunteer-based monitoring projects

MADISON - Individuals, community and school groups, conservation organizations and local governments that enlist volunteers to gather critical information on Wisconsin plants, animals, water and other natural resources are invited to apply for up to $5,000 to help fund those monitoring activities.

The Department of Natural Resources has released a Request for Proposals for the Citizen-based Monitoring Partnership Program and is accepting applications now. The request for proposals and application guidelines can be found on the Citizen-based Monitoring Network website (exit DNR).

"Citizen-based monitoring helps the state by filling priority data gaps while also empowering volunteers to make a difference locally and statewide," says Eva Lewandowski, DNR coordinator of the Citizen-based Monitoring Network. "Our Partnership Program provides citizen-based monitoring groups with the resources they need to expand their contribution to natural resource conservation."

DNR provides $100,000 annually to assist citizen groups that are conducting high priority natural resource monitoring projects in Wisconsin. The Partnership Program application is open to any organization or individual conducting citizen-based monitoring that addresses priority species and habitat data needs in Wisconsin. The application is due June 6, 2016.

Projects can apply for up to $5,000 to fund monitoring activities from July 1, 2016 to June 20, 2017.

DNR has been providing Partnership Program funds to volunteer monitoring projects since 2004. In that time, 219 projects have received more than $1 million in funding. In previous years, funded projects have focused on topics like training bat monitoring volunteers, conducting freshwater mussel surveys, and tracking water quality.

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Statewide incidental take notice

MADISON -- Commercial fishing activities that may result in the "incidental taking" of rare fish species would be allowed under a broad incidental take permit the Department of Natural Resources is proposing to issue. Incidental take refers to the unintentional loss of individual endangered or threatened animals or plants that does not put the overall population of the species at risk.

The broad incidental take permit is being proposed to cover work within the Mississippi River and specific areas of connected waters. DNR staff determined that projects covered under this permit may result in the incidental taking of some fish.

The project activities may result in some mortality; however, incidental take will be minimized by following protocols designed for these species. DNR staff concluded that the projects covered under this permit would minimize impacts to the species by adhering to conservation measures; are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence or appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and/or recovery of the state population of these species or the whole plant-animal community of which they are a part and the habitat that is critical to their existence; and has benefit to the public health, safety or welfare that justifies the action.

The conservation measures to minimize the adverse effect on these threatened species will be incorporated into the proposed incidental take permit. Copies of the jeopardy assessment and background information on these species are available by searching the DNR website for incidental take public notice or upon request from Rori Paloski (608-264-6040 or rori.paloski@wi.gov) or Melissa Tumbleson (608-267-0862 or melissa.tumbleson@wi.gov).

The department is accepting comments from the public through June 9, 2016. Public comments should be sent to Rori Paloski - NHC, Wisconsin DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921or rori.paloski@wi.gov.

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Contact information

For more information about news and media, contact:
James Dick
Director of Communications
608-267-2773