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NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 457 days

Weekly News Published - September 13, 2016 by the Central Office

 

Outlook good for Northern Zone waterfowl hunting

Average breeding conditions, wet summer weather and a near record numbers of ducks reported in spring

MADISON - A near record numbers of ducks reported in spring, coupled with average breeding conditions and wet summer weather have set the stage for strong fall waterfowl hunting as the North Zone duck season opens Sept. 24.

"Although conditions were average to dry this spring, Wisconsin has seen abundant rainfall for most of the summer and even into early fall," said DNR assistant migratory game bird ecologist Taylor Finger. "Waterfowl hunters should have the potential for a good hunting season - continental breeding surveys spanning 61 years reported a near record numbers of ducks this spring."

The 2016 North Zone duck season will run from Sept. 24 to Nov. 22 - opening day shooting hours will begin one-half hour before sunrise. The daily bag limit statewide is six ducks, including no more than:

Five mergansers may be harvested daily, of which no more than two may be hooded mergansers; 15 coot may be harvested daily. For 2016, the possession limit remains three times the daily bag limit.

Many of the ducks harvested in Wisconsin are produced from locally nesting ducks breeding in the state's wetlands. According to Finger; mallards, wood ducks, green-winged teal and blue-winged teal are the four most abundant ducks in Wisconsin's fall hunting harvest.

"Even with excellent continental breeding indications, local water levels and scouting will are most important factors when pursuing ducks this fall," said Finger. "Hunter survey data in Wisconsin show that duck hunters who scouted three or more times harvested on average 3-4 times as many ducks per season as those who did not scout."

As a result of regulatory changes in 2016, hunters can now legally hunt in open water as long as part of their boat, blind or similar device is located within three feet of the shoreline, including islands. This change eliminates the concealment requirement so long as the boat or blind is within three feet of any shoreline.

"This regulatory change will open up countless opportunities throughout the state, especially where the water levels fluctuate throughout the year and where vegetation was not always available for concealment," said DNR assistant waterfowl ecologist Taylor Finger.

Licenses and stamps required for duck hunting include a Wisconsin small game license, a Wisconsin waterfowl stamp, and a federal migratory bird stamp. The federal duck stamp will now cost $25 (an increase from $15 dollars) - a change suggested and supported by waterfowl hunters nationwide.

While there has not been an increase in the federal waterfowl stamp since the 1990s, this $10 increase will help protect additional upland and wetland waterfowl habitat. The federal migratory bird stamp can be purchased at a U.S. Post Office. Hunters will also be given the option to purchase the federal stamp privilege at DNR license vendors for an additional $2.50 surcharge. The purchase will be noted on their license, and the stamp itself will arrive later in the mail.

Waterfowl and other migratory bird hunters must also register each year with the federal Harvest Information Program, which places them on a list of hunters that may receive a mailing asking them to provide a summary of their harvest. HIP registration is free and can be done at the time hunters purchase their licenses, but can always be added later on if a hunter decides they may pursue migratory game birds.

State licenses and stamps, permits, and HIP registration are also available online through Go Wild.

For more information regarding waterfowl hunting in Wisconsin, visit the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search keyword "waterfowl."

2016 Wisconsin Fall Hunting and Trapping Forecast now available

Many fall hunting and trapping seasons in Wisconsin are just around the corner, and the 2016 Fall Hunting and Trapping Forecast is now available.

To view this year's hunting and trapping forecast, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "forecast [PDF]" or "hunt."

Avian influenza in wild birds

Several federal agencies are working in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to collect samples related to the research and surveillance of avian influenza in wild birds. This surveillance will help monitor for the virus during fall migration.

Avian influenza is a viral disease common in wild bird populations with many different subtypes - most do not cause obvious signs of disease in wild birds or have the ability to infect animals other than birds. While strains currently detected in the U.S. have caused mortality of domestic birds, they have not resulted in any illness in humans.

Samples will be collected from live-captured birds during DNR banding efforts and from hunter-harvested dabbling ducks, such as blue-winged teal, mallard, wood duck and Northern pintail. Federal staff will also be located at boat landings and other hunter access points this fall to sample ducks from willing hunters.

To learn more, search keywords "bird diseases."

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DNR staff team up with partners and volunteers to launch Southwest Wisconsin Deer and Predator Research Project

MADISON - Fall 2016 marks the beginning of what state wildlife officials say will be the most comprehensive deer research project ever undertaken in Wisconsin -- the Southwest Wisconsin Deer and Predator Research Project.

This groundbreaking research, which stems from Gov. Scott Walker's commitment to reevaluate chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin, will look at factors like predation, habitat conditions, hunter harvest and chronic wasting disease to measure impacts on deer survival and deer populations in southern Wisconsin.

This project will include exciting volunteer opportunities -- people looking to learn more about the project and volunteer opportunities and interact with Department of Natural Resources staff involved are encouraged to attend an open house Thursday, Sept. 29 from 6-8 p.m. at the Dodgeville DNR service Center, 1500 North Johns St., Dodgeville.

For those unable to attend the public meeting who are looking to learn more about the project, join DNR staff for a live chat Thursday, Sept. 22 at noon. Search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "chat" to submit questions and view responses from DNR experts. Here, you can also view past chats and sign up to receive email notifications.

Deer Study

DNR staff will team up with volunteers and partner organizations with a goal of capturing 200 adult deer annually over four years in two distinct study areas in portions of Dane, Iowa and Grant counties.

Deer study areas
Deer study areas

"GPS tracking collars will allow us to determine daily and seasonal movement patterns, cause of death, and other important information that will help us assess how the deer use the landscape, what influences growth or declines of the population, and other factors that will help inform management decisions in the future," said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist. "Landowners and hunters especially should find this information to be very interesting. We're counting on their assistance to make this project successful."

The eastern most study area is found within the area of highest CWD prevalence, while the western most study area has a much lower rate.

"We hope to learn more about how CWD impacts deer survival and how different factors like habitat, predation, and harvest may combine with CWD to impact deer populations," said Dan Storm, DNR deer research scientist. "We chose two study areas with different CWD infection rates, which will help us understand the relative impacts of various factors on deer populations."

Predator Study

In another "first ever" for fall 2016, DNR staff will have the opportunity to actively monitor coyote and bobcat populations within the same study area. GPS collars will be placed on these predators to provide a more definitive look at how predator abundance and distribution may impact deer populations.

"Tracking collars will help us understand how bobcat and coyote populations are doing in Southwest Wisconsin, how many there are, and what role they play in the deer populations." said Nathan Roberts, DNR carnivore and furbearer research scientist. "We are especially excited to work closely with trappers, hunters, and landowners to better understand these important questions."

For more information regarding this groundbreaking project and how to become involved, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "deer research."

To receive email updates regarding deer research in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled "subscribe for updates for DNR topics," then follow the prompts and select the "white-tailed deer research" list.

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State research sheds light on bat supermoms and summer habitats

MADISON - State conservation biologists radio-tracking cave bats to learn more about their summer habitats are also turning up insights into the strength, stamina and sacrifices of mother bats.

DNR Conservation Biologist Heather Kaarakka radio-tracks a bat to help learn more about the habitat it needs during the summer.
DNR Conservation Biologist Heather Kaarakka radio-tracks a bat to help learn more about the habitat it needs during the summer.
Photo Credit: Michael Kienitz

The Wisconsin research is part of a multi-state, multi-year project with Minnesota and Michigan that is funded by a federal grant to learn more about several hibernating bat species that use forests extensively in summer and whose populations have been decimated by white-nose syndrome in eastern states in recent years. The information will help continue to allow forest management that will ultimately benefit the bats.

"Unfortunately, we're unlikely to find something to stop the disease in Wisconsin. So we are trying to gather information that will allow us to do the best job in managing bats in the post white-nose syndrome landscape," says Heather Kaarakka, a DNR conservation biologist and one of the researchers.

White-nose syndrome is a deadly disease of bats that does not affect humans but covers bats in a fungus that awakens them while they are hibernating, burning precious energy stores and leading to starvation. White-nose syndrome was first detected in Wisconsin in 2014 and has spread across the state; sites where the disease was first documented have seen some bat populations decline by more than 90 percent.

Bats play an important role in Wisconsin's ecosystems and economy; they are voracious insect eaters, with a 2011 North American study estimating that bats save Wisconsin's agriculture industry between $658 million to $1.5 billion annually in pesticide costs.

View Slideshow SLIDE SHOW | 12 photos

Radio-tracking cave bats

To conduct their research, Kaarakka and DNR biologists Paul White, Katie Luukkonen and Jennifer Redell set up fine mesh nets in the bats' travel corridors. When a bat of interest, either a northern long-eared bat or an eastern pipistrelle, flies into the net, they quickly retrieve it and if it's a female of a species of interest, they attach a small radio transmitter between the shoulder blades using nontoxic, temporary glue.

The researchers return on subsequent days and nights to find the bat and track it back to the tree where it roosts; to count bats emerging from the roost, and to assess and catalog information about the habitat including the tree species, height of the roost, proximity to water and more.

Their research has revealed that northern long-eared bats are incredibly adaptable to the environment they are in, White says. They use a lot of different tree species, both live trees and dead trees, and are found in the crevices or under bark that is sloughing off the trees. "We do think they can positively respond to sustainable forestry," he says.

Radio-tracking of eastern pipistrelles started in 2016 and will continue next year to further understand their habitat needs. First-year results revealed the bats roosting in leaf clusters in trees in small groups of six to 14 bats.

Eastern pipistrelles may forage as far as 2 miles away from their roost and are switching roosts much more than expected. The mothers may be moving their pups every day and a half, perhaps to stay ahead of predators. The pups grab onto the mother and move, no small feat for a flying mammal that weighs only 7 to 9 grams, White says.

"Male bats have a pretty easy life. They mate and feed themselves. The females leave the hibernation site early, give birth to one or more pups, nurse the pups and feed themselves," he says. "All of that makes it very challenging for a female bat to survive."

Across their field work, the researchers captured more male eastern pipistrelles in their nets than females. White worries that this imbalance may be a sign that white-nose syndrome has killed females and fewer of them are out on the landscape this summer.

All of the data DNR researchers collect will be provided to a contractor that will be getting data as well from Minnesota and Michigan researchers and using the information to develop a bat habitat conservation plan for the Upper Midwest. Due to declines caused by white-nose syndrome and continued spread of the disease, the northern long-eared bat was listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act on April 2, 2015.

DNR research continues in 2017 to learn more about the eastern pipistrelles' summer habitats. People can help fund this and other bat research to better help Wisconsin bats recover from white-nose syndrome by making a tax deductible donation to the Natural Heritage Conservation Program -- choose "Mammals - Bats" from the drop-down menu for the donation fund.

To learn more about Wisconsin bats and sign up to receive updates about bat news in Wisconsin  search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for saving Wisconsin bats or visit the Wisconsin Bat Program website.

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Discovery of new bat species in Wisconsin cheers biologists

MADISON - After a decade of bad news about bats dying from white-nose syndrome, Wisconsin bat researchers have literally caught some good news.

A close up of an evening bat, the first new bat species found in Wisconsin in more than 60 years.
A close up of an evening bat, the first new bat species found in Wisconsin in more than 60 years.
Photo Credit: Heather Kaarakka photo

While searching Avon Bottoms State Wildlife Area in Rock County to learn more about the summer habitats of bat species vulnerable to white-nose syndrome, they caught in their nets an evening bat, a new bat species that had never before been reported in Wisconsin.

They radio-tracked the evening bat back to her roost and found her roosting with 60 other evening bats. Returning a few weeks later to the same wildlife area, they radio-tracked two other female bats and discovered a roost with 103 individuals.

"It was pretty cool to find a maternity colony of evening bats," says Heather Kaarakka, one of the DNR bat researchers. "It's never been recorded before in Wisconsin and it's a pretty under-studied species generally."

The edge of evening bats' historic range has been close to the Wisconsin-Illinois border, so it's not terribly surprising that the species was found here, she says. "It means they are possibly slowing moving north."

And that's good news because evening bats are not believed to be susceptible to white-nose syndrome. They do not hibernate in caves but fly south to Florida in the winter and then return north in the spring. Only the females move north and roost in tree cavities. They are insectivorous, eating beetles with their strong jaws and consuming agricultural pests like root worm and cucumber beetle.

Kaarakka was hopeful they would find more evening bats after catching a juvenile evening bat in their net in summer 2015 at Avon Bottoms. At first they thought they had caught a big brown bat, a common species in Wisconsin, but knew something wasn't quite right and they noticed a burnt orange smell as they handled the bat.

They suspected what they had was an evening bat, took some photos, made some common measurements of the bat, and let it go. They shared their information and photos with other bat biologists, confirmed it was an evening bat, and resolved to look for the species in 2016 when they revisited the site. Because the bat was a juvenile and had been found within 5 miles of the Illinois-Wisconsin border, it could have been a bat born in Illinois that flew into Wisconsin accidentally.

"Now we can say it wasn't an accidental find. We found female bats and followed them back to sizeable colonies," said Paul White, DNR conservation biologist. "It is a really big deal."

The last time a new species of bat was documented in Wisconsin was in November 1954; the new species at that time, an Indiana bat, represented the one and only time an Indiana bat was documented in Wisconsin despite concerted efforts in the 1980s and 1990s to find the species again.

To learn more about Wisconsin bats and sign up to receive updates about bat news in Wisconsin  search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for saving Wisconsin bats or visit the Wisconsin Bat Program website.

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DNR asks for hunters to record their wildlife observations

MADISON -- With the start of the 2016 deer hunting season Sept. 17, the Department of Natural Resources is kicking off its eighth annual Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey, an easy-to-do survey where hunters can record their observations of deer and other wildlife while out hunting. Survey results help track population trends for Wisconsin's deer herd and other wildlife.

"The Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey is a fun opportunity for hunters to share their enthusiasm for wildlife while helping survey efforts," says Jes Rees Lohr, DNR wildlife research scientist.

The DNR asks hunters to record all of their hunting activity throughout the deer season, even if no wildlife sightings were made during a hunt. The observations provide the DNR with an index to abundance for many wildlife species.

At the end of each year, participants will receive a personalized summary of all recorded wildlife from that season. Participants can access the survey by going to the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and searching keyword "Deer Hunter Wildlife." Tally sheets can be filled out either electronically or printed from the site. The survey period ends January 2016

Hunters can also send in their trail camera photos. The Trail Camera Gallery [exit DNR]. can be accessed through the Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey webpage. Check back often as the site is updated as soon as new photos are sent in.

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Final "DNR Days" of 2016 at Miller Park Saturday, Sept. 24

MADISON - Fall is not just a great time to have a license to hunt and fish in Wisconsin, it's also a great time to use your license for more fun at Miller Park!


Through a special promotion with the Department of Natural Resources, a 2016 Wisconsin hunting or fishing license qualifies baseball fans for reduced-priced tickets at the stadium. License holders can use their customer number to purchase Terrace Box seats for $20 or Field Outfield Box seats for $30.

In addition to reduced-priced tickets, purchasers will also receive a special camouflage cooler while supplies last.

Sept. 24 is the last "DNR Days" at the ballpark for 2016, so buy now and enjoy the fun.

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2016 deer hunting regulations available in Hmong, Spanish

MADISON - With the arrival of deer hunting season in Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resources is committed to ensuring all hunters have the most up-to-date regulations that govern our fall hunting tradition.

Similar to previous years, the department will again provide materials in languages other than English. Hunters can find both Spanish and Hmong versions of the Wisconsin's hunting regulations on the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, keyword "deer." The department is also sharing this information with various Spanish and Hmong community organizations.

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Contact information

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