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Weekly News Published - February 28, 2017 by the Central Office

 

DNR staff and landowners work together through the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study

MADISON - While inconsistent weather has provided challenges, a Department of Natural Resources Southwest Wisconsin Chronic Wasting Disease, Deer and Predator Study is underway with help from a number of partners and landowners.

DNR staff are hard at work in the field (with help from a number of landowers) to learn more about Wisconsin's wildlife.
DNR staff are hard at work in the field (with help from a number of landowers) to learn more about Wisconsin's wildlife.
Photo Credit: DNR

The early stages of this groundbreaking research kicked off in the fall of 2016, which stemed from Gov. Scott Walker's commitment to reevaluate chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin. This study will evaluate factors like predation, habitat conditions, hunter harvest, and CWD to measure impacts on deer survival and deer populations in southern Wisconsin.

"We're able to monitor deer and predator movements like never before thanks to state-of-the-art GPS tracking technology," said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist.

"The data that we're getting back in the early stages of this study so far is just incredible--it will be awesome as we continue to receive information about wildlife movement, survival, and predation."

This project relies heavily on cooperation from a number of volunteers. Wallenfang said DNR staff would like to thank the 113 landowners (and counting) who have agreed to assist with this research and remind others in southwest Wisconsin to consider becoming involved as the study moves forward.

"When we agreed to allow DNR's CWD research team to conduct part of their live-trapping and monitoring work on our property, we had no idea what to expect. Within days, we were enthusiastic supporters," said Mike Van Sicklen, who with his wife, Susan, are landowners participating in the study. "The entire DNR team has been gracious and respectful of our land and interests--the project staff have been so enthusiastic and it's contagious. The project has been one of the highlights of our winter--we are so pleased that DNR is trying so hard through this project to better understand and control CWD."

Deer Study

DNR staff are currently trapping deer within two distinct study areas in portions of Dane, Iowa and Grant counties, with a goal of 1,200 deer captured over four years. 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.


As of late February 2017, 61 deer have been trapped.

"The warm weather and ice storms have hurt our deer capture efforts so far this season, but we continue to adapt to changing conditions and we'll keep trapping through March." said Dan Storm, a DNR deer research scientist. "Every bit of cold weather helps--in this latest brief cold-snap, we collared 19 deer in roughly 48 hours."

Predator Study

Through the predator portion of this study, DNR staff are monitoring coyote and bobcat populations within the same study area. GPS collars have been placed on four bobcats and seven coyotes so far, with a goal of 30 per year over 4 years.

"This information will help us better understand the predator population status in this area, the direct impacts of predators on deer, and the role of predators in the disease ecology." said Nathan Roberts, carnivore and furbearer research scientist.

Data received throughout the study will help provide a more definitive look at how predator abundance and distribution may impact deer populations.

For more information regarding the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study and how to become involved, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for 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.

Be sure to follow the department's Facebook and Twitter accounts for project updates and photos from the field.

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Visit the DNR exhibit at the 2017 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show, March 8-12

WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- Outdoor enthusiasts will have an opportunity to meet Department of Natural Resources staff at the 77th Annual 2017 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show which opens Wednesday, March 8, and runs through Sunday, March 12, at the Wisconsin Exposition Center at State Fair Park, 8200 W. Greenfield Ave. in West Allis.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said the relationship between the agency and the sports show dates back to the days when the agency was called the Wisconsin Conservation Department. "It's been a long and happy engagement, Stepp said, "Because the focus of our agency is customer-driven, this is a great opportunity for the public to ask questions and engage with our staff," she added.

The DNR's exhibit features a 600-gallon freshwater tank where visitors can view live bluegills, crappies, perch, largemouth and small mouth bass. Live reptiles and amphibians will be on display at the wetlands and waterways section, according to Joe Liebau Jr., DNR secretary's director of southeastern Wisconsin and manager of the DNR section of the show.

As they've done for several years, DNR wildlife staff will bring an array of wildlife pelts including beaver, badger, coyote, fox and wolf for youngsters eager to learn more about our furry friends. "This is definitely a 'please do touch' display," said Liebau.

Also returning will be the free kids' casting clinics where young anglers can hone their skills. "We're pleased that this popular attraction is cosponsored by the Kenosha Sport Fishing and Conservation Association and members of Salmon Unlimited," said Liebau. "Their willingness to step up and help out is greatly appreciated."

Visitors to the DNR booth can also purchase their hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. New this year will be a GoWild self-service license sales area where people can purchase their licenses online with assistance from Customer and Outreach Services staff. License sales are a big attraction, especially since previous year licenses expire March 31. "Customers have told us that buying their license from us at the sports show is a tradition," according to Liebau.

Visitors can also learn about the Cherish Wisconsin Outdoors Fund when purchasing a license. The Fund was established to protect, restore and improve habitat for plants and animals from voluntary, tax deductible donations to the extent allowable by law.


While visiting the DNR booth, the public is encouraged to enter a free drawing to win a beautiful bald eagle license plate. Two winners will be randomly selected on Monday, March 13, and will receive the plates free for the first year, a $40 value. The plate features a striking photograph of a bald eagle and was selected from more than 2,000 photos submitted to DNR in 2015. Sales of the plate raise funds for endangered resources work. Private gifts to the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation program pay for the plate giveaway and other plate marketing efforts.

The 1,800-square-foot DNR exhibit is located in the southwest corner of the exhibition center. The hours for the 2017 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show are Wednesday, March 8, through Friday, March 10, from noon to 9 p.m. On Saturday, March 11, hours are from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. On Sunday, March 12, doors open at 10 a.m. and the show closes at 6 p.m.

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12,850 permits awarded for 2017 black bear hunt

MADISON - Notifications have been sent to 12,850 hunters who successfully drew a black bear permit for the 2017 hunting season.

Successful applicants should have received a postcard in the mail - status updates are also available at gowild.wi.gov (exit DNR).

This year's harvest quota of 5,000, approved by the Natural Resources Board at its January 2017 meeting, was set with the intention of reducing the population in northwest Wisconsin and stabilizing the population in the rest of the state. The 2017 quota and permit levels will both see an increase compared to those approved in 2016.

The season structure for this year's bear hunt is as follows:

Zone C (dogs not permitted):

For more information, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "bear."

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Enrollment open for Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Programs

Provide public access to the outdoors in return for incentives and technical assistance

MADISON - The Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, is currently enrolling new properties in 52 eligible counties throughout Wisconsin.

Enrolled landowners can earn income through opening their property to year-round public hunting, fishing, trapping and wildlife observation.

Lease rates vary by land cover, ranging from $3/acre for agricultural land, $10/acre for grassland or wetland and $15/acre for forest land. VPA leases will expire on Aug. 31, 2020. Landowners participating in other conservation programs are encouraged to apply, including:

Technical assistance and financial incentives are available to enrolled landowners who implement recommended wildlife habitat practices.

VPA landowners reported very high overall satisfaction with the program in 2016. Little is required for enrolled landowners beyond providing for public access. Under state statute, landowners are generally immune from liability for injuries received by individuals recreating on their lands. DNR provides compensation for damages to property or crops that occur as a result of opening land to public access.

Visit the updated VPA-HIP website to find out more information and to apply to enroll in the program. Interested landowners should contact Anne Reis, DNR VPA-HIP Coordinator, for more information at 608-279-6483 or via email at Anne.Reis@wisconsin.gov.

For more general information regarding VPA-HIP, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "VPA".

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March public meetings provide opportunity to share information regarding beaver and trout management

MADISON -- Department of Natural Resources staff will hold public meetings in March to improve understanding of the benefits free-flowing cold-water systems provide trout, create awareness of the positive and negative impacts of beaver, and discuss efforts to achieve balance in beaver management.

DNR staff will provide an overview of the beaver management plan, background on cold water trout management as it relates to beaver management, and beaver control plans by county at each meeting.

The public is encouraged to attend and provide feedback at the meetings that will be held:

The Natural Resources Board approved a new Beaver Management Plan in October 2015 and the area-level meetings were identified as part of the implementation strategies.

Additional information on the beaver management plan is available at fyi.uwex.edu/beaver/ (exit DNR).

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Input sought on draft management plans for 13 State Natural Areas

MADISON - Draft management plans for 13 State Natural Areas located in south-central Wisconsin and the Door County Peninsula are available for public comment through March 10, 2017.

State Natural Areas protect outstanding examples of Wisconsin's native landscape of natural communities, significant geological formations and archeological sites and protect some of Wisconsin's rarest natural community types, geological features, and wildlife. These natural areas are valuable for research and educational use, preservation of genetic and biological diversity, and also provide ecological benchmarks to help determine the impact of use on managed lands.

Bailey's Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands State Natural Area, located in Door County, is one of 13 properties currently in the management plan process - comments will be accepted through March 10, 2017.
Bailey's Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands State Natural Area, located in Door County, is one of 13 properties currently in the management plan process - comments will be accepted through March 10, 2017.
Photo Credit: DNR

Management plans are required for Department of Natural Resources properties to help guide management activities and development for public use. These 13 properties are considered "Tier 3" sites because they are generally smaller, single-purpose properties lacking significant public use facilities. Other examples of Tier 3 sites include wildlife and fishery remnant areas, scattered boat access sites, and administrative facilities.

"These plans will guide property managers and help ensure these state natural areas are consistently managed," said Thomas Meyer, DNR conservation biologist with the State Natural Areas program. "They are particularly important for sites that require active, hands-on management such as prescribed fire, invasive species control, and selective timber harvest necessary to restore and maintain these unique ecosystems."

State Natural Areas in south-central Wisconsin planning group include sites in the Baraboo Hills region that harbor unique geological features, including Pewit's Nest, Lower Narrows and Abelman's Gorge. Through management planning, a small portion of Pewit's Nest is proposed for closure to protect public safety. Sites in the Door Peninsula group, including Bailey's Harbor Boreal Forest, Coffey Swamp, and Moonlight Bay Bedrock Beach, help protect Lake Michigan coastal wetlands and rare plant habitat.

Draft property management plans for these 13 properties, which include current conditions, recreational opportunities, property and acquisition boundaries, habitat management prescriptions, and motorized road inventories are available online at dnr.wi.gov, keywords "master planning" - select the link titled "Tier 3 Management Plans."

More background information about each natural area can be found on the DNR website:

Brown County

Columbia County

Door County

Sauk County

Tier 3 property management plans are classified as minor actions under Natural Resources Chapter 150.20(1 m)(k) of the Wisconsin Administrative Code and do not require an environmental analysis.

Please send comments and/or questions related to these draft plans to Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921 or via email at thomas.meyer@wisconsin.gov by March 10, 2017.

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Spring snowmelt and rain can contaminate wells

Well owners encouraged to be vigilant as the seasons change

MADISON -- Warming temperatures, snow melt, residual frozen ground and rain can create conditions that may affect private wells and drinking water.

"Our recent round of snow, rain and mixed precipitation throughout the state serves as a reminder that changing spring weather can lead to well contamination," said Marty Nessman, DNR private water supply field supervisor. "At this time of year we encourage well owners to watch for signs of flooding and note any change in the color, smell or taste of their drinking water."

Owners who see flood waters very near or over their wells should assume their water could be contaminated. Take the following steps:

Flood waters and rain runoff may contain bacteria and other contaminants that can affect water supplies and cause illness. Wells located in pits, basements and low-lying areas are especially susceptible to contamination.

Nessman said disinfection and sampling is best done by a licensed well driller or pump installer. Any water supply system that has been submerged by flood waters should be pumped out once the floodwater recedes, then thoroughly disinfected and tested to determine that the water is safe.

To ensure safe drinking water, well owners are encouraged to learn whether they have a properly constructed well and test it annually for bacteria. More information on bacteriological contamination of drinking water wells, along with lists of licensed well drillers, pump installers and labs certified to analyze water samples can be found by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov for wells.

For individuals who receive drinking water from a public water supply, these systems are designed and operated to keep out contaminants. If you have concerns about the safety of your community's drinking water, contact your public water supplier.

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Anglers urged to pull ice fishing shelters before deadlines - or ice gives way!

MADISON -- Winter's recent string of spring temperatures and thinning ice has state recreational safety specialists encouraging anglers to remove their ice fishing shelters prior to the official deadlines.

The first in a series of deadlines for ice anglers to remove ice fishing shelters from inland and boundary waters was February 20--the date for the Wisconsin-Iowa boundary waters, affecting the Mississippi River south of the Minnesota-Iowa border. This date corresponded with Iowa regulations.

Other fast-approaching deadlines to remove all fishing shelters from the ice are:

One exception to this rule is that on the Fox River downstream from the De Pere dam in Brown County, ice fishing shelters must always be removed from the ice daily and when not in use.

People who want to continue to use an ice fishing shelter after the deadlines must remove them daily and when not occupied.

"But with warmer than average temperatures and poor ice conditions on many lakes, anglers may not want to wait until the deadlines," said April Dombrowski section chief of DNR Recreational Enforcement and Education. "Open water has been appearing on an increasing number of southern lakes, and many shorelines have thin ice, making access for removing shelters treacherous."

DNR recommends anglers start assessing their shelter removal situation early and make arrangements as necessary with local vendors, friends or others to help them meet the removal deadlines.

The removal deadline is to ensure shanties are removed and avoiding the additional costs and hazards of shanties breaking through the ice.

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Contact information

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