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Weekly News Published - May 9, 2017 by the Central Office

 

Bat disease takes its toll; Wisconsin sites see 30-100 percent decreases

Call goes out to report surviving bats this summer

MADISON -- A bat disease that has raced across the eastern U.S. and Canada , killing upwards of 7 million bats, is following the same pattern in Wisconsin, winter hibernacula surveys show.

Twenty-four of 28 counties with known bat hibernacula are now confirmed to have bats infected with white-nose syndrome or the fungus that causes it, and sites in their second and third year of infection are seeing population decreases of 30 to 100 percent.

Twenty-three of 28 counties with known bat hibernacula are now confirmed to have bats infected with white-nose syndrome
Twenty-four of 28 counties with known bat hibernacula are now confirmed to have bats infected with white-nose syndrome .
Photo Credit: DNR

"The disease has progressed in Wisconsin as it did out east," says Owen Boyle, species management section chief for the Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Conservation program. "That doesn't make the numbers any easier to see. The effect of white-nose syndrome on our cave bats in Wisconsin, as nationally, is catastrophic."

Click on image for a timeline of WNS in Wisconsin and the nation.
Click on image for a timeline of WNS in Wisconsin and the nation.
Photo Credit: DNR

Numbers declined 40 to 60 percent at two of the state's largest sites, which combined accounted for two-thirds of Wisconsin's known bat population only a few years ago. Some sites have declined even more: DNR surveyors found only 16 bats compared to 1,200 at a Grant County site where the fungus was first detected, which is now in its fourth season.

Bat populations are important to agriculture and ecosystems. A single bat can consume thousands of insects each night, and researchers have estimated that bats save Wisconsin farmers alone $600 million to $1.5 billion on pesticides every year. Studies are underway at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and elsewhere to understand such impacts.

DNR's focus is shifting to finding surviving bats to learn why bats from certain hibernacula may have survived at higher rates, and understand if certain bats are genetically more resistant to the disease than others. These surviving bats are what will help species rebound after white-nose syndrome, says Paul White, who leads DNR's bat efforts for the Natural Heritage Conservation program.

"Now it's our job to see what's still here and how we can help," White says. "We're not ready to give up hope that we will continue to find survivors and we want the public to remain an important part of telling the story of how bats come back."

White-nose symdrom
White-nose syndrome is named for the powdery white fuzz that develops on hibernating bats' noses, ears and wings.
Photo Credit: DNR

White-nose syndrome is named for the powdery white fuzz that develops on hibernating bats' noses, ears and wings during infection with the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. The fungus causes bats to wake more often during hibernation, thus burning up critical stores of fat they need to survive winter.

People can help surviving bats by building and installing bat houses; avoiding disturbing bat roosts between June 1 and Aug. 15, when bats raise their young and helping to monitor bat populations. Most importantly, people can report the buildings where bats are present in summer as well as sites where bats are no longer showing up. Bats continuing to return to summer roosts are likely survivors of WNS. Email location information to DNRbats@wisconsin.gov.

More information on all of these can be found by searching the DNR website for keyword "bats."

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Free Fun Weekend is June 3-4

Free fishing and free admission to state parks and trails among offerings

MADISON - Free fun is on tap June 3 and 4 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, enjoy free admission to state parks and forests and ride public ATV trails for free.

"Wisconsin's great outdoors is always the ticket to fun and on June 3 and 4 it gets even better," says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "The fun's on us."

Free fun weekend is for Wisconsin residents and visitors alike:

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

To report a DNR Violation call or text the DNR Hotline at 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367

And, people can follow DNR on social for media for more updates between newsletters. DNR has social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.

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Fawn searches provide opportunity to play an important role in Wisconsin deer research

MADISON -- Fawning season for Wisconsin's white-tailed deer is nearly here, and Department of Natural Resources staff needs help from volunteers to place radio collars on newborn fawns in southwest Wisconsin.

Most fawns are born in late May and early June, and once again volunteers will be vital in reaching the department's goal of 100 collared fawns in 2017. Volunteers work alongside DNR search teams in southwest Wisconsin on foot to find fawns hidden in grassy fields and wooded underbrush.

Volunteers assist DNR staff in placing radio collars on fawns.
Volunteers are needed to assist DNR staff in placing radio collars on newborn fawns.
Photo Credit: DNR

This process is very labor-intensive, but also an incredibly unique experience for anyone interested in Wisconsin's wildlife. Volunteers can hold a wide range of duties, and will also have numerous opportunities to take photos and spot other wildlife in the area.

"Mother deer do not make our job easy, they like to hide their fawns in thick underbrush or in dense grassy fields--fawns remain motionless, depending on their natural camouflage to stay hidden," said Dan Storm, DNR ungulate research ecologist. "We have to do a lot of walking to find them and rely on strength in numbers with help from volunteers. It is a lot of fun to find fawns and we get key information regarding fawn survival from these efforts."

Does like to hide fawns in thick underbrush or in dense grassy fields.
Does like to hide fawns in thick underbrush or in dense grassy fields.
Photo Credit: DNR

Once found, fawns are fitted with expandable radio collars that will monitor survival during their first year of life. The collars are designed to expand as the deer grows and eventually drop off around its first birthday. This will be the first fawn capture of the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study, which is part of Gov. Scott Walker's CWD initiative.

Anyone over the age of 12 may participate in fawn searches - those under the age of 18 must have an adult present during volunteer activities. Interested volunteers can sign through an online form or via telephone at 608-935-1940. Sessions will take place between May 18 and June 4, 2017.

People who would like to contribute to fawn searching efforts from the comfort of their own home are encouraged to notify DNR staff at 608-935-1940 if they see a fawn within the study area.

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Application period for County Deer Advisory Council membership opens June 1

MADISON -- Qualified applicants are encouraged to apply for County Deer Advisory Council seats. The application period for each county is open from June 1 to July 1, 2017.

Council members meet annually to review deer management data, gather public input from citizens and provide recommendations to the Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Board regarding deer management decisions in their county.

Council seats include representatives in the following areas of expertise: agriculture, forestry, tourism, transportation, hunting, land management and local government. Both hunters and non-hunters are encouraged to apply for vacancies, but applicants must have experience or involvement with at least one of these seven stakeholder categories. To learn more about the application process, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "CDAC."

"County Deer Advisory Councils are the future of Wisconsin's deer management," said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR CDAC coordinator. "We offer council members a great deal of responsibility in providing recommendations to manage deer in their county and they play an important role in shaping the annual deer seasons."

Councils were established in 2014 and continue to provide an excellent venue to develop county-specific deer population objective recommendations and guide deer herd management through permit issuance and season structure. To form these recommendations, councils review a variety of scientific metrics on deer herd trends, impacts to habitat and various human-deer interactions. The three year review of population objectives will occur this fall, likely in August or September.

Councils also meet each spring to review deer season results, winter severity, and other factors to determine future herd management needs. In January 2017, CDACs participated in the 5-year review of the department's Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan through the formation of recommendations to address CWD in Wisconsin. Councils reviewed public feedback on proposed revisions and submitted a final recommendation for the CWD Response Plan.

For more information regarding CDACs and deer herd management in Wisconsin, or to see if you qualify, search keyword "CDAC" or contact DNRCDACWebMail@Wisconsin.gov.

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Lake Michigan stakeholder meetings set to discuss next steps in fisheries management

MILWAUKEE -- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is again seeking participation from Lake Michigan anglers and other interested stakeholders to discuss the latest trends in the fishery and lay the groundwork for management decisions for 2018.

Public information meetings will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on June 7 in Room 3080 at the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, 600 E. Greenfield Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53204 and on June 8 in the Lake Michigan Conference Room at Lakeshore Technical College, 1290 North Ave, Cleveland, WI 53015.

Todd Kalish, DNR deputy fisheries bureau director, said the meetings will highlight a number of actions DNR has taken in the past year, provide information about the current state of the fishery and allow for the exchange of ideas as stakeholders provide comments and suggestions about future management actions.

"Working closely with our stakeholders, we've made tremendous strides in our management including efforts to improve the early survival of stocked fish and a new rule expanding recreational lake trout harvest opportunities," Kalish said. "In addition, we are excited about efforts to create extended nearshore angling opportunities with the first batch of Skamania steelhead to be reared in the state hatchery system since 2008. We look forward to the continued exchange of information at these upcoming stakeholder meetings to help guide us moving forward."

Recently hatched Skamania strain steelhead swim in their temporary home at the Kettle Moraine Springs State Fish Hatchery.
Recently hatched Skamania strain steelhead swim in their temporary home at the Kettle Moraine Springs State Fish Hatchery.
Photo Credit: DNR

Presentations will include recent findings of the Lake Michigan Committee, the multistate collaborative charged with aggregating and assessing Lake Michigan fishery data. Among the details:

The Lake Michigan Committee continues to improve its predator-prey ratio model and one of the latest series of calculations appears to show increasing fluctuations in the ratio as well as in auxiliary indicators such as the weight of age 3-plus chinook females, Kalish said.

"Based on all of this information, it's clear that we need to weigh future management decisions very thoroughly," Kalish said. "We look forward to working with our stakeholders in the months ahead to develop plans that continue to optimize the social, economic and biological dimensions of the Lake Michigan fishery."

To learn more, visit dnr.wi.gov and search "Fishing Lake Michigan." Background information including a copy of a presentation to stakeholders from 2016 can be found by visiting the DNR website and searching "Lake Michigan salmon and trout meetings."

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Raccoon young are out! Admire from afar

[EDITOR'S ADVISORY: DNR wildlife and conservation warden staff will conduct a phone news conference to take questions and discuss issues surrounding keeping wildlife wild. The news conference is Thursday, May 11, 2017, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Call in number: 1-855-947-8255. The  passcode is: 6967750#.]

MADISON -- State wildlife officials remind everyone the best way to enjoy views of Wisconsin's wildlife newborns is from a distance - and that includes the raccoon young known as kits.

People may see baby raccoons playing during daytime and mistakenly think they are abandoned.
People may see baby raccoons playing during daytime and mistakenly think they are abandoned.
Photo Credit: Jay Watson

Dianne Robinson, wildlife biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says people likely will see the raccoon kits but not their mother because although she is nearby she stays out of sight.

Robinson, who also leads the multi-agency Keep Wildlife Wild committee, says well-meaning people may discover raccoon kits playing during the daytime, and will take unneeded action when they mistakenly believe the kits are in trouble.

A raccoon kit's best chance for survival is with its mother, Robinson says.

"Mother raccoons will leave their kits alone near their den while she is searching for food. Raccoon moms care for and protect their young differently than human mothers," Robinson said. "It is normal for raccoon kits to be seen frolicking or heard vocalizing near their den unattended by mom. This is their way of building their strength and learning to survive. Watch and enjoy their antics from a distance."

Robinson says her best advice to spring callers concerned about raccoon kits is simple: "Watch from a distance. If they appear healthy, leave them alone."

What if a raccoon kit is truly in need of help?

"If you find a raccoon kit and it appears to be sick, cold, weak, injured or still has its eyes closed, then it may need help," Robinson said. "If you are truly concerned for the raccoon's well-being, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Do not touch or feed the raccoon. Even young raccoons have sharp teeth and claws. Remember, a healthy raccoon kit's best chance for survival is with its mother."

For more information, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "Keep Wildlife Wild" or view this baby mammal brochure. http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/documents/mammalkey.pdf

If a raccoon kit is injured or known to be orphaned, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator by visiting the DNR's website, dnr.wi.gov, and searching keyword rehab. If you require additional assistance, contact the DNR Call Center at 1-888-936-7463.

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Online Whooping crane chat takes flight at noon Thursday

MADISON - The public can learn more about whooping cranes and their long journey from the brink of extinction during a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources "Ask the Experts" chat at noon Thursday, May 11.


Spring migration is completing, the breeding season is underway and the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership is busy hatching eggs and monitoring nests across Wisconsin. Efforts are proceeding to again have a group of chicks raised in captivity by adult whooping cranes. Conservation biologists also are optimistic they will get more wild-raised chicks to fledging age.

The WCEP is a group of agencies, non-profit organizations and individuals formed to restore a migratory population of whooping cranes to eastern North America. During the live chat Thursday, experts will be on hand from Wisconsin DNR, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Operation Migration and the International Crane Foundation

Through the efforts of WCEP, there are now 104 whooping cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population. Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, there are only about 600 birds in existence, approximately 445 of them in the wild. Aside from the 104 Eastern Migratory Population birds, the only other migratory population of whooping cranes nests at Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta, Canada, and winters at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Gulf Coast. A non-migratory flock of approximately 12 birds lives year-round in the central Florida Kissimmee region, and an additional 58 non-migratory cranes live in southern Louisiana.

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Contact information

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