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Weekly News Published - September 16, 2014 by the Central Office

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Preliminary wild turkey, pheasant, ruffed grouse and gray partridge brood survey results now available for 2014

MADISON - According to preliminary 2014 brood survey results, Wisconsin's wild turkeys saw an increase in both the number and size of broods observed. Pheasant brood numbers have increased compared to last year, while ruffed grouse production was down in several regions.

State wildlife officials say an increase for both wild turkey and pheasant broods is encouraging -- wildlife in many areas of the state experienced a relatively severe winter with low temperatures, increased snowfall, and a slightly later-than-normal spring green-up.

"Brood production surveys for these species were conducted by Department of Natural Resources field personnel during the months of June, July and August as they went about their normal work duties," said Brian Dhuey, DNR wildlife survey coordinator. "These data are still preliminary and may change, but they can be used as an index to production and will help provide a forecast for fall hunting prospects."

Brood rearing conditions mixed, but favorable on the whole

Wisconsin's brood-rearing conditions in 2014 were average for temperature, with much of the state seeing average or slightly below-average temperatures for the months of June and July and average temperatures for August. Above-average precipitation was normal for much of Wisconsin in June, with the state average at 2.53 inches above normal. Precipitation levels returned to normal or below-normal in July and August in the southern parts of the state, but remained at average or above-average levels in the northwest.

Weather conditions in early June are critical for turkey, pheasant and grouse broods, as this is when recently-hatched chicks are most susceptible to hypothermia if they get wet. Large rainfall events in much of Wisconsin may have affected brood survival during the month of June, but weather conditions during July and August were excellent for brood-rearing and survival.

Turkey

Three out of five DNR regions showed a decrease in turkey observation rates compared to last year. The largest changes occurred in the south-central, western and southeast regions, with decreases of 30 percent, 14 percent and 4 percent, respectively. The northeast region saw a 73 percent increase, while the northern region experienced a 12 percent boost. The statewide turkey observation rate was 22 percent above the long-term average. The average brood-size documented in 2014 was 4.5 young per brood, up from 4.2 in 2013.

"In 2014, wild turkeys were a real bright spot in Wisconsin, with an overall 22 percent increase in the number of broods seen per observer-hour and an increase in the size of the broods seen compared to 2013," said Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist. "Despite a long and hard winter and late spring, the department received many reports of turkeys having broods with small chicks late in the brood observation period - an indication of successful late nesting or re-nesting."

Pheasant

Compared to 2013, the number of pheasant broods seen per observer-hour saw a 32 percent increase in 2014. Pheasant production saw a 4 percent decline in the primary pheasant range, but experienced a 108 percent increase in the secondary pheasant range from 2013 levels. Pheasant brood size was down, with an average of 4.7 young per brood in 2014 versus 5.2 in 2013.

"While pheasant brood numbers rebounded in 2014, overall breeding numbers have been declining for the past several years," said Dhuey. "This decline was likely impacted by a significant loss of grassland habitat; overall, pheasant numbers are down from the highs experienced in the 1990s."

Ruffed grouse

Statewide, ruffed grouse broods seen per observer-hour were down 10 percent compared to 2013 levels. Ruffed grouse production saw an increase of 56 percent in the southwestern region of the state, but dropped in the remaining two regions comprising the primary ruffed grouse range, with decreases of 59 percent and two percent in the central and northern regions, respectively.

Ruffed grouse brood size rose slightly from 3.8 young per brood in 2013 to 4.0 in 2014.

"While some areas of the primary ruffed grouse range will be better than others, it appears that ruffed grouse numbers will be no better than last year and well below their cyclic high experienced a few years ago," said Walter. "We anticipated a continued population decline as grouse progress through their nine to 11-year population cycle, so these numbers are not unexpected. The grouse population should reach its cyclic low within the next couple of years before beginning its climb back to the top."

Gray partridge

No gray partridge broods were seen in 2014, the same as in 2013. While pockets of gray partridge still exist around their historic range, they are well below the noted highs that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, and no longer occur at levels that are detectable by this survey.

Please note that all survey results are preliminary and subject to change upon the collection of further data and additional analysis.

Those interested in hunting on DNR managed lands and discovering new favorite spots are reminded to check out the department's new FFLIGHT tool. FFLIGHT helps hunters of all types locate young aspen and alder habitat, pheasant-stocked public hunting grounds and managed dove fields.

Features available within FFLIGHT will help hunters locate DNR public parking areas, overlay township descriptions and view topographic maps or aerial photos of prospective hunting areas. Each user can choose which type of habitat to highlight - for example, FFLIGHT can help you find the best grouse cover in the woods near your cabin.

The FFLIGHT mapping application is compatible with all major desktop and mobile web browsers (internet access is required). To learn more and start your search for hunting land, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "FFLIGHT."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Dhuey, DNR wildlife survey coordinator, 608-221-6342; Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, at 608-267-7861

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Whitefish Dunes State Park naturalist honored for work on Lake Michigan shipwrecks

MADISON - A 15-year effort to protect Lake Michigan shipwrecks off Whitefish Dunes State Park and to help connect park visitors with the maritime heritage of the Door Peninsula has earned park naturalist Carolyn Rock the State Historical Society's 2014 Historical Preservation Award (exit DNR).

This award recognizes the best work in protecting a threatened historic property in Wisconsin.

"We are extremely proud of Carolyn's work at Whitefish Dunes and her personal commitment to preserving these artifacts and introducing our park visitors to this fascinating part of Door County's and Wisconsin's history," said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "The recognition by the State Historical Society of Carolyn's work is truly a well-deserved honor."

Among Rock's efforts are rescuing pieces of the 13 known shipwrecks of Whitefish Bay as various bits wash up upon the beach and assembling the fragments for a summertime "junior underwater archaeologist" education program. Participating children learn about the shipwrecks of the Bay and ship terminology from the pieces of wood laid out on the beach before them.

Whitefish Dunes shipwreck
Carolyn Rock (kneeling lower left) assembles fragments of various shipwrecks that wash up on the beach at Whitefish Dunes State Park for a summertime "junior underwater archaeologist" education program.
WDNR Photo

In 2011 Rock hosted a Great Lakes Maritime Transportation Teacher Institute, a conference where she taught methods of scale drawing with the shipwreck elements. In 2009, she arranged to take in two illegally salvaged ship's anchors that were brought up during dredging activities in Sturgeon Bay, giving them a permanent home for public display. Again in 2013, she came to the rescue and provided a home for an entire ship's stern with gudgeon that was turned over to Society archaeologists in Ephraim.

Starting in 2011, with the support of the Friends of Whitefish Dunes State Park (exit DNR) and a volunteer with welding expertise, Rock began assembling a permanent outdoor shipwreck exhibit with the rescued pieces near the park's picnic shelter. The exhibit called "Shipwrecks: When Wood and Metal Tell Stories" has interpretive signage, which was funded through independently raised funds from the Raibrook Foundation and a Natural Resource Stewardship grant.

Rock was also instrumental in establishing the partnership between the Society's Maritime program and all five of Wisconsin State Parks located in Door County (also including Potawatomi, Peninsula, Newport, Rock Island). Four of the parks exhibit one or more Maritime Trails Markers and all five parks participate in the Maritime Geocaching program. Geocaching is a treasure hunt where people use hand-held Global Positioning System devices to guide participants on a tour of historically important places in Wisconsin's maritime past. The tour culminates in finding a hidden container or "cache," and then logging the experience online at Geocaching.com.

WDSP_Geocache
Carolyn Rock with one of the 13 maritime geocaches located all over Door County.
WDNR Photo

Rock maintains the society's 13 maritime geocaches located all over Door County and conducts maintenance on her own time so this alternative learning initiative can continue. Additionally, she wrote and published a booklet "Maritime Geocaching in Door County" that is distributed at the State Parks.

During a 2012 survey of the wooden bulk carrier Australasia, Rock set up a spotting telescope on the beach at the park, established marine radio contact with the Society's boat to put beach goers in direct contact with the archaeologists on site -a program she called "Ask Diver Paul," allowing the public to ask questions and learn about the resource immediately off shore.

"Without the efforts of Carolyn Rock, many of the partnerships that are the keystone to the Maritime Trails initiative would not be as strongly established. She has proven herself a long-time supporter of many of the Society's outreach programs, as well as efforts to document Wisconsin's shipwrecks and tell their stories," her nomination for the award noted.

The award will be presented to Rock at a ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17 in Room G09 of the State Natural Resources Building, 101 S. Webster St., Madison.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Sherry Wise, chief naturalist, 715-365-8966 or Paul Holtan, state parks public affairs, 608-267-7517

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The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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Last Revised: Tuesday, September 16, 2014