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Weekly News Published - March 13, 2018 by the Central Office


First managed elk hunt in Wisconsin history is result of over 22 years of conservation efforts by DNR staff and partners

MADISON -- Following more than 22 years of elk management and reintroduction efforts, 2018 will mark Wisconsin's first managed elk hunt in state history.

"This is an incredible conservation success story for Wisconsin," said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Dan Meyer. "Thanks to the efforts of so many great organizations and individuals, the northern elk herd has continued to grow to the point where we can offer this very special and long-awaited hunting opportunity."

Following more than 22 years of elk management and reintroduction efforts, 2018 will mark Wisconsin's first managed elk hunt in state history.

The area of the planned hunt is within the Clam Lake elk range of Sawyer, Bayfield, Ashland, and Price counties in far north-central Wisconsin. Original restoration efforts occurred within this range with the release of 25 elk from Michigan in 1995. This northern herd is projected to reach a population level of over 200 animals this year, including a high proportion of bulls.

"It is important to note that the areas where Kentucky elk were released in Jackson County and the Flambeau River State Forest will not be included in this hunt," said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR deer and elk ecologist. "This hunt concentrates on elk born here in Wisconsin over the past two decades - we do not wish to take Kentucky elk, many of which are cows and may not be harvested."

Ten tags will be made available for a bull-only hunt in Fall 2018. Four tags will be awarded to Wisconsin residents through a random drawing. One additional tag will be awarded to a Wisconsin resident through a raffle conducted by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Consistent with federal court rulings, the elk harvest quota is being shared equitably with the six Wisconsin Chippewa tribes.

"We look forward to the opportunity for Chippewa members and state hunters to have a harvest season" stated Chris McGeshick, Chairman of the Sokaogon Chippewa Community. "We continue to support this effort and look forward to seeing the herd grow, and sustaining future harvest opportunities for our state."

Interested hunters can apply, however, only Wisconsin residents are eligible to purchase an elk tag. The application fee is $10 and applications will be available starting May 1 through the Go WILD system at Prior to receiving their carcass tag, all drawing winners will be required to complete an elk hunter education course prior to the start of the season," Wallenfang says. "Revenue from the elk tag application process will provide important funds to support elk habitat management, research and monitoring here in Wisconsin as the herd continues to grow."

The elk harvest quota for 2018 was determined by the department's Elk Advisory Committee, which, in addition to DNR biologists and researchers, includes representation from the following:

"Our volunteers and members have been looking forward to this moment for a long time, and a hunt will show the success of the reintroduction effort to a lot of people," said Kurt Flack, Regional Director for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which has invested over $1.6 million dollars on elk reintroduction and other conservation efforts in Wisconsin. "We are excited to play a role in the hunt and continue to raise money for Wisconsin elk management."

Flack said that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation elk tag raffle tickets are expected to be available for purchase by May. Those interested in purchasing raffle tickets may do so by going to (exit DNR).

Pittman-Robertson funding has been integral to elk restoration efforts in Wisconsin since the very beginning, helping to fund elk management, research, and monitoring. This funding source is and will continue to be critical, and is supplemented by private donations from several partner groups that paid for the most recent translocation efforts from Kentucky.

Wisconsin's inaugural elk hunting season will adhere to the following guidelines:

Translocation efforts will continue in 2019 through partnership with Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources

Wisconsin DNR has one year remaining in an agreement with Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to bring additional elk to Wisconsin - July 2017 marked the third year of the partnership and additional elk are planned to be released in the Flambeau River State Forest in 2019.

For more information regarding elk in Wisconsin, go to and search keyword "elk." To receive email updates regarding current translocation efforts, 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 "elk in Wisconsin" and "wildlife projects" distribution lists.



Bonus spring turkey harvest authorization go on sale March 19

MADISON -- Bonus turkey harvest authorizations (previously known as leftover permits) will go on sale the week of March 19 with each zone having a designated sales date. Bonus harvest authorizations can be purchased online through GoWild.Wi.Gov and at all license agents. Sales start at 10 a.m. and run until midnight each day.

The following zones have available bonus harvest authorizations, and scheduled sales dates are as follows:

Bonus harvest authorizations cost $10 for residents and $15 for non-residents - each will have equal opportunity for purchase. All spring turkey hunters are required to purchase a spring turkey license and 2018 Wild Turkey Stamp, unless they are a 2018 Conservation Patron License holder. Bonus harvest authorization purchases will not affect preference point status for future spring drawings.

There are 106,078 turkey bonus harvest authorizations for sale for the spring season that opens April 18. - Photo credit: DNR
There are 106,078 turkey bonus harvest authorizations available for turkey hunters wanting to take to the woods for the spring season that opens April 18.Photo credit: DNR

During the sale of the spring bonus harvest authorizations, the system will use an online queue to assign random numbers at 10 a.m. to customers who enter the site between 9:45 and 10 a.m. There is no advantage to entering the site prior to 9:45 a.m. Customers who enter after 10 a.m. will be added to the line in order of arrival.

Once you log in to your personalized dashboard on GoWild.Wi.Gov, click the 'Buy License' button to open the catalog. From there, you will find "Spring Turkey Bonus Harvest Authorization" at the top of the list.

Bob Peterson of Marinette with a tom turkey harvested in Shawano County. - Photo credit: DNR
Bob Peterson of Marinette with a tom turkey harvested in Shawano County.Photo credit: Ed Culhane, DNR

Bonus turkey harvest authorizations can be purchased at a rate of one per day until the zone and time period is sold out, or the season closes. If the harvest authorizations for a zone sell out during the designated day, online users will be sent directly to the Go Wild home page for the remainder of that day.

DNR customer service staff recommends that turkey hunters who are interested in purchasing a Conservation Patron license do so prior to March 19 to make the bonus harvest authorization process as quick and easy as possible. In 2017, several enhancements have been made to the GoWild.Wi.Gov site to allow license purchases with fewer "clicks" and speed the rate at which customers will be able to transact business.

There are 106,078 spring turkey bonus harvest authorizations for sale in six of the seven turkey management zones. Hunters are encouraged to check the turkey zone map [PDF] and the department's spring turkey bonus harvest authorization availability to see if harvest authorizations are available for the time period and turkey zone in which they want to hunt.

After zone-specific sales, all remaining turkey harvest authorizations will be made available for purchase Saturday, March 24 at 10 a.m.

Spring turkey periods run for seven days

The 2018 spring turkey season will run from April 18 through May 29, with six seven-day periods running Wednesday through the following Tuesday. A total of seven zones will be open for hunting. For more information regarding turkey hunting in Wisconsin, search the DNR website,, for keyword "turkey."

"Turkey production was up last year and we are anticipating another great spring turkey season in Wisconsin" said Mark Witecha, DNR upland wildlife ecologist. "I encourage turkey hunters to look at the regulations ahead of the season, and I wish everyone a safe and happy hunt!"

Spring turkey hunting regulations can be found within the 2017 Small Game Hunting Regulations, 2017 Fall Turkey Regulations, and 2018 Spring Turkey Regulations. [PDF]

Public lands are the perfect place to pursue turkeys this spring.

Youth turkey hunt set for April 14-15

Youth hunters under the age of 16 may hunt during the youth turkey hunt on April 14 and 15. Hunters under the age of 12 and youth hunters without hunter safety can participate in the youth turkey hunt under Mentored Hunting Program. Youth hunters must be accompanied by qualified adult and follow the youth turkey hunting and mentored hunting program rules. Spring turkey youth hunters must possess a valid spring turkey license, stamp and harvest authorization. A harvest authorization for any time period can be used during the youth hunt weekend, but youth hunters must hunt within the turkey management zone indicated on their harvest authorization.



VHS found in gizzard shad in Port Washington Harbor fish kill

Boaters and anglers urged to help stop the spread

MADISON - Test results have confirmed that VHS as well as one other pathogen was found associated with a late January fish kill of gizzard shad in Port Washington Harbor, according to state fish health experts. DNR officials have also looked into a report of gizzard shad mortalities in the Menomonee River (Milwaukee). Samples were collected and sent for testing. The testing period takes approximately 28 days. We will have further updates once test results have been received for the Menomonee River fish.

VHS has been confirmed in gizzard shad tested after a late January fishkill in Port Washington Harbor on Lake Michigan.  - Photo credit: Danielle Godard
VHS has been confirmed in gizzard shad tested after a late January fishkill in Port Washington Harbor on Lake Michigan. Photo credit: Danielle Godard

VHS, or viral hemorrhagic septicemia, is a virus deadly to fish and has been present in Lake Michigan for more than a decade. In addition to VHS, Enteric Redmouth was found to be associated with the Port Washington fish kill. While the potential for the transmission of Enteric Redmouth to humans is unclear, VHS is not known to be a threat to human health and safety, says DNR Fisheries Veterinarian Danielle Godard.

The test results have been reported to the necessary health authorities under protocols for handling incidents of the infectious and fatal fish disease.

Godard and other DNR fisheries officials call on anglers and others on Wisconsin waters to be vigilant in taking required precautions to avoid spreading the VHS virus to inland lakes and rivers. VHS is not a threat to people who handle infected fish or want to eat their catch, but it is threat to more than 25 freshwater fish species in Wisconsin, including musky, walleye, yellow perch and northern pike.

"This is a reminder that VHS is still present and a threat," Godard says. "It's very important that anglers and everyone else on the water do their part by not moving water or live fish away from waterbodies."

Previously, VHS was most recently confirmed in Wisconsin in 2017 in a private Fond du Lac County lake close to Lake Winnebago, Godard says.

Viral hemorrhagic septicemia was first diagnosed in the Great Lakes as the cause of large fish kills in lakes Huron, St. Clair, Erie, Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River in 2005 and 2006. The virus was first discovered in Wisconsin waters in Lake Winnebago in 2006.

Wisconsin test results from 2006 to 2012 show that the virus has been detected in fish from the Lake Winnebago system, Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Green Bay but it hasn't spread more widely in Wisconsin, as originally feared.

VHS Chronology in Wisconsin

To keep Wisconsin's inland lakes and rivers VHS free, all boaters and anglers must follow simple precautions to prevent the spread of the virus and other invasive species. Those steps include:



Construction to begin on expanded trail system, pedestrian-bicycle bridged in NH-AL State Forest

MANITOWISH WATERS, Wis. - Visitors to the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest will be able to bike and hike an expanded trail system through the forest thanks to a donation that will add trails to the popular Heart of Vilas County Bike Trail System.

A new trail segment in the Heart of Vilas County Bike Trail system will connect this existing trail running from Boulder Junction to Manitowish Waters with a recently completed trail  - Photo credit: DNR
A new trail segment and bridge over the Manitowish River in the Heart of Vilas County Bike Trail system will connect this existing trail running from Boulder Junction to Manitowish Waters with a recently completed trail constructed by the Town of Mercer in Iron County to the north.Photo credit: DNR

The State Natural Resources Board in January approved a proposal and a donation of time and materials worth approximately $1.15 million from Manitowish Waters Bike Trail Inc. for the cost of construction of the new trail, which will add approximately 4 miles of new paved bike trails, including a bridge over the Manitowish River.

Currently, the Heart of Vilas Bike Trail system includes more than 45 miles of paved trails that connect St. Germain, Sayner, Boulder Junction and Manitowish Waters, portions of which wind through the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. About 3 miles of the new trail will go through state forest property.

The new trail will connect to a segment recently constructed by the Town of Mercer in Iron County to the north, expanding the overall Heart of Vilas network significantly. This donation will also provide a side loop connection to amenities such as restrooms, parking, and a bicycle repair station at the Manitowish Waters Chamber of Commerce building.

"This donation will provide additional recreational opportunities and connect a new municipality into the Heart of Vilas Bike Trail system," said Sara Pearson, the new NH-AL recreation superintendent. "The overall trail system is very popular and is supported by local municipalities and partners."

The Department of Natural Resources held a public hearing on the water permit for the proposed bridge Jan. 29 and accepted comments through Feb. 8. After environmental reviews for wetlands and rare species, and review of public comments, department staff made a determination on Feb. 28 that the permit for the bridge should be approved with conditions to protect water quality and habitat. Expansion of the trail system had previously been approved in a 2017 amendment to the forest's master plan.

The overall project will comply with all necessary permitting and construction codes. As part of the bridge permitting requirements, the bridge location had to be moved closer to State Highway 51 to comply with a recent Vilas County zoning ordinance for the Rest Lake Dam floodplain along the Manitowish River corridor. The bridge will be located west of Highway 51 upstream from Benson Lake.

Construction is expected to begin in the mid-March in order to comply with permit restrictions to minimize incidental site impacts.

Manitowish Waters Bike Trail Incorporated will be responsible for all future maintenance and operation of the trail, which will be open to the general public for hiking and biking.



MacKenzie Center's Annual Maple Festival April 7

POYNETTE, Wis. -Maple Festival, a fun-filled, educational event for families is scheduled for Saturday, April 7 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the MacKenzie Center near Poynette.

Students participating in the Maple Education Program at the MacKenzie Center gather sap that will be used to make syrup for the center's Maple Fest April 7. - Photo credit: DNR
Students participating in the Maple Education Program at the MacKenzie Center gather sap that will be used to make syrup for the center's Maple Fest April 7.Photo credit: DNR

The event features: free guided tours of the sugarbush, demonstrations of how to tap a maple tree for sap and how to make syrup, interpretative talks about how some Native Americans and pioneers made maple sugar and syrup, as well as, current methods used in our own MacKenzie sugarbush. Visitors will get to explore the Ciporoke (pronounced Chee-poe-doe-kay) a typical spring home used by members of the Ho-Chunk Nation in historic sugar bushes.

Participants will have the opportunity to watch home-made ice cream being churned with an antique engine; listen to live, old-time, country music; and take a horse-drawn wagon ride. In addition, the wildlife exhibit, which includes animals native to Wisconsin, and the historic exhibits on property will be open.

A pancake breakfast, sponsored by Friends of MacKenzie, will be served from 8 a.m. until noon at the Main Lodge. The cost is $7 for those 12 years old and older, and $5 for ages 3 - 11. Refreshments, maple products, and souvenirs will be sold by the Friends of MacKenzie. The Friends will also draw the winners for their annual quilt raffle at 12, noon.

Important Times:

The MacKenzie Center is located two miles east of Poynette, WI on County Road CS/Q. Find us online at and search "MacKenzie." Maple Festival is hosted by the Friends of the MacKenzie Environmental Center and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.



Order seedlings now for spring 2018 planting

MADISON -- High-quality, native seedlings grown from local seed sources and seedlings that are ready for planting this spring are still available for landowners through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reforestation program.

"Every year, Wisconsin landowners plant millions of tree seedlings to enhance and restore forests," according to Joe Vande Hey, manager of the Wilson State Nursery in Boscobel. "When a landowner is thinking about what species of trees to plant, the first place to turn for advice is the local DNR office. Each county has a DNR forester available to visit landowner properties, answer questions, and help the landowner get the maximum benefits from their tree planting activities."

Visit, keyword "forestry assistance locator" to find the local DNR forester.

High-quality native seedlings available for spring planting. - Photo credit: DNR
High-quality native seedlings available for spring planting.Photo credit: DNR

The seedling application form [PDF] includes information about tree and shrub species that are available and directions on how to order. Landowners can utilize these seedlings for reforestation, wildlife habitat, and windbreaks and erosion control purposes. Customers who would like to select specific seedlings or shrubs must order a minimum quantity of 1,000 tree seedlings, 500 wildlife shrubs or build their own packet of a mix of 300 seedlings, usually good for landowners new to planting or those with small acreages.

Initial and steady demand depleted the state's nursery inventory however, an inventory of suitable species still exists. Hardwood tree species available include black cherry, swamp white oak and black walnut. Conifer tree species available include white spruce and jack pine. Wildlife shrubs available include chokecherry and American plum.

Species information and tips on how to prepare a site can also be found at, keyword "tree planting."

"Landowners contemplating tree planting projects should contact their local DNR forester, private consulting forester, or nursery staff for advice on species selection, site preparation, planting methods, cost-sharing programs, tree planter rentals and other considerations in establishing a successful forest tree planting," Vande Hey said.

Seedlings and shrubs are distributed in April and early May. Landowners can pick up their seedlings at the state nurseries located in Boscobel, Hayward or Wisconsin Rapids, or in many counties, at a central location designated by the local DNR forester.

Information on tree and shrub inventory is updated regularly and a "Frequently Asked Questions" page addresses common questions about tree planting.


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, March 13, 2018

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