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We enjoyed every page of the April issue, especially the droll and poetic message from Justin Isherwood. The photography, sketches and brilliant variety sure give Wisconsin a good send-off for this Virginia transplant and summer resident in Wisconsin.
Thank-you for Mud-Struck by Justin Isherwood. It was a perfect greeting for spring in Wisconsin.
Shelley M. Johns
Editor's note: Isherwood fans will want to look for his new book, Book of Plough: Essays on the Virtue of Farm, Family and the Rural Life, published by Lost River Press, Inc.
Opening Shooting Ranges
You have carried articles about sporting clays and shooting ranges. Our small group is looking into opening a facility dedicated to shooting sports, primarily upland bird hunting with any combination of trap, skeet and sporting clays.
Can you tell us which departments or agencies issue licenses or permits for such facilities? Who can help provide wildlife and habitat management plans for such operations?
Robert Allen Borchers
No state permits or licenses are required to establish a shooting range. However, conditional use permits are typically required by local government (county and village or township) before such facilities can be established. Permits address safety and noise concerns as well as local zoning ordinances.
The Department of Natural Resources offers financial assistance to establish such facilities if the owners/developers are willing to grant a 20-year lease to allow hunter safety programs to train hunters at the facility and if the facilities are open to the public during the range's normal hours of operation. The Department of Natural Resources annually receives $100,000 to build or improve such facilities statewide that agree to these conditions. Typically 60-70 of the more than 600 ranges in the state vie for portions of these funds. For more information on this funding, write Tim Lawhern, DNR Hunter Safety Coordinator, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.
Wildlife habitat plans for such properties can be discussed with the DNR wildlife manager responsible for services in the county in which the facility would be located. Contact our Bureau of Wildlife Management at the same address (P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707) to learn who might help you develop such a plan.
More On Wolves
We enjoy many interesting and educational articles in the magazine, especially recent ones about wolves and Wisconsin license plates. It would be very nice to come up with a special plate or decal for out-of-state wolf lovers. A nominal fee could be charged with a portion of the money going to wolf protection.
Your donations to the Endangered Resources Fund would be most welcome. Direct them the Bureau of Endangered Resources, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707. The idea of decals or static stickers might interest a lot of endangered species enthusiasts.
A Diet of Songbirds
We notice several recent stories and letters about hawks and hawk recovery. Not everybody likes them. I believe hawks have destroyed the small bird population in our area. I used to feed more than 100 pounds of seed to birds through the winter months. Now, we don't even use 20 pounds of seed in the winter.
Lots of causes could explain why you are seeing fewer birds at your feeder. Bird populations may be dropping, the site may be more exposed to predators, they may not like the seed varieties or other people may be feeding birds more heavily. We will look at one unusual threat to songbirds in our December issue.
In Praise of Soil
I enjoy every article in the magazine, no matter the topic – big game, endangered species, wildflowers, water, amphibians and so forth all possess a certain beauty that make them attractive to a readership of all ages.
Wisconsin has another less glamorous resource that we need to publicize more often–healthy soil.
Wisconsin's economy is largely dependent on the wide variety of soils that blanket the state. We all have a responsibility to conserve and enhance healthy state soils by educating and informing residents and visitors about the uses, potential and limitations of soil.
Wisconsin has several soil inventories in progress. County surveys maintain project offices in Ashland, Spooner, Rhinelander and Ladysmith. Projects in Richland Center and Eau Claire are updating old soil data and the Menonomee Indians have a special soil project.
Soil maps in any form are a powerful tool [in making land use decisions]. I'm sure there's a story here if one were to "dig a little."
Hodags and Frogs
I was extraordinarily pleased that Dreux Watermolen's fine article on amphibians (April 1996) has finally set the record straight on the mysterious and untimely demise of the Calaveras County jumping frog. Certain West Coast herpetological authorities have repeatedly and erroneously attributed the destruction of these noble creatures to a population of Wisconsin hodags accidentally introduced to California via a boxcar of Rhinelander beer. I hope the facts presented by Mr. Watermolen will put this unfounded, pernicious rumor to rest for once and all.
David J. Cooper
No kidding folks. There really was a strain of long-legged hoppers in Calaveras County and transplanted bullfrogs displaced the frogs that were not eaten.
Disappearing Toad Trick
The article on amphibians in the April issue reminded me of an observation from a few years ago. I was working to remove the stump of an old oak that had been toppled by the big storm of '89 that blew through our place on Axehandle Lake in Chippewa County.
I was removing the soil from around the topmost roots when a toad came toppling out of the log and landed on a pile of loose dirt near the base of the stump. Instead of hopping away and maybe because of its surprise, it just sat there with what looked like no intent to move.
As a nature lover, I began to consider my options to remove the toad. While I was standing there thinking, I couldn't help but notice that the toad was sinking very, very slowly into the loose soil with almost no perceptible movement of its body or limbs. I can't recall how long it took, but I watched that toad sink deeper and deeper until finally there was no sign or evidence that the toad had ever been there.
I wonder if this is a common activity for toads and if it is related to the search for food, egg-laying or hibernation.
Delmar A. Halfmann
Dreux Watermolen responds: The activity you describe is a common defense toads use to avoid predation and escape the summer heat. The toad was likely burrowing in with its back feet, but this was difficult to see from your vantage point. As the toad nestles into the soil, its cryptic coloration helps it "disappear" from danger.
Biologists attending a midwestern symposium on cold-blooded animals in Milwaukee on March 30th heard new explanations of why amphibian populations may be declining. Michael Lannoo, Ball State University, told colleagues that development trends which isolate wetlands by surrounding them with housing developments and farms creates barriers for migrating amphibians. If frogs, toads and salamanders can't readily migrate from one wetland to another, they don't reproduce. Lannoo said "the problem is the greatest in the upper Midwest where wetlands appear at potholes in the landscape, rather than in the South where wetlands are usually associated with rivers."(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
University of Wisconsin studies verify this trend. Laura Tate, graduate student at the Institute for Environmental Studies, studied how habitat fragmentation reduced spring peeper populations. Wetland size was much less important than the distance from wetlands to the nearest woods. Peepers sang in 60 percent of the wetlands in contact with woods but only about a third of the wetlands that were one to 175 yards from woods. No wetlands more than 175 yards from a woods contained spring peepers.
Frogs dry out easily and hot, dry conditions quickly kill them, noted UW-Madison Wildlife Ecologist Stan Temple. "When you put a hot, dry area in between these habitats, at some critical distance, the frog can't survive the annual migration." Temple said. (UW-Madison Ag and Consumer Press Service)