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In early October, a friend and I journeyed to the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage (see Tune-in to the Turtle Flambeau June 1997) "voluntary quiet area" for a short canoeing/camping trip to enjoy the fall colors. It is a beautiful resource that the entire state has reason to be proud of and, overall, we had a great time.
On our second day, we decided to take a short paddle prior to sundown. As we left a small bay, we noticed a group of decoys about 75 yards to our left. At the same time, a small flock of geese also noticed the decoys and started to land. Seeing us, all but one of the geese veered away. The other goose was winged by a hunter and fell to the water between us and the hunters, making their second shot very dangerous. Fortunately, they decided to withhold their shot. We are unsure if they ever found the wounded goose.
We continued our paddle, staying clear of these hunters, as much as possible. However, out of apparent anger or frustration, one of the hunters fired a shot directly over our heads. It was disheartening for us to watch small flocks of geese careen and serve as "pinballs" zigzagging between the groups of hunters.
I support the rights of hunters as I have hunted. However, our canoe trip through areas where hunting is allowed seemed clearly incompatible and dangerous. Given the number of lakes and rivers in the state, it would seem that these few small acres could be enforced quiet areas with no hunting or speeding motorboats.
Clearly, we don't condone a hunter who expresses frustration with gunfire. That is unwise, unsafe and is a rare occurrence. We consider hunting as equally-acceptable recreation, even in the voluntary quiet area. The hunting seasons are relatively short and, as your experience demonstrated, hunters and canoeists regularly share resources without incident. Tempers just flared.
The quiet area was envisioned as a part of the flowage where campers and canoeists could stay out of earshot of Jet Skis, outboard motors, boomboxes and chain saws. We expect people to honor the solitude that visitors are seeking. The quiet is maintained on a voluntary basis for several reasons: the costs of constant boat patrols in the vast flowage are prohibitive and we want to preserve quality outdoor experiences without seeming heavy-handed. Furthermore, DNR has no authority to formally restrict motorboat traffic in the area – that's a local matter that can be resolved through local ordinances if the community deems it is warranted. For the most part, the voluntary quiet area is respected by visitors, as you noted.
I love reading about all the unique features of Wisconsin, even the little things that your magazine points out. BUT, in the October article about grouse hunting, you carried a very surprising photograph. It appears that the two shotguns are leaning against a tree that has fallen over. It's unsafe and illegal to lean any firearm against trees, logs, fences, etc. We must practice what we preach, especially when leaving impressions for young hunters.
It is NEVER safe to lean a loaded firearm against a log or fence where the firearm might slip and discharge. We composed our still life of unloaded shotguns to make the point that experience and practice is more important to successful grouse hunting than fancy equipment.
After reading the October story Faith in the ABC's of EE I wanted to describe our environmental education curriculum in Kaukauna.
Ron VanderVelden started the environmental science program at the high school in the late 70's. It has blossomed into three successive courses in which more than 450 students elect to enroll each year. Freshmen are offered "You-in-Nature" which focuses on how individuals and nature interact. A progression of topics explore weather, photosynthesis, plants and fungi, edible wild foods, orienteering, deer habits, wolf ecology and radiotelemetry. The course gets rave reviews.
In "Ecology," students discuss food chains, food webs, world biomes, water quality, local Fox River history and carrying capacity. Each segment focuses on critical thinking skills and analysis.
The final course. "Environmental Action," prepares students for community involvement. Students are introduced to Aldo Leopold's writings and put their training to work. Groups select local projects based on requests from the City Council and local businesses. They conduct research, develop a plan, meet with community groups and carry out the revised plans. Past projects have included landscaping a closed landfill, producing eagle information on local populations, and creating a four-mile recreation trail. All courses include field trips ranging from jaunts to the local woods to tours of the sewage treatment plant, to day trips to different ecosystems and a weekend backpacking trip.
Educators hold class discussions of their own trips including polar bear expeditions, moose-wolf studies on Isle Royale, mountain and Grand Canyon ecology and the like. We've also offered summer trips for students to the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, snorkeling trips to the Bahamas and a tramp through Panamanian forests.
I feel fortunate to help teach these courses in this school district. Environmental Education is teaching the interactions among all living and nonliving things on the planet.
I found a whole bunch of your magazines at a half-price book store at a good price. I put them on the book shelf in my second grade classroom. The kids really like them – at least for all the nice pictures. It's a fun learning resource and we sometimes talk about the stories.
The goose population seems to increase yearly in the Brookfield area. Many are seen now year-round in parks, on school grounds, on golf courses and recently on the grounds of a nearby church. They are commonly sighted on streets, parking lots and driveways. Back in the mid-1980s we only saw geese overhead migrating each fall and spring.
I wonder if the large quantity of droppings will lead to a health hazard. What is the Department of Natural Resources' position on this situation and why is the goose population increasing so dramatically?
Some of the geese you are seeing are resident flocks of Giant Canada geese (Branta canadensis maxima). Geese are grazers that can survive nicely on a diet of bugs and grasses, including lawn turf. As long as the geese are not harassed and have access to food, water and cover, they will remain in an area.
Many urban areas now have resident flocks of geese that breed and succeed in inhabiting parks, public ponds and on golf courses. Communities can develop programs with the Dept. of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to control urban goose populations by using repellents, noisemakers and other techniques to dissuade goose concentrations. We will discuss emerging strategies from an Urban Waterfowl Task Force in a future issue.
Goose droppings are more of a health hazard to other waterfowl than people. The droppings can contain infectious organisms that cause outbreaks of avian botulism or duck plague when waterfowl concentrate in small areas. If geese linger near public beaches, high bacterial loading and the condition swimmer's itch can increase as geese feces are washed into the warm nearshore waters. Individuals and communities who want help curtailing nuisance geese flocks are advised to contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff at 1-800-433-0688.
Our June 1996 issue described efforts to control invasive, nonnative plants. The Wisconsin Conservation Corps and Fond du Lac County Parks and Planning members joined DNR crews to pull buckthorn and box elder along the Wild Goose Trail stretching from Dodge County into Fond du Lac.
The prairie was being encroached by woody shrubs, said DNR Wildlife Manager Maureen Rowe. "The prairie plants are so important for neotropical grassland birds," Rowe said. Bird species wintering in Central and South America are "losing habitat not only in their wintering grounds, but on their summer nesting sites in Wisconsin."
Prairie renovation will help stands of Sullivant's milkweed, big bluestem, little bluestem and Indian grass recover adjoining the recreational trail.
Our April 1997 piece on the Kickapoo Reserve and our August 1993 piece on Native American rock art discussed the wealth of historic cultural sites in southwestern Wisconsin. Another rock art site discovered in La Crosse County has recently been added to the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Bell Coulee Rock Shelter, near La Crosse contains more than 70 petroglyphs and pictographs in a 30-foot by 15-foot shelter. The site has been purchased by Archaeology Conservation to preserve its features and discourage vandalism that has destroyed other sites.
Our February 1996 feature on captive wildlife described the importance of fencing and health inspections to reduce the chance of disease transmission among wild animals, domestic herds and people. State veterinarians isolated and destroyed 17 elk from two captive herds in Manitowoc County where some animals tested positive for bovine tuberculosis. The disease can be spread to cattle, horses, sheep, pigs and transmitted to people. Agriculture officials were testing nearby cattle herds and DNR technicians were trapping and testing deer, raccoons, opossums and coyotes in the surrounding area to determine spread and containment of the contagious disease.