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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

August 2004

Readers Write

Squirrels at Feeders
Slithering Actor
Trail Idea
Is it a Red Squirrel?
UPDATES: Sustainable Marketing, Following Perch Populations

Squirrels at Feeders

roundsq.jpg - 3419 BytesI would like to know how to get squirrels out of a bird feeder. I put in birdseed and the squirrels are eating it up. What do I do about it? Shoot them? Trap them? Put something in the seed to make the squirrels sick? Could you come down to my house on Friday morning about 10:15 a.m. and take a look?

Joe Dobrzynski

We had a cute and lengthy letter from this reader concerned about squirrels. Of course there are several strategies to dissuade squirrels at feeders, none of which involve lethal remedies. Poisoning tree squirrels is illegal and a bad idea as something might eat that carrion and get sick. You can buy "squirrel proof" feeders that close down seed access when a weighty squirrel tries to roost. You can buy baffles and shields that make it difficult for squirrels to reach seed. You can position feeders out of reach from trees, wires, porches and other access points that allow for squirrels to reach feeders. You can supply the squirrels with a different food source that they prefer to birdseed. You can also get publications from UW-Extension that explain habits and control strategies for both tree squirrels and ground squirrels.

Slithering Actor

Last year I saw an unusual snake in our yard. I ordered the DNR pamphlet, "Snakes of Wisconsin" but there isn't anything like this snake described. Our neighbor called it a "blow snake." Is it native to Douglas County and is it nonpoisonous?

Carolyn Humeston

Our herpetologist tells me that the snake photo you forwarded is a pale-colored specimen of the Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platyrhinos). Your neighbor hit the identification right on the head. The hognose is commonly called the "blow snake" or the "puff adder." It is quite an actor and puts on a great show of bravado followed by an equally great show of playing dead.

Follw the link to a short feature we published on the hognose back in August 1996, Hog-nosed ham.

Trail Idea

I think the best trail that never was is an abandoned railroad grade running from Wisconsin Rapids t o Fond du Lac. The line, built in 1907 and operated by the Chicago Northwestern, was a secondary conduit for paper mill traffic, but also served agricultural interests as well as passenger trains until service was discontinued in 1954 and abandoned in 1977. As this was early in the Rails to Trails movement, little or no voice was raised to save this right-of-way or convert it to a linear park.

The 85-mile line connected the Wisconsin River Valley to Fond du Lac and crossed significant ditches, marshes, creeks and rivers including the Pine, White River Marsh and the Fox.

While the railroad is but a memory to most folks, the town layouts in Almond, Bancroft and Wild Rose still follow the contour of the railroad grade long removed. The abandonment of the railroad contributed to the general demise of many small towns, just as trail resuscitation could contribute to the social, cultural and economic potential in the affected towns.

Gary Pezewski

We last looked at proposed segments for the statewide Trails Network in our August 2002 story Hit the trails!

We asked DNR State Trails Coordinator Brigit Brown what she could determine about plans for that particular segment. Here's the gist of what we learned:

Many portions of the corridor you mention are accounted for in the state trails plan, and some segments are already developed for recreation. This particular rail segment does not run directly from Fond du Lac to Rapids, but rather from Fond du Lac north to the northeast side of Lake Winnebago and then west to Rapids. Consequently, it is not considered as one rail line and that makes it trickier to piece together into a corridor. Part of that old railroad line running west into Wisconsin Rapids has already been incorporated into the Green Circle State Trail; it's identified as segment 58 in the state trails network plan. Visit Trails Network for Northeast Region). Segment 10 of the network plan also includes the line from Oshkosh to Fond du Lac as part of the existing Wiouwash State Trail.

Other segments of the corridor you mention were claimed by adjacent private landowners when the rail line was abandoned. That means portions can't be "railbanked" where they could be converted to a rails-to-trails project until such time as the rail corridor is again needed for train service.

We have made progress on converting segments near the ones you mentioned for recreation. The state purchased segments from Eden to West Bend (just south of Fond du Lac) and Scandinavia to Manawa (east of Rapids) last year. We also acquired several other rail segments across the state, as well as properties for the Ice Age and North Country State Trails, as described in the statewide network plan.

Is it a Red Squirrel?

Your squirrel-hunting article in October 2003 prompted me to write. A reddish squirrel often visits my bird feeder. This past fall a new one appeared that is the same one (species) we saw at Copper Falls State Park earlier this year. I believe it is called a pine squirrel. He gathers pine cones, chews them down to the core and also appears to eat pine needles off our disposed of Christmas tree. He is the size of a large chipmunk with a red stripe down his back. Is this the correct name?

Marge Schildbach

Your description sure sounds like a red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) to us, that are typically found in boreal forests or in coniferous patches farther south, like in Jefferson County. The size and feeding habits match the patterns and habits of this diminutive, feisty squirrel.


Sustainable Marketing

The Rainforest Alliance and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has made a three-year commitment to promote and increase the sale of sustainably-produced timber, banana and coffee from Central America and Mexico. Projects in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, will concentrate on lands that lie on the outskirts of parks and in priority watersheds that act as biological corridors. More than 300,000 acres of forest and farmland are expected to be certified as sustainably managed. Over four million board feet of certified timber, 90 million boxes of certified bananas and 30,000 metric tons of sustainable coffee would be sold to U.S. markets through contracts.

"By linking responsible buyers for certified products with responsible suppliers in these global markets, the Alliance constructs and seals a circuit in which all players – producers, purchasers, distributors and consumers – are winners," said Glen Anders, USAID mission director.

Following Perch Populations

At its June meeting, the Natural Resources Board rejected a request from some conservation groups to shorten the closed season for yellow perch on southern Lake Michigan during June. Carlton Alt, representing the Lake Michigan Yellow Perch Conservation Groups told the board that Wisconsin's perch regulations were restrictive and that the current closure had no scientific basis.

Natural reproduction by yellow perch in Lake Michigan has been poor for over a decade, resulting in a dramatic decline in yellow perch abundance (as discussed in our February 2000 story In search of perch and our June 2003 feature Adrift on the sea of life). Regulations since the mid-1990's protected remaining yellow perch by closing commercial fishing and limiting sport fishing. Since 2002, Wisconsin has closed the sport fishing season for yellow perch on Lake Michigan during May and the first 15 days of June. The aim is to limit harvest of sexually mature females just prior to spawning and to align the closed season more closely with actual yellow perch spawning.

Fisheries biologists are particularly monitoring the 1996 year class of perch that are approaching their reproductive prime. Hatches last year showed the first successful new year class of yellow perch in southern Lake Michigan in more than a decade. This winter, fisheries biologists will conduct population surveys in the lake and Green Bay to estimate how many of these young fish survived their first critical year adrift in the lake.

Brad Eggold, DNR Lake Michigan Southeast Region fisheries supervisor told the board that agency biologists recommended continuing the current closed seasons. "The proposed change would allow for the harvest of pre-spawn yellow perch and be inconsistent with yellow perch biology in Lake Michigan," Eggold said.

The Natural Resources Board voted to reject the petition to shorten the closed season for Lake Michigan perch noting that the current plan was supported by conservationists at the 2002 Spring Hearings by 4,770 and opposed by only 608. The Great Lakes Study Committee of the Conservation Congress, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, Wisconsin Federation of Great Lakes Sport Fishing Clubs, and the Lakeshore Fishermen Sports Club, LTD of Milwaukee continue to endorse these current rules.

The current rules are also supported by the lakewide Yellow Perch Task Group, a diverse group of agency biologists and scientists from all states bordering Lake Michigan.