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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

April 2005

Readers Write

Lake Superior Salmon Stocking
Still More on Squirrels
Burn Barrel Debate
Update: Breathing Easier?

Lake Superior Salmon Stocking

Can you tell me what happened to the salmon fishing in the rivers and creeks in northern Wisconsin in 2004? The fall of 2003 was very good. Many salmon were taken and many more released. [Last year] there were a few in the creeks mid-October, then that was it. Did the DNR stop stocking salmon up north?

James Mattson

Stephen Schram, DNR's Lake Superior Fisheries Supervisor in Bayfield, responds: The Wisconsin DNR continues to stock Chinook salmon in Lake Superior. Sporadic returns over the last 15 years are the result of poor survival of stocked fish and an increase in natural predators. The success of stocked Chinook depends on the availability of forage fish. The forage base in Lake Superior has changed dramatically as native species rehabilitation has been successful. The exotic rainbow smelt once dominated the forage base in near shore areas. Recently native lake herring, which are found throughout the lake, have increased in abundance. Chinook salmon, which are nearshore predators early in life, must constantly hunt for food to grow to such a large size in a short time period. When smelt populations decreased, Chinook survival also decreased.

The increase in the lake trout population also increased competition for the available forage. In fact, increased competition from native predators has made it very difficult for any stocked fish to survive in Lake Superior. Stocked fish are either eaten or they can't compete for food with native fish. The combination of increased predators and a change in the forage fishery has been a positive change benefiting native species such as lake trout. However, exotics such as Chinook salmon will continue having a difficult time surviving in Lake Superior.

Still More on Squirrels

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I am hoping the squirrel issue is not over!

They are our natural neighbors – let's enjoy their antics. Squirrel-proof your bird feeder and try this. (They need food too.)

I laid a cob of corn on my low-level patio floor. Very soon a squirrel had eaten half of it. Then I decided to make him work for his meal. I had a three-inch screw-eye bolt in my array of small hardware. I screwed it into the core of the cob and secured a small rope to the eyelet. Then I attached the other end of the rope to a roof brace under the patio. The corn was touching the patio floor, but vertical now.

He came back the next day and virtually cleaned the cob. I knew he was hooked. I attached a fresh cob to the screw-eye, but shortened the rope. The next time (and I was watching) he stood on his tiptoes to get the bottom one-third of the kernels. Then I raised it some more, two feet high.

I was lucky to be watching on his next trip. He ran right to the spot, looked all over, then looked up! His eyes got big, his expression was like, "What now?" To my surprise, he squatted and jumped straight up. He clutched the cob and swung back and forth enjoying the corn.

See how high your squirrels can jump! They are super athletes, with an uncanny knack for solving a problem. We invaded their territory. Find a pleasant way to enjoy them!

Jim Cox

We live in the country on a five-acre tract that has a natural two-acre woods adjacent to a neighbor's three- or four-acre woodlot which, of course, brings in a host of wildlife, including many squirrels. We are avid bird feeders with hundreds of birds of all kinds and we had problems with the squirrels robbing the feeders also. We had a store-purchased plastic, barn type feeder. We taped two bare wires to the plastic perches, one on each side of the perch that surrounded the feeder, and then attached a double stranded light gauge wire to the bare wires. We ran the light wire into the house under a window and attached it to an electric field fencer used by farmers to fence livestock. We put an off-on electric switch on the wire and were set to have action. When a squirrel got on the feeder we engaged the switch and laughed to see the animal jump five feet into the air and take off running. It only took a couple of times and the animals were trained. We also found that insistent mean blue jays that hogged the feeder and kept the other birds away were easily trained to stay away from the perch and feed on the ground where they belonged. This did not hurt the culprits, but it trained them very well and we enjoyed the fact that we could control the pests humanely.

J. Everett O'Brien

While we don't encourage the average reader to try this technique, it is certainly creative. For someone experienced in electrical wiring, using necessary precautions, it's worth a shot.

Burn Barrel Debate

Open and Outdoor Burning in the December 2004 issue leaves me questioning the author's intent. This is the second article to appear in your magazine regarding dioxin production in burning barrels. I think that your readers should know that you couldn't produce dioxins from your burning barrel without adding a chlorine donor to the mix. Dioxins are chlorocarbons. The only donors that would be available to most barrel burners are the plastic polyvinyl chloride, PVC. This plastic is used mainly for plumbing piping and wire insulation; very rarely in packaging anymore, and is not recyclable in Beloit anyway. It is land-filled, where I assume it will form dioxins.

Also burning trash does not produce arsenic, mercury or other heavy metals as the author contends. These are elements and man cannot create or destroy them except in a nuclear reaction. If you burn arsenic treated green wood you'll release the arsenic into the environment sooner than by natural decay. The green wood produced nowadays does not contain arsenic. Extremely small amounts of mercury and other heavy metals are absorbed by plants from their environment, the soil and air, and remain in the ashes or are sent airborne in the smoke. Rock County Electric Coop reports that man's activity releases only five percent of mercury into the environment. Nature releases the other 95 percent.

Rather than forcing your agenda on us, please inform us of the facts. The folks of Wisconsin are pretty smart and responsible and will do the right thing without deceptive scare tactics. The burning of organic materials can only produce water, carbon dioxide, and heat, the exact same result of composting.

Carl Denninger

Kevin Kessler, DNR's Open Burning Team Leader, replies: It is true that dioxins cannot be produced without chlorine being present and PVC is one potential source of chlorine. However, there are many more sources of chlorine in typical waste that can contribute to dioxin formation. The Chlorine Chemistry Council states on its website that "dioxins are commonly produced in virtually any combustion environment, and great quantities of chloride are not needed to produce them. In fact, a teaspoon of table salt contains 1,000 times as much chloride as is incorporated in the daily dioxin emissions of a typical municipal waste combustor. Even backyard burning of leaves or paper produces pollutants, including dioxins."

You are correct that burning household waste doesn't produce heavy metals that aren't already in the waste. However, burning can be a health hazard by releasing those materials into the atmosphere and concentrating them in the ash residue. According to the EPA brochure entitled "The Hidden Hazards of Backyard Burning," 'Smoke from burn barrels contains hazardous pollutants such as particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, lead, mercury, and hexachlorobenzene. The ash residue from backyard burning can contain toxic pollutants, such as mercury, lead, chromium, and arsenic, which can contaminate vegetables if scattered in gardens.'

Update: Breathing Easier?

Since our December 2004 insert on air quality, concerns were raised about federal enforcement of legal deadlines to cut air emissions at oil refineries nationwide. As reported by the Duluth News Tribune, an investigation by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram found that consent decrees, which should have reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides and particulate matter by almost 200,000 tons a year, have largely gone unenforced by EPA. Consent decrees were used over a four-year period beginning in 2000 to reduce emissions of air pollutants at 48 refineries in 24 states. But investigators found that court-mandated deadlines have been missed and extensions granted by EPA, usually without notice to the public or the courts that set the deadlines.

Refineries give varying reasons for missing deadlines. Sometimes there were mechanical problems installing new equipment, but most of the delays are attributed to chemical additives, recommended by EPA to achieve quick emission reductions until permanent measures could be installed. The additives had been successful in other industries but never fully tested at oil refineries where they have since failed to reduce pollution. The newspaper reports that despite those failures, EPA continues to require companies entering legal settlements to use the additives.

The only such facility in Wisconsin, Murphy Oil in Superior, is currently subject to a federal consent decree that continues to resolve Clean Air Act issues. DNR air management engineer Steve Dunn, notes that no deadlines for emission reductions required in the decree have been missed, nor have any deadlines been extended. Murphy Oil has installed required upgrades and has paid all penalties assessed by the court. Air management staff report that communications among all parties to the settlement (Murphy Oil, U.S. EPA, and the Wisconsin departments of Natural Resources and Justice) have been excellent.