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Outdoor Report

Published December 13, 2018 by the Central Office

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View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
Check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism (exit DNR).

For current statewide information on statewide snow conditions, log onto the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).

A few areas of central Wisconsin had some additional snow ranging from a dusting to 1 to 2 inches this week. Some areas of the far north still have 4 to 6 inches of snow but a warm-up this weekend could reduce that.

There are some cross-country ski trails that are open and in fair to good condition on the Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR), and there is some surprisingly good skiing in southern Wisconsin at the Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest that has been able to open some trails and set tracks thanks to the donated snowmaking equipment and volunteer efforts to spread and groom the snow. The only snowmobile trails open are still just those in Iron County with the best conditions near Hurley.

Hiking conditions are excellent now. Even where the ground is snow-covered the trails are passable without the need for supersized snowshoe footwear. Please remember that there is no walking or snowshoeing allowed on cross-country ski trails once they have been groomed even if no tracks have been set. Now that the leaves are gone and ground is snow covered, it's a great time of year to enjoy the glacial topography along the Ice Age Trail.

Many ice fisherman continue to take advantage of 6-8 inches of ice on Northwoods lakes. Many lakes in central Wisconsin are iced and ice has been forming on lakes in the south but waterways with flow or springs still have open water or very thin ice. Reports are that panfish are biting and so are northern pike.

Hunters who were out for last weekend's statewide antlerless season reported very good deer sign in oak stands or anywhere with available food but unfortunately reported the majority of deer activity seemed to be at night. Bird hunters will have additional opportunities to beat cabin fever this December, with an additional 2,160 pheasants being stocked on eight different properties in southern Wisconsin during the week leading up to the winter holidays.

This rafter of young jakes payed a visit to the Pattison State Park office this week. - Photo credit: Kevin Feind
This rafter of young jakes payed a visit to the Pattison State Park office this week.Photo credit: Kevin Feind

Turkeys seem to be everywhere, and there does not seem to be much fall hunting pressure on them. A rafter of young jakes visited the Pattison State Park office this week and were called up to the office doorway with a box call and at one point all started to gobble.

Hare are being observed more frequently, indicating an increase in the population and heightened opportunities for hunting. Bobcats seem to be taking advantage of the prey abundance and are also being observed in greater numbers with tracks commonly present throughout their range. The big bulls elks are forming bachelor groups in the Flambeau River State Forest.

There have been 59 snowy owls reported from 34 Wisconsin counties this season, a far cry from the 174 tallied by this date last year but better than the meager total of 13 found by now in 2016-17. The much-anticipated winter finch season is off to a slow start. Common redpolls have been scarce, while the south continues to host small numbers of pine siskins. Evening grosbeaks are making their best showing in years but have not inundated the state by any measure.

Remember 2019 Wisconsin State Park admission stickers and trail passes are now on sale and they make great holiday gifts for outdoors lovers.

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Statewide Birding Report

The longest-running citizen science survey in the world, Audubon's 119th annual Christmas Bird Count takes place this year between December 14 and January 5. Each count is held on a single day in an established 15-mile wide diameter circle, and Wisconsin is home to more than 100 circles across most counties in the state. Volunteer birders of all ages and skill levels are needed to help with the counts, contributing sightings from field or feeder in effort to help monitor early winter bird populations. Find a count circle near you at http://wsobirds.org/christmas-bird-count. This year's counters will be treated to mild weather conditions, likely meaning slower feeder activity but more water birds. 

Barred Owl  - Photo credit: Ryan Brady
Barred Owl Photo credit: Ryan Brady

Madison birders reported excellent numbers of ducks and swans on area lakes, including an estimated 1000-plus tundra swans on the Dec. 9. Farther north, trumpeter swans have begun congregating on the St. Croix River near Hudson, a traditional wintering area for them, with as many as 65 birds this week. Bald eagle numbers have been modest below southern dams such as at Alma and Prairie du Sac, and are likely to remain so until colder weather returns. There have been 59 snowy owls reported from 34 Wisconsin counties this season, a far cry from the 174 tallied by this date last year but better than the meager total of 13 found by now in 2016-17. The much-anticipated winter finch season is off to a slow start. Common redpolls have been scarce, while the south continues to host small numbers of pine siskins. Evening grosbeaks are making their best showing in years but have not inundated the state by any measure. Bohemian waxwings were reported in Bayfield, Tomahawk, and Eagle River, as well as one amid cedar waxwings in Sheboygan county. Pine grosbeaks remain across far northern counties, a trend bucked only by a small flock observed in Waupaca. The week's biggest bird news was the discovery of a Hammond's flycatcher in Iowa County, marking the first state record of this western species. It was first found on Dec. 9 and continues as of Dec. 13. Other rarities of note included varied thrush in Polk, Townsend's solitaire in Sauk, summer tanager in Waukesha, Baltimore oriole in Eau Claire, and a very late American redstart in Brown. Find out what others are seeing and report your sightings to www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland

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Upcoming featured events at Wisconsin recreational properties

What did people do in winter without smart phones, TVs, and video games? They made their own fun! Take a couple of steps back to life in the early 1900s at Havenwoods this Saturday. Play some games, make some toys, and head out on your own peaceful walk. Or head to Willow River to get crafty with nature and make a Christmas ornament with natural items found outside in nature. Richard Bong will be having a Paint and Sip program to create your own masterpiece for a fee.
Click on the links below for highlighted programs this weekend or click on Get Outdoors," for a complete listing of events.

For all events search Get Outdoors

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Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Dec. 14, 9 a.m.-noon - Ridgeway Pine Relict - Ridgeway is known for its scenic pine relicts that have northern plant species. Help care for this site by removing invasive plants and encouraging native plants at our second Friday workdays. Activities during winter focus on brush cutting, treating, and burning.

Dec. 15, 9 a.m.-noon - Devils Lake - Help cut invasive shrubs and use brush to block unauthorized trails in and around East Bluff SNA at Devils Lake State Park. Take in some of the most breathtaking views Wisconsin has to offer and help protect some of the most uncommon species and natural communities in the Midwest. If the trails are not snowy/icy we'll be concentrating work efforts around the prairie and the Devils Doorway trail segment. This will be the first of a series of monthly stewardship activities sponsored by Ben Bomkamp and Kerstyn Perrett of NatureWorks llc through 2019, who are hoping to help build enthusiasm and understanding of the role that we can all be playing to protect our state's most treasured and irreplaceable resources.

Dec. 15, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Orion Mussel Beds - We are teaming up with The Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW) to care for Orion Mussel Bed SNA. Orion mussel bed is known for mussels in the river but it also has several rare effigy mounds. DNR crews and volunteers have been working to clear brush and conduct burns on some of them. Volunteers will continue this effort by cutting and treating brambles and brush. We are closing in on our goal, will we make it this month?

Dec. 15, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. - Chiwaukee Prairie Workday: Cutting and burning brush: Help Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund volunteers during our monthly workdays on the third Saturday and enjoy the beauty of this rich prairie in the process. We will be removing invasive brush that can dominate the prairie and displace native plants

Dec. 18, 9 a.m.-noon Rocky Run Workday: Planting and burning brush - Get exercise and celebrate seeds we collected at Rocky Run SNA! Help spread seeds and cut brush, learning something in the process. Rocky Run has sand prairie and oak savanna that has been taken over by invasive shrubs and cedar trees which reduce the native understory diversity. We will scatter seed in these areas as well as harvested pine plantations to encourage rare animals and plants on the site.

No skills needed you will be trained onsite. Check the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program page of the DNR website for details. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane

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Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - We've seen the sun a few times over the past week, and more sun and mild temperatures are in the forecast. Our snow cover is 2 to 3 inches, and has been holding steady. But sun and temperatures above the freezing mark will likely reduce that cover. Cross-country ski trails have been rolled but there is a good amount of stubble and grass poking through in spots. There's not enough snow to set track. Very little snow is in the forecast for the coming week. In 2019, the River View Loppet ski races will be held on January 5 at the AfterHours Ski Trails. There are classic and freestyle races for youth and adults. There is also a 3.5K Family Fun Tour! This event is sponsored jointly by the Brule Valley Ski Club, the Brule River State Forest, and the Brule Lions Club. Check out the Ski Club's website for more information and a registration form. If you would like to cut a Christmas tree from the Brule River State Forest, permits can be obtained at the Brule DNR Headquarters. The cost for a permit is $5. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Amnicon Falls State Park - Hiking conditions are excellent now; the ground is snow-covered but the trail surface has been packed by other hikers. The result is an easy to walk path through the woods or along the water. Our Snowshoe Trail is popular with the snowshoeing crowd but is still passable without the supersized footwear. Temporary ice dams are holding water at several points on the river. The tannin-laden water passing over and around the ice suggests the appearance of a root beer float. - David Lindsley, ranger

Pattison State Park - We only have about 2-3 inches of snow on the ground here so grooming of the Pattison ski trail has not been possible yet. Ice fishing shanties are starting to sprinkle upon the area lakes. I haven't heard of ice thicknesses. These young jakes visited the Pattison State Park office yesterday afternoon. I was able to call them in from the office doorway with a box call. At one point, they all started to gobble. They came to within 30 feet of me. - Kevin L. Feind, property supervisor, Superior

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Iron County - Snow is highly anticipated this weekend. However, currently Iron County snowmobile trails are in very poor condition near Mercer with better, but poor conditions near Hurley. Cross-country ski trails are open; MECCA has unfavorable conditions, Uller and Montreal trails are in good shape. Let's hope for elevated snow accumulation to kick off the winter recreation season! Many ice fisherman continue to take advantage of 6-8 inches of ice on lakes in the area. Hare are being observed more frequently, indicating an increase in the population and heightened opportunities for hunting. Bobcats seem to be taking advantage of the prey abundance and are also being observed in greater numbers with tracks commonly present throughout the county. - Jenna Kosnicki, wildlife biologist, Mercer

Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area - Officially the MECCA trails are now open, though the snow cover is a little light. We were able to comb the trail for those of you who couldn't wait for real winter to get here. Please remember that from now on, no walking is allowed on the trails without skis or snowshoes! Even with the low snow level it will make grooming and maintenance of the trail more difficult. - Brett Bockhop, park and recreation specialist, Mercer

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Winter weather has arrived in the Grantsburg Area and bird activity is at a low point. Flowages and lakes are mostly iced over at this point, and we have a thin layer of snow covering the ground. Rough-legged hawks and snow buntings are numerous in the area, and Pine siskins are beginning to arrive. You may still see occasional waterfowl species on the rivers where there is no ice, but they are scarce. - Lauren Finch, wildlife educator

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau River water level is high with ice chunks flowing. The lakes are ice covered. Not sure of the depth. There is a light layer of snow and tracks from rabbits, squirrels, weasels, deer and elk are just a few of the animals roaming the forest. The deer and elk are feeding heavily to fatten up in preparation for the deep winter months. Many are feeding in the active timber cuts on the forest. There are cow/calf groups with some of the young bulls. The big bulls are forming bachelor groups. The grouse season is open until December 31. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for Friday to be sunny with a high of 34 and a low of 19. Saturday, sunny with a high of 37 and a low of 23. Sunday, partly sunny with a high of 34 and a low of 22. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

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Northeast Region

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Whitefish Dunes State Park - There was a dusting of snow this week, which is just enough to look for animal tracks. This week a visitor spotted a porcupine on the Red Trail. There has been several sightings of deer. Hiking is open on all trails but once there is enough snow to groom there is no hiking on Red, Yellow, and Green trails. At this time the only way to get to the beach is to hike the Red Trail to third access beach and also return that way. The beach will not be accessible in the winter due to high water levels of Lake Michigan. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - The north half of the county is still snow covered. Ice has been forming on area lakes but portions of the lakes with flow or springs still have open water or very thin ice. The statewide antlerless only season is now over. I heard from a few hunters that saw only antlered deer during the season. Most hunters found very good deer sign in oak stands or anywhere with available food. Unfortunately for the hunters, the majority of deer activity seems to be at night. There is still one more rifle season coming up for the farmland portion of the county. That hunt is another antlerless only season that runs from Dec. 24-Jan. 1. According to TravelWisconsin.com snow report portions of the snowmobile trails are now open but ungroomed and in poor condition. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

Have not lost any of the snow we got last weekend. There are 1 or 2 inches in Marquette County, 5 or 6 inches in Waushara and southern Waupaca and 2 inches in northern Waupaca. No trails open yet. Turkeys seem to be everywhere, does not seem to be much fall hunting pressure on them. Still plenty of geese around. They loaf in harvested corn fields and roost on the ice or whatever open water they can find. Almost all water bodies are frozen and increasingly fisherman are venturing out. Reports are that panfish are biting and so are northern pike. Not seeing many deer as of late, they seem to be moving mainly at night. Only unusual wildlife sighting I have to report is a rough-legged hawk I saw yesterday in Waushara county. The fact that hawk is this far south is an indicator of nasty winter weather north of the border. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Hartman Creek State Park - The ski trails are currently snow covered. Trails were packed to develop a base Dec. 13 after we had about 2 inches of snowfall. None of the trails have been tracked to date. - Jarrod Kehring, property manager

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Southeast Region

Waukesha DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - We have a loop! The loop around the pond is now open. Tail end hill, and magic carpet ride are also now open. The snow was spread, tilled and finished groomed early Tuesday Morning. There are still a few bumps, but they will wear down with skiing, and nightly grooming. There was also a classical track set. Please stay off of the snow that has not been leveled or groomed yet. Thank you to all the volunteers assisting in making snow this year! Skiing this early in the season would not be possible without our volunteers or donors. Trail lights will be on Monday through Saturday. We will continue to monitor the weather as the week goes on, and temps rise, and groom when possible. - Brian Jacquette, ranger

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - Almost seems like winter came and went, almost all the snow we received in the last two weeks is gone or the little remaining turned into ice. There are still many people hiking the trails at Zillmer, New Fane, Butler, and Greenbush Picnic areas. Now that the leaves are gone and ground is snow covered, we're seeing more people enjoying the scenic sights on the Ice Age Trail. We're also starting to see ice anglers increase in numbers. Anglers have been spotted on Mauthe, Long, and Butler lakes in recent days. Forest staff do not monitor ice conditions, so please check locally as conditions vary. The 2019 vehicle stickers and trail passes are now on sale. The Ice Age Visitor Center in Dundee will be open this weekend and stickers/passes will be available for purchase there. - James Enigl, ranger

Sturtevant DNR Service Center area

Richard Bong State Recreation Area - Snow cover is none at Bong rec area. Some light snow this morning but is already melted by lunch. Smaller lakes in area froze completely over this week but ice thickness is still pretty thin. Water levels have changed a lot recently so any ice on rivers or streams is likely unsafe. Pheasant hunters continuing to use bong quite a bit. Bong will be one of the sites that gets stocked with pheasants next week sometime for more hunting opportunities the weekend before Christmas. - Trent Leaf, conservation biologist

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South Central Region

No reports.

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West Central Region

Baldwin DNR Service Center area

Kinnickinnic State Park - Cross-country ski trail grooming will not begin until after December 15. - Eric Klumb, ranger

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - All trails are still open to hikers until we get enough snow to groom trails for skiing. Snowshoers can enjoy the 1-mile and 0.6-mile trails at the Smrekar parking lot, the 3-mile trail that connects Pigeon Creek to Smrekar Road or the 1.5-mile loop around Castle Mound. Snowshoers are allowed anywhere on the state forest that is not a groomed trail. Winter ATV and UTV trails will open on Saturday, December 15. Snowmobile trails remain closed at this time due to lack of snow. UTVs are allowed on winter ATV trails, except for designated snowmobile only trails or any other trail that was previously closed to UTV use. Jackson County Forestry and Parks maintains and grooms all of the state forest's snowmobile and winter ATV trails. Grooming updates are posted on the Jackson County [https://www.co.jackson.wi.us/ exit DNR] website. A reminder that Jackson County has a temperature restriction of 28 degrees. If temperatures are above the 28 degree mark we ask that you stay off the trail system to ensure it will be in good condition for the entirety of the season. If you would like to cut a Christmas tree from the Black River State Forest, Forest Product permits can be purchased at the Castle Mound campground office. Please call ahead to verify office hours at 715-284-4103. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park -- Cross country ski/snowshoe trails are not packed or groomed at this time. There are areas of trail with grass showing and we had under 3 inches of snow. Trails will be groomed when we get at least 3 inchesmore of snow. Snowshoes will be available to use in the park when we have more snow. Ice is starting to form on bays with the cooler weather. Park staff do not monitor ice conditions. - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, December 13, 2018

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