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Outdoor Report

Published December 30, 2015 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).

Wisconsin received some timely snow for the New Year, with a storm dropping from 2 to up to 10 inches across much of the state, with the heaviest snowfalls in a band from central to northeastern Wisconsin.

Many state park and forest properties have been grooming cross-country ski trails, but as this was the first significant snowfall of the winter, some parks were only able to pack down trails and were not able to set tracks.

The first two of more than 30 candlelight events at state properties will be held this Saturday, Jan. 2, at Blue Mound State Park on the Dane-Iowa county border and Mirror Lake State Park near Lake Delton. In addition, 10 state properties will be holding First Day Hikes on New Years Day.

About a half dozen counties in far northern Wisconsin were able to open or partially open snowmobile trails, according to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). Most areas were reporting conditions as poor to fair, with Vilas and Iron counties reporting most conditions fair.

Many northern lakes have refrozen, but with the new snowfall ice conditions remain highly variable, but anglers are reporting up to 5 inches of ice in spots and the anglers that are going out are finding some fish. Trout Lake in Vilas County still had open water this week. Most lakes in central and southern Wisconsin remain open.

Anglers are targeting walleye or northern pike on the Bay of Green Bay and some of the tributaries have had some stream fisherman.

Archery and crossbow deer season is open till January 3 and snow levels allow for very good visibility and tracking conditions.

Quite a few bald eagles around the Bay of Green Bay. Bear cubs are born in their dens in the month of January and great horned owls begin hooting and claiming their territories. Most of the elk bulls have separated from the cow/calf groups and have reformed their bachelor groups where they will stay until late August of 2016. There seems to be a very good population of weasels this year, with an abundance of weasel tracks.

Bull elk at the Flambeau River State Forest
Bull elk at the Flambeau River State Forest
Photo Credit: WDNR

Bird feeders are awash with color and song and common birds include a mix of woodpeckers and winter birds. Chickadees, nuthatches, gold finches, cardinals, blue jays and junco's are busy grabbing a seed. Red-headed, pileated, downy, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers are common visitors.

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Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - Cooler temps over last weekend started building ice on some area lakes and some brave fishermen are venturing out. A report that was given from Lake Minnesuing was that there was up to 4 inches in some spots, but Ice conditions were still unstable in most places. - Edwin Koepp, visitor services associate

The After Hours Ski Trail was groomed and tracked on Tuesday and is in good condition. There are a few thin and icy spots. Base is 2-3 inches and snow cover in the woods is about 9 inches. Dan Kephart, forestry specialist

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Pattison State Park - The entire trail system was packed Dec. 28. Several down trees were removed and low hanging saplings weighed with snow were pruned. No track was set, but a base was established. Classic only conditions were fair. Much work was done in the off season to improve the general lay out of the trail. The trail was widened and curves were made to more favorable radiuses. Additionally, a new bridge was installed.- Kevin Feind, property supervisor

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Burnett County - The county received enough snow the last week that the majority of the snowmobile trails are open. With the snow conditions being on the low side, make sure to check the Burnett County website for updated trail notifications and conditions. The ice on area lakes do vary, but anglers are reporting up to 5 inches of ice in spots and the anglers that are going out are finding some fish. - Dustin Gabrielson, conservation warden, Webster

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - We had a white Christmas and we will have a white New Year as well. The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trails has about 3.5 to 4 inches of snow and due to high winds Monday night/Tuesday morning there had been some drifting. Flambeau staff had rolled the 14 mile trail Monday and if snow levels increase will be working on the trail possibly Dec. 30 and the 31. We have more snow in the forecast for the next couple days. The snowmobile trail will not be opened until we have a sufficient amount of snow. The Lake of the Pines Nature Trail and Little Falls/Slough Gundy Scenic Area have very beautiful walking trails and are open at any time. Bring your snowshoes just in case of higher snow levels. The water level of the Flambeau River is high, and peppered with chunks of ice. Ice conditions on the lakes are thin. A few ice fishermen are out trying to hook a walleye or northern, but ice conditions are very unstable. Low temperatures are in the forecast! Archery and crossbow deer season is open till January 3 and snow levels allow for very good visibility and tracking conditions. Small game season is open till the end of January so you have time to get out and hunt some small game and grouse. Trapping season is open but be sure to check the DNR Trapping Regulations for season dates and limits. Bear cubs are born in their dens in the month of January (Great Spirit Moon) and Great Horned owls begin hooting and claiming their territories. Most of the elk bulls have separated from the cow/calf groups and have reformed their bachelor groups where they will stay until late August of 2016. There seems to be a very good population of weasels this year, with an abundance of weasel tracks. Snowshoe hares are out and about. A single bobcat track was seen in some thick brush near the river. Northern cardinals, aggressive, and dominating most feeders, if feeders are available, have been seen in the Flambeau's dense woodland cover. Their distinctive and beautiful male and female courtship duets ring thru the undergrowth of the forest. The brilliant red of the males and their prominent head crest are very noticeable in the leafless trees. - Diane Stowell, visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Cross-country ski trails have a very thin base with a few rocks, roots and bare spots exposed. Escanaba Madeline and McNaughton trails were packed Dec. 29. Raven Trail was packed Dec. 30. Very thin base on the Red loop. The inner loops, Blue and Green, have the best base for skiing I have seen while out packing the trails. - Tony Martinez, forestry facilities worker

The Escanaba Trail has been cleared and packed. Many limbs froze to ground after several rain events that turned to ice, then a dusting of snow. Dec. 27 received only 2-3 inches of snow at Escanaba Trail. Not enough snow yet on this trail to set track. This trail follows the natural woods floor or terrain and takes a bit longer to track then other state forest trails. Approximately 3-4 inches of snow in the woods. There are many thin spots under the pines so if you decide to ski on a snowmobile packed trail, bring the rock skis. - Dan Jacoby, facilities worker

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Northeast Region

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Manitowoc County - The warmer than usual weather this winter has hindered ice production on the lakes and ponds in Manitowoc County. The streams and creeks have been higher than usual with the heavy rains experienced over the past couple weeks, making trapping difficult. To say the least the weather conditions have made it difficult for people to get out trapping and ice fishing. Hopefully Mother Nature brings some cold weather so you can get out and ice fish and maybe enjoy the many miles of snowmobile trails Manitowoc County has to offer. There is still time to fill those archery deer tags. The archery/crossbow deer season closes on January 3, 2016.- Nick Miofsky, conservation warden, Mishicot

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Door County - We have been seeing quite a few bald eagles around the Bay of Green Bay and there is a very small angler presence from shore or by boat. IAnglers are probably targeting walleye or northern pike on the Bay of Green Bay and some of the tributaries have had some stream fisherman. - Brandon Bastar, fisheries research vessel captain, Sturgeon Bay

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Hartman Creek State Park - The park received approximately 8 inches of snow on Monday and Tuesday of this week. Overall the ski and the snowshoe trails are in good condition. The ski trails were groomed on Wednesday, Dec. 30, but some areas are muddy due to the ground not yet freezing. The Fat bike trails were also groomed but due to the soft ground the condition of these trails is fair to poor. Very little ice is currently on the park's lakes. Ice fishing is not recommended until the park receives colder weather for an extended period of time. - Mike Bergum, property manager

Waushara County - The area received anywhere from 8-12 inches of snow with the recent storm. The snow is going to slow the ice formation if there was some ice prior to the snow so be careful if you are going to attempt any backwater or small lake ice fishing over the New Year. Snowmobile trails are being worked on, but check the Waushara County Parks and the Snowmobile Hotline to be sure if trails in your area are open. With the high winds a number of sections of the trail going across open fields may not have enough for a good base, be careful and always check before you go! The forecast looks great to enjoy some cross country skiing or snow shoeing along some of the State and County trails and property. Take some time to relax and enjoy! - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

High Cliff State Park - The volunteer groomer was out Dec. 30 and reports the ski trails are in very good condition. There are a couple thin spots by the campground; however, we may get more snow today. He was able to groom the regular ski trail for classic and he groomed the north end of the horse trail for both classic and skate skiing. Linda Guelig, property supervisor

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - Lapham Peak received about 7 inches of snow Monday into Tuesday. All the trails were packed and a track is being set. Everything is still pretty soft, but should set up overnight and be in good shape Wednesday morning. A lot of debris fell on the trail, the bigger limbs were picked up, but most of the smaller twigs weren't. We will start making snow Wednesday night and most likely continue through the weekend. When we are making snow some sections of the trail will be re-routed and others sections closed. Please stay off the closed sections. - Jay Abts, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - We finally got our first snow of the season, about 10 inches, rather heavy wet snow on Monday into Tuesday. Plenty for a good start. The brown, red/green cross-country ski trails were rolled and combed Tuesday. The yellow loop will be rolled and combed Wednesday morning. Conditions are fair to good. Just need to firm up more. If time and conditions are favorable track will be set in the afternoon. Reagan Arndt, ranger

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Point Beach State Forest - Cross-country ski trails have a 6-8 inch packed base. There were 11 miles of classic tracks set Tuesday night that were in good condition. Expect some debris from the high winds with the storm. The 3.5-mile skate lane is packed and a bit soft and will be packed again Guy Willman, property supervisor

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South Central Region

Blue Mound State Park - Cross-country ski trails have been groomed and tracked. There is a candlelight ski and snowshoe hike Saturday, January 2. - Kevin Swenson, park manager

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Mirror Lake State Park -Cross-country ski trails have been groomed and tracked. There is a candlelight ski and snowshoe hike Saturday, January 2. - Becky Green, park manager

Lake Kegonsa State Park -All cross country ski trails are open and are in fair condition. The base is very thin in some areas. The trails have been packed, but not tracked. All cross country ski trails are closed to hiking, snowshoeing and pets. - Sarah Bolser, park manager

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West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - Crawford and Vernon counties were blanketed with 6 to 10" inches of snow this week, providing all sorts of opportunities for winter enthusiasts. Winter ecologists refer to the snowy world as the nivean environment, which may be further subdivided. The supranivean environment is that area at and above the snow surface. Humans and white-tailed deer experience winter at this level. Areas within the snowpack are known as intranivean, while subnivean is the interface between ground and snow. Oftentimes subnivean refers to both intranivean and subnivean areas. Mice, voles, shrews, and least weasels are examples of animals that survive winter by exploiting the subnivean environment. Igloos and snow shelters are examples of subnivean dwellings you can make as you enjoy the wonders of a Wisconsin winter. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Brunet Island State Park - Cross-country ski trails were groomed Tuesday, and we were able to set a track. The tracks are full depth, but typical of early season grooming there is debris and exposed turf/soil scattered throughout. You would probably want to consider using your rock skis, and ski with caution. - Mike Rivers, park manager

Chippewa Moraine Ice Age State Recreation Area - - With the recent 4 inches of snow, there is enough snow now to snowshoe through the forest and prairie. Most trails within the Chippewa Moraine are well packed with snow and if hiking on those established trails, leave the snowshoes behind as they are not needed. Ice on the many small kettle lakes within the Reserve is thin and not safe! Do not cross or walk on any lakes until colder conditions make for safer ice. With the leaves off the trees, this is a great time to see the many landforms that make the Chippewa Moraine so unique. The bird feeders at the interpretive center are awash with color and song and common birds include a mix of woodpeckers and winter birds. Chickadees, nuthatches, gold finches, cardinals, blue jays and junco's are busy grabbing a seed. Red-headed, pileated, downy, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers are common visitors. Ravens, bald eagles, crows, and hawks have been often seen. Aside from white tailed deer, turkeys, squirrels, mice, voles, and an occasional fox, mammal life has been quiet. - Brenda Rederer, natural resources educator

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - Lots of snow fell Monday and plowing was done all day Tuesday. Ski trails may be packed later this week to start a base. Come out for our First day hike on January 1, 2016. Meet at the Barrens trail lot (by tower) to hike or snowshoe at 2 p.m. Snowshoes available 1st come/1st served to check out. Hot cocoa, coffee and cookies afterwards. There is open water on the lake. Remember, staff do not monitor ice conditions. - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Wednesday, December 30, 2015

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