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Outdoor ReportPublished March 9, 2017

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

Snow is now gone from most areas of the state, with the exception of the far north, where a few inches remain in wooded areas. Very strong winds this week have taken ice out of many lakes in the south, including Monona and Mendota, which tied its record for second earliest opening -- nearly a month earlier than average.

The high winds and loss of snow cover have also led to an early spring wildfire season, with more than 30 acres burning this week, including one fire near Eau Claire that resulted in the evacuation of some homes, but was contained before it burned any structures.

Trails at many state properties are now open again for hiking, but most off-road biking and horse trails remain closed at this time due to muddy conditions. The last two candlelight hikes of the winter will be held this weekend at Pattison and Copper Culture state parks.

There is still ice on northern area lakes/waterbodies, but it should be considered seriously suspect, as this time of year can be especially deceiving. The lower Wisconsin River has dropped from its record highs last week. The high winds made open water fishing difficult, but there were some walleye anglers out on the Wisconsin as well as the Fox, Wolf and Eau Claire rivers.

A few late season ice anglers have been fishing off Door County shorelines that have some remaining ice but they stayed pretty close to shore as there are cracks opening up and open water not too far out. Anglers have been catching brown trout in the Milwaukee Harbor and steelhead in Oak Creek at Grant Park.

The spring migration is growing with numerous reported sightings, from tundra swans, to rough-legged and red-tailed hawks, with sandhill cranes, red-winged blackbirds, Canada geese and mallards spotted by the dozens and sometimes by the hundreds across the state.

River otter sign along creeks and streams may be more evident this time of year as male otters increase their movements during the March to April breeding season in search of female companionship. There was a report of a whitetail buck still with antlers attached this week, but many have shed and the darkened ground makes this a great time to go shed hunting. There have also already been numerous reports of ticks this year, so remember to take precautions if hiking.

People interested in all things deer have an opportunity to let their voices be heard by attending the County Deer Advisory Councils annual meetings that begin March 13. Councils will review key deer metrics in order to develop preliminary antlerless harvest goals and antlerless tag recommendations within their county for the 2017 deer hunting seasons. Each CDAC meeting is open to the public - a statewide meeting schedule is available by searching the DNR website for "CDAC."

Your feedback is important - attend a spring CDAC meeting and play a role in deer management.)
Your feedback is important - attend a spring CDAC meeting and play a role in deer management.
Photo Credit: DNR

And people interested in the meetings or just in deer management can access a new deer metrics system that includes deer harvest figures, population trends, deer impacts on agriculture and forest resources, herd history and more. To check out this new system search "deer metrics."

This helpful tutorial video will help anyone interested in learning more about the deer herd in their area.

Also coming up this week are public hearings throughout Wisconsin regarding the fall waterfowl hunting season structure. The public input process for establishing waterfowl hunting seasons is slightly different from previous years, which will allow hunters to know waterfowl hunting season dates by late April, rather than late August as in years past.


Wildfire Report

Two-thirds of wildfires that burn in Wisconsin, occur in spring. There is a great deal of dry vegetation and fallen leaves and other debris present this time of year, which is quick to dry out. Accompanied by warmer weather, drops in humidity and winds, wildfires can quickly ignite and spread. So far this year, 30 fires have occurred in DNR Protection Areas (about half the state, generally the more forested areas). Main fire causes have been debris burning, power lines and railroad. A 25-acre Eau Claire County wildfire, ignited by debris burning and pushed by strong winds, threatened homes and called for evacuations on March 8. With the nicer weather, homeowners are cleaning up around their properties, sometimes choosing to burn leaves and branch debris. Debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires, especially this time of year. Burning is not your only option. Try alternatives such as composting or leaving brush in the woods for wildlife cover. The best practice is to not burn at all or to wait until surrounding vegetation greens-up in the summer. If you do burn, get a burning permit and follow the rules of the day. You can stay aware of fire danger and burning permit requirements by checking the DNR website,, keyword "fire" or calling 1-888-WISBURN. Information is updated each day at 11 a.m. Fire season is just beginning. On average, the 1,500 wildfires burn in DNR protection areas each year and another estimated 2,500 wildfires burn in parts of the state where fire departments are the primary responders.

Firewise Tip: If you burn wood for home heating, it's time to move any remaining firewood stacked near your home to a spot that's at least 30 feet away. If you dump wood ash outdoors, spread the ash in an area free of vegetation and debris and drown with water to make sure any hidden embers are fully extinguished. Or leave the ash in a metal bucket with a tight fitting lid until it is completely cool. - Joanne Ackerman, wildland urban interface coordinator, Madison


Upcoming events at Wisconsin recreational properties

Friday, March 10, 2017 (click on property for location and on event for details)

Saturday, March 11, 2017


Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Bluff Creek SNA. 9 a.m. -noon Come enjoy spring weather and help volunteers during our monthly Southern Kettle Moraine SNA workdays on the second Saturday. Enjoy a short hike, then help cut and pile brush, learn something, meet knowledgeable people, and enjoy the beauty of this fen area in the process. We will remove buckthorn that can spread and shade out rare fen and savanna plants at this site. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. Click for more information.

Check the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program page of the DNR website for details. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane


Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - The 2017 Riverview Loppet ski race was a success as approximately 60 skiers competed last Saturday. The day started out cloudy and temperatures were pleasant-in the 20s and not too warm. Later, the sun came out and it warmed up a bit, but the snow held out. It was a fun day of skiing and friendly competition to end the ski season. Spring Steelhead fishing opens on March 25 for the lower stretch of the Brule River- from Highway 2 downstream to Lake Superior. Steelhead are spawning! March's full moon occurs this Sunday. This month's full moon is known by many names including the Full Crow Moon, as the cawing of crows signal the end of winter, the Full Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night, the Full Sap Moon, marking the time for tapping of maple trees, or the Full Worm Moon because as the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. While we have enjoyed watching birds coming to feeders over the winter months, we need to make sure we aren't attracting bears to the feeders as they emerge from their winter dens. Make bird feeders inaccessible to bears by hanging them at least 10 feet off the ground, and 5 feet away from tree trunks, or on a limb that will not support a bear (the feeder can still be easily refilled using a pulley system). You might also consider taking down bird feeders entirely. Public comments on proposed adjustments to the BRSF Master Plan will be accepted until March 20, 2017. These proposed adjustments focus on the recreation section of the existing plan and a proposed road management plan to reflect current conditions. The proposed changes were made based on public comments received last fall. Details and a link to the public comment form and on-line questionnaire can be found here. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Pattison State Park - The ski trail is toast. Staff cleared numerous down trees from the trail today and about 90 percent of the trail is either ice or bare ground. The remaining 10 percent of the trail is "boiler plat" hard and ungroomable. There will be a candle light hike this Saturday from 4 to 9 p.m. on the Beaver Trail at Pattison State Park. Some stretches of this trail are icy so hikers will need to be careful. About 2 miles of trail will be illuminated. - Kevin Feind, property supervisor

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Governor Knowles State Forest - All hiking trails are open to hiking; all equestrian trails are open as well. Expect muddy sections and possibly fallen trees along the trails. Trail repair on the Barrens Loop Horse Trail will be beginning soon. The electric has been turned on at the Trade River Equestrian Campground for eager campers; you will need to bring your own drinking water. - Brandi Buchholz, visitor services associate

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - There are only patches of snow in the woods with a bit more under the conifer canopy, but open ground is snowless. The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail and the Flambeau Snowmobile Trails are closed for the season. Connors Lake and Lake of the Pines had fishermen out on them last weekend but this week there wasn't a soul out there. Last weekend fishermen were catching some crappies and northern pike on Connors and lots of crappies on Lake of the Pines. Ice shanties have been removed from all the lakes. March is known as the Hard Crust on the Snow Moon. The snowshoe hare coats begin to turn brown, the male red-winged blackbirds return, the river otters give birth, the grouse start drumming and the maple sap begins to flow. The geese fluctuate north or south as the brown line advances north. Deer and elk have been busy in the logged areas feeding on down tree branches and brush. The sap was running, maple sugarers have been collecting sap last week but due to the fluctuating temperatures it's on and off again. Ermines are active and ravens, great horned owls and eagles have begun nesting. Bird activity is increasing, enjoy the easy viewing before leaf-on and take extra precautions with outdoor fires. The full moon will be on March 12 and daylight savings begins. The weather forecast for this weekend is sunny skies with a high of 16 and low of -2 Friday. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs of 22 and low of 4. Sunday will be partly sunny with a high of 26 and low of 13. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The recent weather has taken its toll on snow conditions in the north woods. We are suspending grooming of the trails, most likely for the rest of the season. The high winds occurring today have left many branches and debris on the trails. - Tony Martinez, trails coordinator


Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Door County - Late season ice anglers have been out fishing off of Potawatomi Park, Cabot's Point, Stone Quarry, and Little Sturgeon. For the most part the canal from Bayship/Bullhead Point to the lake is open; there is some remaining ice in the yacht clubs around the docks that anglers looking for northern pike have found. There were anglers seen fishing off the wall at the Stone Quarry this weekend, they stayed pretty close to shore as there are cracks that were opening up. From Stone Quarry north to Egg Harbor there is some remaining ice along the shore but open water can be seen not too far out. Anglers fishing off of the shore at Potawatomi Park seemed to take to the ice later in the day and fish into the evenings. There is open water by the islands in Sawyer Harbor and the ice is scattered with spots of open water throughout. A few anglers were seen fishing off of Big Rock Place and in Little Sturgeon this past week, again staying pretty close to shore. If you choose to head out on the late season ice take caution, a lot of the shorelines have seen major receding this past week. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Governor Thompson State Park - All trails are now open for hikers! We still have some snow on the trails, but ski conditions are now poor and we have stopped grooming the ski trail for the season. There are 16 miles of hiking trail waiting for your next adventure. - Maggie Kailhofer, park manager

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Currently no snow south of Waupaca, and only a little snow on north slopes Waupaca on north. Needless to say, no more snow sports. Some migrating waterfowl have returned. Some species staff have noticed are: mallards, hooded mergansers, greater scaup and tundra swans. As always, tons of the ubiquitous Canada Geese. Ice conditions are as follows: stay off of it! Most lakes are still ice covered but the shorelines are badly eroded and the ice is black. We are definitely in the tweener period - bad ice and minimal open water. If one draws a nice sunny day, might be fun to go early trout fishing. Water levels are starting to drop and if we get some warm weather, the fish will be biting. With the recent loss of snow, it would be a great time to go shed hunting. The light colored antlers will show up very well against the dark background. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Walleye anglers are just starting to get out on both the Fox River (Green Lake County) and the Wolf River (Waupaca/Winnebago County). Anglers are reporting catches of small walleye (nine to 11 inches in length) where the Wolf River meets Lake Poygon. Anglers have been trying their luck by fishing backwaters of larger lakes in the area, but have not been very successful. It may be just a little early for the fish to move into the shallows. It is a great time to look for migratory birds. Trumpeter swans have been seen on the White River Marsh Public land. The birds appear to be staking out their territories for the upcoming breeding season. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

Waushara County - Waushara County is definitely in a typical March right now, rain one minute and snow the next. Ice is poor and in some cases moving out on small ponds and lakes. Staff did see their first robins a couple days ago, so spring is on its way; no matter what the forecast is we are getting close! There may be a little snow left in some thick wooded areas, but most Ice Age trail sections are open and would be really good to walk this time of year. The recent winds may have blown trees or branches down so be careful along the trail. In any event with the snow gone it makes things start to look like spring is just around the corner, bundle up and get out there this weekend! - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma


Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Milwaukee County - Anglers have been catching brown trout in the Milwaukee Harbor and steelhead in Oak Creek at Grant Park. Anglers are catching brown trout on jigs and trolling with crankbaits. - Matt Groppi, conservation warden, Milwaukee

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Pike Lake Unit - Visitors can hike and snowshoe on all trails west of Powder Hill Road, that depart from the beach and office parking lots. Hiking trail conditions may be icy on uphill and downhill sections of the trail. Please use caution. Hiking poles and sturdy hiking boots and/or traction spikes are strongly recommended. Hiking, snowshoeing and pets are NOT allowed on the cross-country ski trails east of Powder Hill Road. This includes the Blue and Brown trails that start from the Nature Trail parking lot. Even when there is not snow cover, it is prohibited to enter on these two trails as foot-traffic will cause damage. Please see the multi-use Winter Trail Map. Please remember that pets are not allowed on the Black Forest Nature Trail or on the observation tower and must be on a leash 8 feet or shorter at all times. Forest staff have constructed a trail reroute that will remove a few washout areas. The trail is well marked and includes a shaded meander up to the tower. The reroute begins about 1/8 mile short of the orange loop as you walk from the beach. - Rob Degraff, visitor services associate

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Washington County - The public is encouraged to attend the March "County Deer Advisory Council" meetings in their area next week. The Washington County meeting is Wednesday, March 15 at 7pm at the Daniel Boone Conservation League. Each meeting will run about 2 hours. More information is available under "CDAC" on the DNR website. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford

Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - There are great viewing opportunities for waterfowl and other birds along Highway 28 on Theresa Marsh Wildlife Area (just west of I-41), and on seasonally flooded wetlands all around the property. Canada goose numbers continue to build up on the property as are sandhill cranes, shovelers, mallards and other waterfowl. Water levels are at seasonally high levels due to spring runoff. The bottom flow radial gate at the Theresa Marsh dam was opened up to allow flood passage and northern pike spawning. The public is encouraged to attend the March "County Deer Advisory Council" meetings in their area next week. The Ozaukee County CDAC meeting is Monday, March 13, 6:30 p.m. at the Riveredge Nature Center in Newburg. Each meeting will run about 2 hours. More information is available under "CDAC" on the DNR website. Car/deer collisions are beginning to pick up. DNR staff have started doing health assessments on a sample of the car killed deer in each county, all around the state, to assess the health of the deer herd following winter. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford


South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Wyalusing State Park -The snow has melted. The ice at the boat landing has just about melted. The water is very high at the boat landing, and no one has been fishing. Lots of visitors are hiking the trails. Trails a little wet from the last snow fall, winds from this week end should dry things up. Bird watchers have been out for views of the bald eagles at Point Look Out. Birds that have been sighted at the park include kestrels, harriers, robins, ring necked pheasants, and mallards. In the evening the deer have been sighted out in the picked corn fields eating. Wisconsin Ridge has sites available for camping, and campers are taking advantage of these warm days and nights full of stars just right for camping. - Pam Dressler, visitor services associate

Horicon DNR Service Center area

Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - Gusty winds have been the story over the last week. New arrivals include turkey vultures, killdeer, flocks of robins, and even larger numbers of red-winged blackbirds. Resident Canada geese and sandhill cranes are pairing up and showing off their courtship displays. Trumpeter swans, pintail, mallard, green-winged teal, hooded and common merganser are all around in small numbers. Duck diversity is decent but numbers are not high. Look in the coming weeks for greater numbers of ducks migrating through. - Elizabeth Herzmann, natural resources educator

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - The Wisconsin River levels have fallen to below flood stage; however, they are predicted to go up again shortly. It is extremely unusual to see the river this high this early in the year. Staff spotted their first woodchuck today, and saw a great-blue heron and a turkey vulture earlier this week. This past weekend saw a big influx of robins to the area. Deer have been pretty active at dusk, be aware when driving. A whitetail buck ran in front of me with both antlers still attached earlier this week. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette

Most waterbodies in Columbia County are now ice free. Many migrating waterfowl are returning to the area. Still have not seen a robin as of yet. Fishing has been decent on the Wisconsin River, but had flood conditions last week and 40 mile per hour winds this week which have kept most fishermen from going out on the river. Reminder to boaters to check to make sure you have your life jackets (PFD's) in good condition and ready to use. Water temps are still very cold in case you accidently end up in the water. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage

Dane County - With the warmer temperatures and recent rainfall, the ice in Dane County is all but gone. A few brave anglers in boats have been fishing for walleye on the Yahara River, but with little success. Conservation wardens in the area would like to remind anglers that several closed fish refuges have gone into effect in Dane County and these specific areas will remain closed to all fishing until May 16. Anglers should plan ahead, review regulations and note regulatory signs in the area before they start fishing near these refuges. - John Sinclair, conservation warden, Fitchburg


West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - A few male wild turkeys have been seen strutting and displaying and heard gobbling. While these behaviors are signs of the impending breeding season, there is still a ways to go before breeding actually begins. Raccoon, skunk, muskrat, mink, and opossum activity has increased as temperatures have increased and snow has departed. River otter sign along creeks and streams may be more evident this time of year as male otters increase their movements during the March-April breeding season in search of female companionship. Keep an eye open for these curious, energetic, entertaining animals. Raptor sighting, including rough-legged hawks, harriers, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, and kestrels, are common occurrences now as their northward migrations have begun. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - After a weekend of warmer temperatures most of the remaining snow is gone. All hiking trails remain open but may be wet or muddy in areas. We have had reports of ticks already this year, so remember to take precautions if hiking. Small flocks of geese and ducks are being seen more frequently as ice on the area lakes and flowages melts. Early spring migrants can include geese, ducks, red-winged blackbirds, robins, and cranes. Temperatures this weekend are expected to be in the 30s with a chance of rain/snow. This year we are adding nine more sites from the East Fork campground to the reservation system. Twenty-one of the twenty-four sites are now reservable from the Thursday before Memorial weekend through Labor Day weekend. Two sites will remain as walk-in (first-come, first-serve) only sites, with the third non-reservable site being the host site. ATV, UTV and snowmobile trails are closed for the season. Due to the warm weather, trails are no longer frozen and have standing water in some places. Trails will reopen for the summer riding season on May 15, weather permitting. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Eau Claire County -Ice covered areas of local lakes are quickly becoming open water. Be aware of the seasonal fish refuge below the Lake Altoona Dam - no fishing allowed from the dam to the downriver island until the first weekend in May. Anglers are catching some nice sized walleye and northern pike on the Eau Claire River downriver of the fish refuge - walk from the parking lot under the Highway 53 bridge - City of Altoona River Prairie Development. Eau Claire River - Upriver of the Altoona Lake Dam - game fish season closed until the May fish opener. Eau Claire River - downriver of the Altoona Lake Dam - game fish season is open all year (except musky, sturgeon, paddlefish) - no fishing in the fish refuge. Five walleye at least 15 inches may be kept (Release walleye under 15 inches). Chippewa River - upriver of the Dells Hydro Dam - game fish season closed until the May fish opener. Chippewa River - downriver of the Dells Hydro Dam - game fish season is open all year (except musky, sturgeon, paddlefish). Five walleye at least 15 inches may be kept (Release walleye under 15 inches) - Scott Thiede, conservation warden, Eau Claire

Last Revised: Thursday, March 09, 2017

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