OUTDOOR REPORTPublished January 18, 2018

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Snow fell on much of the state this week, with heavy amounts in the north and northeast. The Door County Peninsula and nearby areas were blanketed with almost foot of powder. Central and southern Wisconsin received considerably less and with temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s forecast toward the end of this week, much of that snow could be gone fast.

Counties across roughly the northern quarter of the state have snowmobile trails open and in good to excellent condition on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). Cross-country ski trails are being groomed in about the northern half of the state and range from fair to very good. With nearly a foot of new snow early this week there is roughly 20 inches of snow on the ground at the Brule River State Forest.

Ski trails are in very good condition at the Brule River State Forest after the area received an additional foot of snow this week. - Photo credit: DNR
Ski trails are in very good condition at the Brule River State Forest after the area received an additional foot of snow this week.Photo credit: DNR

Ice depths on northern lakes continue to range from 16 to 20 inches. Anglers on Sawyer County lakes have seen some panfish action on minnows and wax worms. Anglers in the Park Falls area were catching crappies and walleyes. Last weekend at a fishing tournament in northeastern Wisconsin walleye, bluegill, bass, and northern were being caught. Large crappies have been caught on Lake Altoona in Eau Claire. There have been some good catches of panfish and walleye on the Wolf River. Fishermen are still pulling up brown trout and panfish through the ice at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee.

Coyote and fox activity seems to have increased recently. Mid-January is generally the onset of coyote and red fox breeding cycles. Foxes and coyotes are more likely to travel in pairs now, and the fresh snow and increased activity means they are more visible then at any other time of the year. Cold, crisp winter nights afford opportunities to listen for the raspy barks of red fox or the high-pitched yipping of coyotes. Pup litters of both species are born in March or April.

Great horned owls begin hooting and claiming territories this month. Open water along the Lake Michigan shoreline and the Milwaukee Harbor was attracting thousands of scaup and goldeneyes, along with a few common and red-breasted mergansers. As of January 16, an estimated 240 Snowy Owls have been found in 65 of Wisconsin's 72 counties since the first arrived on October 20.

The warmers temperatures in the forecast will make this weekend seem like an excellent one to get outdoors. There are a lot of activities this weekend. Jan. 20-21 is the Winter Free Fishing Weekend. Bring your family and friends and enjoy a weekend of free fishing. Ice fishing clinic are being held at Kettle Moraine State Forest North Unit, Richard Bong State Recreation area and Straight Lake and Devil's Lake state parks on Saturday. Search the DNR website for "Free Fishing" for other events. Devil's Lake is also holding a Family Snow Day Saturday and snowshoe hikes are being held at Mirror Lake, Crex Meadows and Pike Lake Saturday and at Kinnickinnic on Sunday. Lapham Peak will be hosting the Lapham Loppet cross-country ski races Saturday. It's also the first big weekend for candlelight events with Copper Culture, Governor Dodge, Horicon Marsh and Kettle Moraine South all holding events Saturday night. For all details and a complete list of activities search the DNR website for "Get Outdoors."


Statewide Birding Report

As of January 16, an estimated 240 snowy owls have been found in 65 of Wisconsin's 72 counties since the first arrived on October 20. The only counties lacking reports include Buffalo, Florence, Forest, Lafayette, Menominee, Walworth, and Waupaca. Have you seen an owl in one of these counties, or elsewhere, this year? Please take a few minutes to report your sighting at www.ebird.org/wi. This year's total is much higher than that found the past two winters but on par with totals from the winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15.

The influx of new birds has greatly diminished (less than a dozen in the past week) but of note is the arrival of a few more strikingly-white adult owls.  - Photo credit: Ryan Brady
The influx of new birds has greatly diminished (less than a dozen in the past week) but of note is the arrival of a few more strikingly-white adult owls. Photo credit: Ryan Brady

While most open areas are hosting some, hotspots include agricultural areas of Columbia County, Buena Vista Wildlife Area, the highway 29 corridor from central to western Wisconsin, the Fox Valley from Green Bay through Freedom to Appleton, the Ashland area, and various fields and lakeshore points along Lake Michigan. Last but not least, Project SNOWstorm is now tracking two tagged owls in Wisconsin, and be sure to check out this recent podcast on all things Snowy Owl featuring DNR Bird Monitoring Coordinator, Ryan Brady. - Ryan Brady, NHC conservation biologist, Ashland


Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Sugar River Wetlands - January 27, 9 a.m. -noon: We are partnering with the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association (USRWA) restore the Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area during our series of "4th Saturdays" winter volunteer work days. Volunteers will be cutting and burning invasive species like buckthorn, honeysuckle and more to promote the growth of native plant species. It promises to be rewarding, fun, and a great way to experience the outdoors during the winter. Refreshments including hot chocolate and coffee will be available to fuel you through the morning. 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 - With nearly a foot of new snow early this week, the snow is piling up! There is roughly 20 inches of snow on the ground now. This snow will settle over the next few days as the forecast is for a January thaw that should last several days. Then another significant snowfall will be upon us. After Hours Ski Trails: Come out and enjoy the mild winter weather and plentiful snow. All this snow is making for excellent skiing conditions and more snow is on the way! There are snow-shoe trails at After Hours, too! Don't forget to check out some of the events that are coming up on the trails: Feb. 4- Learn to ski; Feb. 10- Candlelight Ski; March 3rd—Riverview Loppet. Snowmobile Trail information: Douglas County: Douglascountywi.org; search "snowmobile" or call 715-378-4528; Bayfield County: Bayfieldcounty.org; search "snowmobile trail conditions" or call 1800-472-6338 - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Amnicon Falls State Park - The park received 9 inches of fluffy snow overnight, bringing us to about 17 inches on the ground. We don't have groomed trails but snowshoeing would be a great way to see the park right now. As you travel, watch the snow for canid tracks and areas they have "marked". This is the breeding season for the canids and they are very active. Don't expect to see these relatives of the dogs but sign of their passage is evident. - Dave Lindsley, ranger

Pattison State Park - The park received 4 inches of new snow over the weekend into Monday. We have a snow total of 13 inches. The cross-country ski trail was groomed and tracked on Saturday, Jan. 13, and was in very good condition. The trails will be groomed and tracked before this weekend and should be in very good to excellent condition, thanks to the new snow. - Gervase Thompson, ranger

Hayward DNR Service Center area

Sawyer County - A few hunters have taken advantage of small game hunting for rabbits and grouse with the cold temperatures not being conducive to ice fishing. Grouse hunters are locating them sitting in the trees eating buds. This time of year if you see one, there are pretty good odds several more are there. The season for grouse in Zone A ends January 31, 2018 and the bag limit is five. Snowshoe Hare season is open all year with no bag limit. Cotton tail season in the north zone ends February 28, 2018 and the daily bag limit is 3. Fishing action has been average, mainly due to cold weather and most individuals fishing are not moving around much. Lake Winter has been producing some panfish action in the deeper holes and river channel adjacent to the flats. Minnows and wax worms have been out producing plastics for panfish. Anglers are reminded that Lake Winter has a special panfish regulation which is a daily bag limit of 25, but a person may only have 10 of any one species maximum. Example: a person may have 10 crappie, 10 bluegill and 5 perch. Snowmobile trails are in good condition with medium traffic on them during the week and heavier traffic on the weekend. There has been some confusion on Trail #5 north of STH 70 and North Clover Road. Rumor say it is closed due to a previous beaver dam issue. The trail is not closed, but caution should be used when operating the trail near the old beaver dam. Snowmobile operators are reminded to follow all posted signs, including stop signs and speeding limit signs. The nighttime speed limit is 55 mph, including on lakes. - Thomas Heisler Jr., conservation warden, Winter

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Crex Meadows State Wildlife - The weather continues to be cold in the Grantsburg Area. There are many days that are below zero, but there are some days that are warmer-even into the 30s. Even though the weather has been cold, there have been some great bird-watching opportunities. This week, there were the regular winter birds like common redpolls, northern shrikes and tree sparrows present. Rare birds seen included the golden eagle, red crossbills, and a brown creeper. The red crossbills along with pine grosbeaks are numerous this year. Many flocks of both species are being seen in the coniferous areas around Crex but rarely come into the Crex Boundaries. - Lauren Finch, wildlife educator

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail was groomed Wednesday, Jan. 17. The trail is in very good condition. Weather forecast predicts more snow starting Saturday night thru Sunday and Monday. Snowmobile Trail is in good condition. It was groomed on Tuesday and will be groomed again before the weekend. Lake of the Pines is reported to have approximately 17-plus inches of ice and fishermen are catching crappies. Connors Lake ice depth is reported to be between 16- 20 inches and anglers are catching walleye. Ice shacks are being placed in strategic positions on the lakes. This weekend of Jan. 20-21 is the Winter Free Fishing Weekend. Bring your family and friends and enjoy a weekend of free fishing! Nights are very dark this week. We had a New Moon on Jan. 16. Wildlife movement is decreased. The hardier birds such as the pine grosbeaks, pine siskins, common redpolls, juncos, snow buntings, woodpeckers, and blue jays are eating seeds and insects under the tree bark or visiting seed feeders, and crows and eagles are eating carrion along the roadsides. The great horned owls begin hooting and claiming territories this month. The weather forecast for this weekend, calls for Friday to be mostly cloudy with a high of 37 and a low of 24. Saturday is forecast to be partly sunny with a high of 38 and low of 25 at night with a chance of snow. Sunday, there is a chance of snow, then rain/snow, with a high of 35 and a low of 27. Monday, snow is in the forecast, with a high near 30 and a low of 11. Be safe, bundle up if going outside and keep warm! - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - It is truly a winter wonderland on the state forest. The recent cold temperatures and snow have been a welcome sight to winter enthusiasts. There is now plenty of ice for the fishermen and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing is great. Area bird feeders are seeing a steady stream of visitors! - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

Cross-country ski conditions: Escanaba Trail - All loops cut and tracked Jan. 15. Good conditions; Raven Trail - Leveled the Green, Blue and part of the Red loop Jan. 15. All loops were tracked. Good conditions; McNaughton Trail - Skaters loop groomed and all other loops tracked Jan. 16. Good conditions. Madeline Trail - All loops tracked Jan. 16. Good conditions. - Tony Martinez, parks and recreation specialist


Northeast Region

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Warm air vacated the county last Thursday night and cold air settled in. Temps plummeted to the teens below zero across much of the area over the weekend. Snow fell most of the day on Monday leaving a few more inches of fluff on the ground. Warmer air is again expected near the end of the week. Anglers are driving out on most lakes now, but ice thicknesses vary considerably on the same bodies of water and fishing has been slow. Snowmobile trails have been groomed and are looking good right now. A few snowy owls are still being seen across the county. The snow has not been great for tracking, but a few bobcat and coyote hunters have been out. Coyote activity seems to have increased recently. Squirrel and grouse seasons remain open until Jan. 31, but grouse sightings remain low and hunting pressure for both has been nearly non-existent. Marinette county will soon have a bunch of new hunter safety graduates as the class at Lake Noquebay Sportsman's Club wraps up this weekend. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Oconto County - Individuals are currently bobcat and coyote hunting with the fresh snow we have received. There's approximately 6 inches of snow on the ground for most of the county. Last weekend Kelly Lake had their fishing tournament and staff observed walleye, bluegill, bass, and northern being caught. The panfish size was small as were northern. Walleye were all around 18-20 inches longs. Ice thickness was around 14 inches. Most lakes now have snow on them and should allow decent snowmobile operation. White potato lake has their fishing tournament this weekend. Oconto Falls, Lena, and Chase snowmobile trails are closed. - Paul Hartrick, conservation warden, Oconto Falls

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - Please be advised that snowshoeing, hiking, fat-tire bikes and pets are not allowed on snow covered ski trails. The Purple, Orange, and Yellow loops are groomed and in good condition. Trail Passes are required. - Nicholas Hefter, visitor services associate

Potawatomi State Park - Potawatomi received about 11 inches of snow January 15. All ski trails are groomed and are in excellent condition. The snowmobile trails in the park are open. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Whitefish Dunes State Park - All ski trails are groomed for classic skiing only. Ski trails are in excellent condition from 20 inches of snow on January 15. Please remember during winter that hiking, snowshoeing and pets are not allowed on the groomed cross-country ski trails (Green, Yellow and Red trails). Hikers and snowshoers may hike the Black Trail or along the beach. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - About 3-5 inches of snow fell in central Wisconsin depending on the location. Some trails groomed, don't know of any that are officially open. Sounds like we might lose some of our snow this weekend as temps are supposed to be above 40. The only small game season left open is grouse season which ends on Jan. 31. Reports have ice depths of 12-16 inches locally, have heard no reports of fishing success or failures. Sounds like a nice weekend to be out and about. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

There have been some good catches of panfish and walleye on the Wolf River. The successful panfish anglers have been finding fish in the backwaters of the river and areas with slower current. Walleye anglers have also been catching fish with a jig and minnow - mostly with tip up and "long lining." With the recent snowfall, now is a good time to follow animal tracks in the snow. This can be a lot of fun and interesting to see how animals adapt to their winter environment. Try visiting some of the State Parks or DNR public lands. Also, because of the recent snowfall, predator hunters are able to see fresh tracks and are able to visually see their targets better as well. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

Waushara County - Waushara County did see a decent amount of snow, but it is not enough to open any of the snowmobile trails unfortunately. The groomers were able to get out, but we are going to need more snow if we are going to have any open trails. Staff did get one phone call of a snowmobile abandoned on the CLOSED trail last night. Use this as a reminder that a lot of these trails go through private property with agreements to let snowmobile trails through. These can be closed at any time and then the snowmobile club has to find a new route with new agreements - please respect the private landowners! Ice fishing has been spotty. Some lakes are doing well, but others remain touch and go. The ice is pretty solid in most bodies of water, but again it can change in a hurry. Check with local bait shops and fishing clubs prior to going out. There are a lot of springs and seepage areas in Waushara County lakes that can influence the thickness and now with the snow cover it makes it difficult to see some of these spots. Winter has also brought a couple of northern visitors to the county. There have been a couple of snowy owls spotted in some of the sands area on the western part of the county and there have been some rough-legged hawks seen throughout the county. These are not as unusual, but with a light and dark morph and everything in between, they make an interesting contrast to the usual red-tailed hawk. The warm temperatures and a little bit of snow makes it a great weekend to get out there and be active! Snowshoe, icefish, walk the ice age trail, birding, whatever you desire it should be a great weekend in Waushara County to enjoy it! - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma


Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - Lapham Peak received about 4 inches of light fluffy snow over the last few days. The new snow is too fluffy to pack off of the man-made snow loop. We were able to mix the new snow in with the man-made snow, making the man made loop really nice. There is a classical track set around the entire man made loop. The lights will be on until 9 p.m. Lapham Loppet ski race is Jan. 20. - Brian Jacquette, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - As of Tuesday Jan. 16, the forest has received about 4 inches of light, fluffy snow over the holiday weekend. Groomers are out packing the ski trails, but there is not enough on the ground to set track. The forecast calls for rain and 40s for the upcoming weekend, so skiers have just a short window to get out and enjoy the trails. Fat tire bikes are welcome on any designated bike trail, but are prohibited from all other trails in the forest. Wisconsin State Trail passes are required for all skiers and bike riders age 16 and over. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - Groomers were out on the McMiller and Nordic trails Jan. 16 morning rolling about 2-3 inches of fresh powder snow to pack it down and build a base. We do not have enough snow to set track and conditions are fair at best. The Scuppernong trail is now a multi-use trail and is not being groomed for skiing. - Anne Korman, property superintendent

Lakeshore State Park - The cold weather has come back, and the ice has frozen over again at Lakeshore State Park. The ice fishing conditions are greatly improved for a safe outing. Fishermen are still pulling up Brown Trout and panfish. Open water is still available to fish at the park's south entrance along the Lake Michigan shoreline and the Milwaukee Harbor. The eastern trail is plowed for those not wishing to walk through snow. The rest of the park has around 4-5" of snow cover, which is great for sighting fox tracks. There are literally thousands of scaup and goldeneyes, with a few common and red-breasted mergansers, enjoying the open water along the Lake Michigan side of the park. A snowy owl was spotted hanging around the park last week near the boat docks and the lagoon's connection to Lake Michigan. We will be handing out fish rulers, fish wild cards, brochures and favorite recipes of the park staff for fish commonly caught in the park from 10-2 on Saturday of Free Fishing Weekend (Jan. 20-21). One of our staff naturalists will be walking through the park and lagoon to hand these out to anyone fishing. Hope to see you there! - Angela Vickio, parks and recreation specialist, Milwaukee

Sturtevant DNR Service Center area

Racine County - Right along the lake shore in areas like pleasant prairie they got about 8 inches of very light fluffy snow. Ran into one gentleman today at Chiwaukee Prairie State Natural Area that was taking advantage of the snow to check on deer activity. Richard Bong Recreational Area got maybe 4-5 inches. Was enough to do some sledding on the sledding hill. Some people have also been out on the lake here at bong doing some ice fishing, mostly tip up for northerns. - Trent Leaf, wildlife technician, Richard Bong State Recreation Area


South Central Region

No reports.


West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - Mid-January generally announces the onset of coyote and red fox breeding cycles. These two members of the dog family have one annual estrus cycle and typically breed between January and March. Foxes and coyotes are more likely to travel in pairs now, and the fresh snow and increased activity means they are more visible then at any other time of the year. Cold, crisp winter nights afford opportunities to listen for the raspy barks of red fox or the high-pitched yipping of coyotes. Pup litters of both species are born in March or April in a natal den or burrow, but red foxes generally avoid raising pups in areas where coyotes have established territories. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Perrot State Park - We received about 5 inches of snow on January 14 and 15. The cross-country ski trails were packed and tracked but are in fair condition. The snow was very light and the track is still soft due to cold temperatures. The wind has blown the snow around and some sections of the trail may have very little. The skate lane in the campground has been packed but it is soft. Hiking and snowshoeing are not allowed on cross-country ski trails. Brady's Bluff, Black Walnut Nature Trail, and the Riverview trail are available for hiking and snowshoeing. If you would like to rent snowshoes, please contact the park office to make arrangements. Pets are not allowed on cross-country ski trails. - Lois Larson, park manager

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Eau Claire County -With all the recent snowfall in Eau Claire County, it is important to check trail conditions before going out. As of Jan. 16, all Eau Claire County snowmobile trails are closed. In formation can be found at www.eccosnow.org. When/if the trails open this season, snowmobilers need to remember to get their trail passes and current registration before hitting the trails. Always make sure to dress appropriately and plan your ride. Free fishing weekend is coming and there are many places to take advantage of it. Large crappies have been caught on Lake Altoona so far this year. Ice is never 100 percent safe, but with the recent cold weather there is also a lot of ice on the lakes. When on the ice, stay away from naturally occurring springs and places where the current is strong. Those places have less ice and are more unpredictable. - Jacob Bolks, conservation warden, Eau Claire

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - The trail into the new campground is open for dog walking and is packed when there is enough snow. Camp hosts are still needed for summer. We have spots open May-July for one site and May/July for the 2nd site. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Roche-A-Cri State Park - Parking is in the winter/prairie lot on Czech Ave and park stickers are required (self-registration box at parking lot). The stairway is not maintained in winter and can be icy. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Last Revised: Thursday, January 18, 2018

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