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Outdoor Report

Published January 25, 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).

Snow landed across several northern counties this past week, allowing more counties to open snowmobile trails and additional properties to groom ski trails. There now are about 20 counties that have snowmobile trails open or partially open across the north on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). Snowmobiles have been out in force over the past couple weeks, taking advantage of the snowfall and amazing trail conditions.

There should be some excellent snowshoeing this weekend in areas like the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest and in Iron County. Cross-country ski conditions range from fair to excellent across the north. Southern Wisconsin received some snow this week, but not enough in most areas to groom ski trails. The Kettle Moraine southern unit groomed some trails, but there were many wet areas at the bottom of hills.

Cross-country ski conditions were very good at Pattison State Park after the area received about 10 inches of snow this week. - Photo credit: DNR
Cross-country ski conditions were very good at Pattison State Park after the area received about 10 inches of snow this week.Photo credit: DNR

Despite the recent warm-up, multiple reports of strong ice fishing have come in from properties across the state. Slush remains on many Northwoods lakes and plenty of snow on others. Crappies have been biting on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage and on lakes in the Flambeau River State Forest. Anglers at Straight Lake are landing trout and those dipping into lakes in Oconto County are finding perch, northern pike and largemouth bass. There is pretty good ice on most of the Bay of Green Bay ranging from 12-18 inches. Anglers pursuing whitefish have been doing pretty well but yellow perch fishing has been spotty.

The beautiful weather last weekend had lots of people taking advantage of free fishing weekend. Fishing was great in some areas and poor in others. Anglers reported catching northern on tip-ups, a variety of panfish, and even a few trout.

The northern zone grouse season remains open for one more week, closing on Jan. 31 and a few hunters got their dogs some exercise over the weekend but not many reported any shooting. The combination of recent snow and warming temperatures also has wildlife up and moving around. Turkeys have been spotted from roadsides and deer have been loitering in active timber harvests, chewing on fresh buds. Along with continuing reports of snowy owls, large numbers of bald eagles have been spotted and a variety of woodpeckers can be seen digging into trees. Tracks and animal sign are particularly visible and abundant currently.

Jan. 31 is the second full moon of January--a "blue moon." This full moon will be closest to the earth in its orbit, making it a "super moon." There will also be a lunar eclipse in the early morning hours of Jan. 31. The eclipse makes the moon appear orange-red in color, hence the nickname the "blood moon."

The largest numbers of candlelight events at state properties will be held over the next three weekends, with six this weekend and eight the next two weekends. This Friday people can ski, snowshoe or hike the Red Cedar State Trail to an illuminated ice wall thanks to 10 inches of snow the trail received this week. On Saturday, Hartmann Creek, Lake Wissota, Point Beach and Rib Mountain will hold events. One schedule for Whitefish Dunes was cancelled due to poor trail conditions and one at Lapham Peak has sold out. We're also moving into the peak of the owl mating season and Richard Bong and Kettle Moraine South are both holding hikes to listen for owl's territorial calling. For all details and a complete list of activities search the DNR website for "Get Outdoors."

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Statewide Birding Report

Birding forums remain inundated with photos of snowy owls, short-eared owls, rough-legged hawks, and other birds of field habitats. Grasslands at the Buena Vista State Wildlife Area have been a hotspot for many of late. Meanwhile, excellent numbers of pine siskins and common redpolls continue to steal the show at backyard feeders. In the far north, pine grosbeaks are showing up at backyard feeders for the first time since their big influx into the state back in 2012-13. Farther south, sparrow diversity has been quite good for this time of year, including dark-eyed juncos, American tree sparrows, white-throated, white-crowned, song, swamp, and even a few fox sparrows. Birders found the best waterbirding at the harbor in Port Washington, where large number of Canada geese have been congregating alongside a variety of waterfowl such as scaup, mergansers, and goldeneye.

Common merganser - Photo credit: Ryan Brady
Common merganserPhoto credit: Ryan Brady

Gull aficionados have enjoyed Iceland, both great and lesser black-backed, glaucous, and a few ring-billeds among the many herring gulls there. The calendar may say January but some breeding activity is underway. Several great horned owls are already sitting on nests in Dane County, while many pairs have been heard statewide. Pairs of bald eagles were observed tending to nests, and a red-tail hawk in Winnebago County was photographed carrying sticks to its nest site from last year. In the north, pairs of common ravens were noted, as were singing courtship flights of red crossbills, an unusual songbird in that it may nest at nearly any time of year provided a good cone crop is present. Some of this week's unusual sightings included black-backed woodpeckers in Bayfield and Sawyer counties, varied thrush in Door, northern mockingbird in Washington, and Townsend's solitaire in Dane, where (amazingly) an ovenbird continues to survive at a backyard feeder. As always, help us track bird populations by reporting 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

Friday, January 26, 2018

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Sunday, January 28, 2018

For all events search the DNR website for "Get Outdoors."
Find a park, forest trail or recreation property

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Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Jan. 28, noon-2 p.m.: York Prairie - Get rid of brush at York Prairie State Natural Area near New Glarus. York Prairie is a remnant grassland in an agricultural landscape and provides important habitat for a variety of rare plants and animals, including some recognized as endangered in Wisconsin. We will be cutting, piling and burning brush in an ongoing effort to restore this special site. No skills needed you will be trained onsite.

Jan. 30, 9 a.m.-noon: Blue River Sand Barrens -Join the new volunteer effort to care for Blue River Sand Barrens State Natural Area! We are teaming up with The Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW) to care for this site. Blue River Sands is known for its dry prairie (including cactus) and globally rare oak barrens. DNR crews have been working to clear brush and conduct burns. Volunteers will continue this effort by cutting and burning (if there is snow) brush with DNR crews. This will benefit turtles and understory plants. 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 - There hasn't been any new snowfall for more than a week and there is no significant snow in the forecast. Even with several days of warm weather, we still have 12 inches or so on the ground. The Afterhours Cross-country Ski Trail has approximately 3-4 inch base and conditions are excellent. The Brule River has opened up again, making for a nice view from the River View trail. Jan. 31 is the second full moon of January--a "blue moon." This full moon will be closest to the earth in its orbit, making it a "super moon." There will also be a lunar eclipse in the early morning hours of Jan. 31. The eclipse makes the moon appear orange-red in color, hence the nickname the "blood moon." For now, the forecast for next week is for cloudy skies, hopefully that will change and we'll get to see the show! Here are some upcoming events on the trails: Feb. 4--Learn to ski; Feb. 10--Candlelight Ski; March 3--Riverview Loppet. For snowmobile trail condition reports: 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

Amnicon Falls State Park - Warm weather last week settled the snow to a depth of 8 inches. Light snow is falling now but no accumulation is expected. Warmer temps are predicted for the end of this week. - David Lindsley, ranger

Pattison State Park - The cross-country ski trail is in very good condition for classic skiing. - Kevin L. Feind, property supervisor

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Iron County - Another week of fresh snow brings us another week of perfect snow conditions! Uller ski trail is maintaining a best line track this year. Be sure to get out and see the remote wilderness of the Penokee Hills that this trail has to offer. MECCA and Montreal trails were groomed following the 7-10 inches of snowfall and are being maintained to satisfy snowshoers (at Mecca) and skier needs. Get out there now before another warm spell washes these conditions away! Snowmobiles have been out in force over the past couples weeks, taking advantage of the snowfall and amazing trail conditions. Iron County's snowmobile clubs have been keeping up with trail maintenance and expect great trail conditions throughout the week. However, with temperatures expecting to get above freezing this weekend, trails may be compromised. Ice conditions are variable throughout most of Iron County. Although good fishing has been fairly consistent, weather has not been. Slush remains on many lakes and plenty of snow on others. Looking for good crappie fishing? The Turtle Flambeau Flowage has plenty of them and they've been biting! A snowy owl was spotted in the Saxon area last week. Ruffed grouse are still commonly seen in the area and are being caught on many track surveys. The season ends on the Jan. 31. Snowshoe hare and coyotes are also seen commonly throughout the county this year. Take advantage of the 200,000+ acres open to public hunting in Iron County, and bring your snowshoes! Lastly, people interested in winter camping have all the right conditions here in Iron County. The abundance of snow makes it possible to create a thermally insulated quinsy to sleep in. The Iron County Forest allows for camping anywhere on the county forest for up to two weeks; over 170,000 acres open to a Northwoods getaway experience! - Jenna Kosnicki, wildlife biologist, Mercer

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Governor Knowles State Forest - All cross-country ski trails at the Brandt Pines Recreational Trail System (26001 Gile Road) are open for skate and classical skiing with trails being in fair to good condition. The Riverview, Ridge Line, and Ravine Trails were groomed Tuesday, Jan. 23. Be cautious on the Riverview Trail, you may encounter icy spots. The Oak Hills Trail is expected to be groomed Thursday, Jan. 25. Just a reminder, biking, hiking, and snowshoeing are not permitted on the groomed ski trails, please use the trails at the St. Croix Recreational Trail System (23409 West River Road). - Brandi Buchholz, ranger

Interstate Park - The park received 6 inches with the last snowstorm. The Skyline Trail has been groomed and tracked for skiing and is in excellent condition. The Skyline Trail is the only cross-country ski trail in the park and it is closed to hiking and snowshoeing. Visitors looking for packed trails can utilize the Ojibwa and Homestead snowshoe trails or the Silverbrook Trail which is packed from the group camp parking to our small waterfall. Please use caution on the trails this time of year as snow and ice can create slippery conditions on trial surfaces. The trails that lead into the bluffs are not maintained for winter use, please use caution if you decided to utilize those trails. Deer have been seen browsing on the pines near the Ice Age Center and along park roads. The bird feeder has busy with chickadees, nuthatches, and a variety of woodpeckers along with numerous squirrels. On occasion, hawks have been seen near the Ice Age Center as well. The lake and river are both frozen over. A few anglers have had success catching walleye on the St. Croix through the ice. - Matthew Densow, ranger

Straight Lake State Park - The park received around 4 inches of fresh snow with the last storm. Animal activity has been high lately with the warmer temperatures. Bald eagles are a common sight over the lake and river. Chickadees, nuthatches, and a variety of woodpeckers can be seen searching for food on tree trunks. Animal sign is all over the place with the fresh snow. Deer, fisher, squirrel, and rabbit tracks are common. Grouse and otter tracks can also be seen on occasion. A porcupine has been seen near the picnic area in recent days. There is approximately 12 inches of snow in the woods. The Rainbow Lake Trail and the Ice Age Trail are both packed down from hikers, so snowshoes should not be needed. If you are looking to try out your snowshoes, take the Straight Lake Trail from the picnic area parking lot through the campground. Anglers have been catching trout on Rainbow using minnows. Fishing on Straight Lake has been slow but an occasional bass or northern has been caught. All wheel drive vehicles are suggested for visiting the park in winter. The picnic area and 280th avenue lots are the only lots plowed in winter. - Matthew Densow, ranger

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail was groomed Wednesday, Jan. 24 and is in excellent condition. The forest received 12 inches of snow on Monday. The Snowmobile Trail was groomed Tuesday and is in good condition. Hiking trails are open throughout the Forest. As the snow depth mounts, you may only have access with snowshoes. 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 walleyes. There are 16 timber sales occurring throughout the Forest. The number has doubled since the end of December. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for Friday to be partly sunny with a high of 43 and a low of 25. Saturday is forecast to be mostly cloudy with a high of 32 and low of 11 at night. Sunday, there is a chance of snow, with a high of 23 and a low of 5. - Christopher Bender, ranger

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The Northern Highland has a thick heavy blanket of snow from this last blast of a storm. Snow hangs heavy on the evergreens reminding the habitants of what January should look like. It is now snowshoe use time! Those living outside are busy looking for their caches of food, foraging as they normally do, or are hunkered down for a few days! Area bird feeders are very busy with visitors! - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

The cross-country ski trail system received 6-10 inches of new snow on Monday afternoon and evening. The Escanaba trail was packed, cut and tracked and in good condition. The McNaughton, Madeline and Raven trails were all packed and tracked on Jan. 23 and are in good condition. The Lumberjack trail Blue and Green loops have been leveled. Several inches of snow have left a soft base. - Dan Jacoby and Tony Martinez, parks and recreation specialists

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Door County - Anglers have been targeting yellow perch with little luck. Some anglers spent a few hours out catching a dozen yellow perch and two keepers without any other bites, while others spent a full day out with similar results. Each lot had at least 5 trucks and trailers during the week while more popular launch areas like Potowatmoi Park, High Cliff Road, and Cabots Point averaged over 30 trucks and trailers over the weekend. - Kara Winter, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Several inches of snow fell across most of the county with heavier snow in the north. Most schools were cancelled and travel conditions were poor. The snow is wet and packy and should help create excellent snowmobile trails. The beautiful weather last weekend had lots of people taking advantage of free fishing weekend. Fishing was great in some areas and poor in others. Anglers report catching northern on tip-ups, a variety of panfish, and even a few trout. The warm weekend weather melted snow and increased current in flowages and rivers. Grouse season remains open for one more week (Jan. 31 closure) and a few hunters got their dogs some exercise over the weekend but not many reported any shooting. Deer are congregating in active timber sales feeding on the newly available buds. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Oconto County - Oconto County had seen roughly 4-6 inches of snow near Lakewood and Townsend and much less the farther south you go in the county. As of right now the same snowmobile trails are open, Gillett, Brazeau - Bagley townships and the northern half of the county. Trails are in poor to good conditions. Please check the Oconto County Tourism website for trail conditions. The warm weather later this week will reduce trail conditions and melt snow. Checking White Potato Lake this weekend, observed fishing was slow. There were a few jumbo perch being caught but most individuals only had a handful and were fishing all weekend. Kelly Lake and surrounding lakes have been producing some panfish, northern, walleye and largemouth bass. Over all, fishing has been slow. Ice thickness on most lakes is around 12-18 inches. Abundant numbers of bald eagles and multiple turkeys around. Eagles have been hanging close to lakes. - Paul Hartrick, conservation warden, Oconto Falls

Governor Thompson State Park - Ski trails are open and groomed for both classic (diagonal striding) and skate skiing. Please remember pets are not permitted on the ski trails but are welcome on the Otter Trail or the snowshoe trails. Now is an excellent time to see winter wildlife tracks. Staff are reporting frequent sightings otter tracks on the Otter Trail and bobcat & turkey tracks on Granite Path. - Maggie Kailhofer, park manager

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Door County - In Door and Kewaunee County the rain yesterday really took care of the snow in any open areas. In wooded areas with some cover (Northern Door County) the snow pack and cross country ski trails faired a little better but they are pretty solid after freezing temperatures last night. Staff believe some of the snowmobile trails will be ok but they are now frozen ice packed trails. We had pretty good ice on most of the Bay of Green Bay (12-18 inches) and that didn't get affected much. Anglers pursuing whitefish have been doing pretty well and yellow perch fishing has been spotty. A few people have also been targeting Northern Pike or Walleye with varying success. - Brandon Bastar, fisheries research vessel captain, Sturgeon Bay

Peninsula State Park - Cross-country ski trails have been groomed and track set, and are in very good condition. The purple and skate loop are all hard packed with granular surface and should be fast.- Joan Voigt, naturalist guide

Potawatomi State Park - Due to recent rain and warm temperatures, all trails are in poor condition and ice covered in many spots. The ski trailhead parking lot is extremely icy. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Whitefish Dunes State Park - Trails are in poor condition. The area received rain and freezing rain followed by light snow. There are uneven surfaces and some areas of standing water. A Candlelight Event scheduled for this Saturday Jan. 27 has been cancelled due to the poor trail conditions. - Fred Viste, ranger

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Between the forty degree temps of Sunday and a day of rain on Monday, we lost most of our 3 inches of existing snow. We did gain an inch back on Monday night by surely not enough to open any trails. Ice thickness varies from 12-18 inches on most area lakes and vehicles are driving on nearly all of them. Fishing success has been variable - most people catching some fish but not really filling the bucket. Have seen a couple rough-legged hawks recently. Might be a sign of tough weather in Canada as they are irruptive migrants. Still a few grouse around to chase for the last week of the season. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Waushara County - Waushara County received a lot of rain and little snow with the most recent storm. This rain has had an undetermined effect on the ice access points, but be sure to check with local bait shops before you go out. The weather for the upcoming weekend looks very good to get out and enjoy some of the fisheries and any other outdoor activity you want. Hiking, fishing, some small game hunting is still open too. The snowmobile trails are still closed and don't look like they will be open anytime soon unfortunately. Good luck and enjoy the weekend. Can't beat 30s and 40s at the end of January. - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - The man made loop was packed Tuesday morning, and was in good shape. There was a classic track set; however, it is not full depth in a few areas. We made an attempt to pack the trails off of the man made snow loop. Unfortunately, due to all the rain, there are several areas that are under water, and will become large ice sheets as the temps drop. Skiing is not advised off of the man snow made loop. - Brian Jacquette, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - Be cautious of water throughout the Nordic cross-country ski trail system, but especially at the bottom of hills. The orange and green trails turned out the best, but there may be some water spots. The white trail has a lot of ice and the red and white trails have a lot of larger water puddles. Two areas of the blue only trail were not groomed due to trail issues and water problems. The McMiller green trail turned out the best and is in good condition. The orange and white trails are fair to good with several wet spots on the white trail. The blue and purple trails are impassable near Stute Springs due to large ponds of standing water. The red trail is poor with numerous pooling of water. Be cautious of water pooling at the bottom of any hill. - Brian Lemke, property supervisor

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South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Governor Dodge State Park - Not enough snow has fallen for ski trail grooming. No grooming has occurred. Trails still available for hiking. - Eric Stopper, park manager

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Mirror Lake State Park -High temperatures and rain followed by very light snow leave trails unable to be groomed. - Ryder Will, property supervisor

Governor Nelson State Park - All trails have a thin covering of snow on top of ice. - Rene Lee - park manager

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West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - A few northern shrikes have showed up at local bird feeders. The energetic activity around bird feeders is very attractive to these medium-sized predatory songbirds. Because they lack talons, shrikes use their powerful bills to stun or kill small birds and mammals. They also have the unique habit of impaling their prey on sharp objects such as thorns or barbed wire fences. Northern shrikes are winter visitors to Wisconsin, typically arriving from their Arctic taiga breeding regions in mid to late fall and departing during late February and March. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Perrot State Park - Due to the recent warm weather, and rain the ski trails have bare spots and standing water. No future plans for grooming until we receive more snowfall. - Lois Larson, park manager

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - All trails have a packed thin base; grass and debris is popping through. It rained on Jan 22. Skiing is not advisable and trails could be slippery with 40 degree temperatures in the forecast for Friday.- Peter Bakken, superintendent

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Red Cedar State Trail - The trail was tracked and groomed Jan.24 after 10 inches of new snow fell this week. There is one icy spot near the 3/4 mile mark but the trail is in excellent condition beyond that. The annual candlelight hike, snowshoe, and ski event is this Friday, Jan. 26 from 6-9 p.m. starting at the Depot Visitor Center in Menomonie. Please see the DNR Events Calendar for additional information. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger



Last Revised: Thursday, January 25, 2018

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