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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published July 27, 2010

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DNR Park offers, respite, learning and fun at Wisconsin State Fair

MILWAUKEE - A tree-shaded canopy, beautiful native plants and a meandering stream will provide a pleasant respite for visitors to the Department of Natural Resources exhibit at the Wisconsin State Fair.

In addition to finding a shady spot and perhaps catch a cool breeze, fair-goers of all ages will discover a great place to learn about Wisconsin's natural environment. Visitors to Natural Resources Park in the southwest corner of the fairgrounds can talk with DNR staff, learn about Wisconsin's fish, forests and other natural resources through live displays, and participate in hands-on activities that are fun for all ages.

Get Outdoors

The theme of the DNR exhibit is Get Outdoors! Discover the great places to visit and the many things to do in state parks and forests, and on rivers and lakes.

A special feature this year is an opportunity for adults and children of all physical abilities to discover the fun of target-style archery. The archery tent will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for instruction and a chance to practice archery shooting with state of the art equipment.

A variety of Wisconsin fish species will be on display at the aquarium exhibit. Fisheries staff will be on hand available to answer questions and provide information on Wisconsin's premier fishery and offer casting lessons each day from 3 to 5 p.m. in the activities tent.

DNR conservation wardens are partnering with the Coast Guard Auxiliary on boating safety. Kids will be able to interact with the Coast Guard's remote control boat, "Coasty," on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Visitors will learn about the importance of a couple of the world's largest freshwater resources at a display called Discover Wisconsin's Great Lakes for Fun and Adventure.

Fresh water aquarium
Wisconsin fish species will be on display at the aquarium exhibit.
WDNR Photo

Fishing and hunting licenses can be purchased in the South Building from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. And people wondering what it would be like to work for a nationally recognized environmental and natural resources agency can stop by the career booth in the North Building and talk with staff about careers with the DNR.

Your Passport to Fun

Young explorers can pick up their Passport to Fun when entering the Natural Resources Park to begin their adventures and complete their mission. Geared to children ages 6 to 12 and their families, the passport adventure will take explorers around the DNR park with fun activities at each display. Upon completing the activities and their mission, the kids return to the Passport desk and receive a small prize.

Casting clinic
Young visitors enjoy a casting clinic at DNR Park. This year's exhibit will also reature an archery tent.
WDNR Photo

Study nature like a scientist

Study nature like a scientist
Study nature like a scientist.
WDNR Photo

The Science and Energy exhibit will help visitors of all ages discover the many wonders of Wisconsin's natural resources. DNR scientists will help you measure water quality, catch and identify aquatic critters and explore where animals live and how to identify animal tracks.

T-shirt printing celebrates animals

A traditional State Fair activity for many families is T-shirt printing at the Natural Resources Park activities tent. Coordinated by the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, each day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. artists of all ages can decorate a T-shirt or other piece of material. This year's theme is Paws and Claws and the tracks animals leave. The printing is free. T-shirts and reusable tote bags are available for $5 or you can bring your own.

Snakes and toads and turtles and art

Havenwoods State Forest will transport some of their resident reptiles and amphibians to the fair to the delight (or not) of visitors. If snakes aren't your thing, you can engage in a little nature art. Check out the sand studios, build a structure in the construction area, and design a landscape background for a finger puppet show. Photos will be taken of the temporary art and displayed during the Fair at the Parks area in the North building and will then be posted to the DNR web site.

Have fun in summer school

Smokey Bear teams up with Ranger Bob at Smokey's Schoolhouse every day from 10 a.m. to Correction -- 3 p.m. to teach campfire safety and how to be a good friend of the forests.

Visitors of all ages can test their knowledge of Wisconsin's trees, our forest history and forest products. Forestry's indoor exhibit will highlight invasive plant species. Experts will be on hand daily to answer questions on invasive plants and demonstrate how you can help reduce these threats.

Are you having a good air day?

DNR staff that monitors air quality teams up again this year with the National Weather Service to show visitors how to compare weather conditions and air quality. Learn how the experts forecast what to expect later in the day and tomorrow to help plan outdoor activities.

Test your knowledge of wildlife and wild places

Wildlife exhibit
Touchable animal artifacts at the wildlife exhibit.
WDNR Photo

Spin the Wondrous Wildlife Wheel and answer questions on Wisconsin's wildlife and the special places you can go to observe and appreciate the variety of animals that call Wisconsin home. In addition, the always popular display of "touchable" animal artifacts, like pelts, and eggs and claws, will be on display.

Add your "I've been here" markers to a large state map to illustrate all the state parks and forests and wildlife areas you've visited and discover where you want to go next.

The Wisconsin State Fair (exit DNR) opens Thursday, Aug. 5, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 15, at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis. More information is available on the Wisconsin State Fair web site.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kathleen Wolski - (608) 264-6282

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Public meetings and hearings to be held on proposed waterfowl hunting seasons

MADISON - Waterfowl hunters can find the latest information on the status of waterfowl and waterfowl management decisions in Wisconsin and learn about the latest proposals for Wisconsin's 2010 waterfowl hunting seasons at a series of upcoming public meetings and hearings.

"We won't have a final waterfowl season proposal for the fall 2010 seasons until Monday, August 2," said Kent Van Horn, Wisconsin state waterfowl biologist who just returned from the Mississippi Flyway Council meetings in Mobile, Alabama. "However, we have a good picture of the likely upcoming season, and much of the news this year is very good since wetland conditions across most of North America were good in 2010."

State waterfowl hunting seasons are structured within the bounds of an annual framework decided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. With the overall picture on the 2010 waterfowl breeding populations being good, hunters can expect average to liberal season frameworks in 2010 but there are likely going to be some important regulation changes this year, according to Van Horn.

Across the traditional survey area of the Dakotas, Canada and Alaska, total duck numbers were estimated at 41 million prior to breeding, which is 21 percent above the long term average. Wetland conditions in the Dakotas and important areas of Canada were good at the beginning of the breeding season and others have improved since then, so the 2010 duck production is expected to be good. Population estimates for most duck species were either similar to or higher than last year.

Spring conditions in Wisconsin were not as encouraging, primarily due to the impact of drought conditions in parts of the state. Wetland areas were down across the state. The 2010 total Wisconsin breeding duck population estimate of 386,501 was down 23 percent from 2009 and is 12 percent below the long-term mean. Since May, however, significant rainfall across the state has improved wetland conditions.

Canada goose breeding conditions in northern Ontario -- where about 50 percent of the Wisconsin harvest originates -- were much better in 2010 thanks to a warm spring and the breeding population estimate was near average. In Wisconsin, the Canada goose breeding population estimate was also up 12 percent at 165,853 geese. Hunters can expect an abundant Canada goose population this fall.

Season to be set by Natural Resources Board, August 11

The Natural Resources Board will set the 2010 season structure at its August 11 meeting in Hayward. At this time, Wisconsin waterfowl hunters can anticipate the following hunting season proposals for 2010:

"We expect to post the season proposals on our website by Aug. 2," said VanHorn.

In addition to the scheduled meetings and hearings, comments can be submitted to: James Christopoulos, 101 S. Webster St., PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921 (608) 261-6458 james.christopoulos@wisconsin.gov

More information is available on the Waterfowl in Wisconsin page of the DNR website.

2010 Post-Flyway Meetings

2010 Public Hearing Locations

Natural Resources Board Meeting

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kent VanHorn, (608) 266-8841

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Inspection data shows minority of boaters increasing risk to lakes and river

Wardens will shift from education to enforcement of new aquatic invasive species law

MADISON - Surveys at boat landings across Wisconsin in summer 2010 show that 96 percent of people say they are following a new law to prevent the spread of Eurasian water-milfoil and other aquatic invasive species. But a few are leaving boat landings with aquatic plants attached, potentially putting scores of lakes and rivers at risk.

From May through late July, 182 people were observed arriving at boat launches with aquatic plants hanging off their boat trailers or boats, or driving away from boat launches at the end of the day with invasive plants attached, according to statewide reports entered through July 25 by boat inspectors and DNR Water Guards. Boat inspectors advise the boaters of the law and how to comply, but they do not have authority to issue warnings or citations. Survey results are available on the Department of Natural Resources website.

Chief Conservation Warden Randy Stark says that such numbers will spur conservation wardens and Water Guards to shift from educating boaters about the new law, to enforcing it. "Given the extensive media coverage and boater surveys at the landings showing high public awareness of the new law, we'll begin transitioning to enforcing the law by issuing citations to those individuals who, by not complying, can erase the excellent efforts of the vast majority of boaters."

The vast majority of Wisconsin's lakes and rivers are free from the most problematic aquatic invasive species; a case over the July 4th weekend in Vilas County illustrates the threat such waters face from boaters who do not follow laws to prevent spreading aquatic invasive species or fish diseases.

DNR Water Guard John Preuss checked the public launch at pristine Allequash Lake in Vilas County and found a trailer with Eurasian water milfoil and zebra mussels hanging from it. When the boater returned to the launch, he told Preuss he was aware of aquatic species law but launched anyway with weeds attached. The man had fished earlier that week in Shawano Lake in Shawano County, which has aquatic invasives including Eurasian water-milfoil, rusty crayfish and zebra mussels. Preuss cited the man for launching a boat in state waters with invasive plants attached, which carries a penalty of $389.50 for a first time offense.

"The Vilas County AIS Partnership is very happy that (Water Guard) John Preuss chose to visit the landing that day and was vigilant in following through on the incident and issuing a citation," says Ted Ritter, who coordinates invasive species efforts for Vilas County. He adds that the UW Trout Lake Center for Limnology has agreed to monitor Allequash Lake carefully to see if either zebra mussels or Eurasian water-milfoil get established in the lake from the incident, Ritter says.

Aquatic invasive species officials and public awareness campaigns have stressed to boaters the need to inspect their boats and remove any aquatic plants for the last 15-20 years. It's illegal to launch or leave boat launches and drive on public roads with aquatic plants and animals attached, according to Bob Wakeman, who coordinates aquatic invasive species prevention and control for the DNR.

DNR conservation wardens, Water Guards, and the paid and volunteer watercraft inspectors statewide made a concerted push in the weeks leading up to the Fourth of July holiday, the busiest boating weekend of the year, to educate people about the laws. The effort netted extensive media coverage and wardens and Water Guards statewide issued dozens of warnings to boaters about the transport law, regional warden supervisors reported.

"Awareness of AIS is very high thanks to the efforts of many individuals and groups around the state that see this as a potential threat to the quality of the lakes in the state," Stark says. "Enforcement of this new law will help support their work, and the good job most boaters are doing to remove aquatic plants and animals from their boats and trailers. We need everybody to do it, however, and hope the enforcement stick can get those last few boaters to comply."

Lake by lake breakdown on boat inspections available

People can find additional information invasive species and control efforts in a new, user-friendly aquatic invasives database available on the Department of Natural Resources website.

Web users can find statewide statistics, as well as by county. The site provides data on boat inspection efforts, boater compliance and special projects to prevent or control invasive species. The information is displayed in easy to read pie charts and bar graphs, and it's updated every 15 minutes to reflect the reports as they're filed by more than 1,000 boat inspectors, both paid and volunteer, and by DNR Water Guards, according to Jennifer Filbert, who is developing the database and pages.

The site is a work in progress, and more features may be added in coming months, including more information about local projects to prevent or control the spread of aquatic invasive species, and interactive maps.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bob Wakeman (262) 574-2149; Greg Stacey (608) 576-9123; Jennifer Filbert, for questions on the database, (608) 264-8533

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Less waste disposed of in Wisconsin landfills in 2009

MADISON - The amount of waste sent to landfills in Wisconsin decreased sharply in 2009, according to data compiled by the Department of Natural Resources. The amount of out-of-state waste disposed of in state landfill declined even faster than waste generated within the state.

Every year, landfills are required to report to the DNR the tonnages of all waste received at their facilities from both in-state and out-of-state sources.

The total amount of waste disposed of in landfills in 2009 dropped 15 percent, from 10.3 millions tons in 2008 to 8.8 million tons, in 2009. Waste from households, institutions and commercial establishments (referred to as municipal solid waste) dropped the most -- 22 percent from 2008 to 2009 (6.2 to 4.8 million tons).

During the same period, waste coming to Wisconsin landfills from other states decreased 31 percent. After peaking in 2004 at 2.2 million tons, out-of-state waste has fallen by almost half. The 2009 total of 1.2 million tons was the lowest since 1997. The majority of out-of-state waste comes from Illinois and Minnesota.

The amount of waste coming to Wisconsin landfills may be down for several reasons, according to Ann Coakley, director of the DNR Waste and Materials Management Program.

"The economic downturn that began in 2008 led many households and businesses to scale back purchases in 2009, which means less material was thrown away," she said. "We are seeing this pattern all over the country. In addition, high fuel prices probably discouraged long-distance hauling of waste into Wisconsin."

Coakley said an increase in the state landfill tipping fee also may have reduced the amount of waste disposed of by communities and made it less attractive to haul out-of-state waste to Wisconsin landfills for disposal. The state's tipping fee on municipal waste rose from about $6 per ton to nearly $13 per ton in 2009.

The state-imposed landfill tipping fee varies according to the type of waste thrown away. Revenue from tipping fees is used to support the state recycling program and other state environmental and energy programs.

For complete 2009 landfill tonnage report is available on the waste management pages of the DNR website, along with more information on Wisconsin's waste imports and exports.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ann Coakley - (608) 261-8449

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Black bear sightings in southern Wisconsin on the rise as bears find new areas to their liking

MADISON - Black bear sightings are becoming more common in southern Wisconsin as bruins find areas previously considered occasional or rare for bear sightings suitable for occupancy.

"Wisconsin's bear population is considerably higher than it was 20 years ago," said Linda Olver, acting DNR bear biologist. "Bear distribution in Wisconsin has shifted further south and southwest, facilitated by the increase in the bear population and areas of suitable habitat available in southern Wisconsin"

A 2008 bear population study estimated Wisconsin's current bear population at between 26,000 and 40,000 bears. This is up from 1989, when the population was estimated at 9,000. The newer population study is scheduled to be repeated in 2011 to check against the 2008 results.

Black bears are not evenly distributed throughout Wisconsin. Bears are abundant in the northern third of Wisconsin and in the forested areas of Clark and Jackson Counties. Bears are less common in the southern half of Wisconsin. The following map shows the relative distribution of black bears in Wisconsin.

Bear Distribution

Increasingly, sightings are being reported in the occasional and rare zones. Sightings are compiled from informal reports from emails, telephone calls and news media.

"Since March of this year (2010) we've logged more than 140 sighting reports in areas where bears were seen occasionally or rarely," says Olver, "however some of these reports are multiple sightings of the same bear as it moves through an area."

Bear Sightings
Click on image for larger version in portable document format

Wisconsin is not alone when it comes to bears expanding their range say wildlife managers. A 2008 survey of eastern states and Canadian provinces that actively manage black bear populations indicated that 75 percent of these jurisdictions report an increase in bear range. Only Vermont reported a contracting bear range.

Managing bear populations

DNR manages bear population size through regulated hunting. Recently, biologists have increased the number of bear harvest permits in response to the apparent increase in bear numbers. Ninety-one percent more harvest permits are available for the 2010 bear season than were allotted for the 2008 bear season.

"The increase in available harvest permits is based on the lower end of the updated population estimate," explains Olver. "Until we have additional population survey information to analyze we will be very careful to avoid any overharvest and resulting setbacks to a healthy bear population."

Bears are an attraction and novelty to some and at the same time a nuisance to others. DNR plans to offer the public opportunities to comment on what is a desirable number of bears in each of the state's bear management regions in the coming year. Public comments will be factored into a new bear management plan. DNR is also developing an online reporting form where the public can report bear sightings. The new feature will be launched in spring of 2011 when bears are once again actively dispersing, searching for new territories.

Avoiding unwanted bear encounters

Bears can quickly learn to associate humans with food and can become a nuisance. It is illegal to feed bears in Wisconsin. Do not feed bears, either intentionally or unintentionally. People unintentionally feed bears by allowing a food source to be accessible to bears near their home. Some examples include: placing bird feeders within reach of a bear during the spring and summer; not securing their garbage cans so bears can access the contents, and leaving dog food out overnight.

DNR contracts with U.S. Department of Agriculture -Wildlife Services to handle nuisance bear complaints. It is important to note that preventing problems from developing is the most effective solution. Moving or "trans-locating" a bear is not.

"If the bear already has an established territory, we are moving the bear into unfamiliar country and likely into another bear's territory," Olver said. "This often leads to tension. If the bear becomes acclimated to people before it is moved, it will likely get into trouble at a new location. In addition to being not always in the best interest of the bear, it costs a lot of money and time to trap, move, and release a bear. Humans have a responsibility not to create a nuisance bear by allowing it access to human-related food sources."

Here are some suggestions for living in areas with black bears:

People who require assistance with a nuisance bear should contact the Wildlife Services 24-hour hotline at 1-800-433-0663 for southern Wisconsin and 1-800-228-1368 for northern Wisconsin.

If a bear is near your home, wave your arms and make noise to scare the bear away. Then back away slowly or go inside and wait for the bear to leave. If the bear found food such as bird feed or garbage one or more times, it will return. When food is no longer available, the visits will stop.

If you encounter a bear while in the woods - stay calm, don't shoot the bear or approach it. Give it space, walk away and watch from a distance.

More information on Wisconsin's black bears and a link to the bear sightings map can be found at the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Linda Olver - (608) 261-7588

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, July 27, 2010




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