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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published August 10, 2010

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VHS test results in; fish disease has not spread inland

MADISON - The potentially deadly VHS fish virus did not spread to any inland Wisconsin waters that were tested for the virus in 2010, according to state fisheries officials. None of the fish that Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist collected from nearly 70 lakes and rivers this spring tested positive for viral hemorrhagic septicemia.

"We're pleased that VHS hasn't spread inland and we appreciate the efforts that anglers and boaters have made to keep Wisconsin's fish healthy," says Mike Staggs, Wisconsin's fisheries director. "These results show that taking the prevention steps can contain the disease as well as help prevent the spread of other aquatic invasive species."

Earlier this year, Cornell University researchers reported finding VHS in Lake Superior fish collected in summer 2009, but no fish kills were evident in that lake in 2009 or 2010 because of VHS, and none of Wisconsin's 2010 testing suggested the virus had spread from that massive lake to inland lakes or streams.

"The good news is we assumed VHS was in Lake Superior when we developed the prevention rules in 2007, and as result, inland lakes and rivers were protected," Staggs says.

VHS can infect several dozen fish species in Wisconsin and can cause them to bleed to death; a recent Michigan State University study shows that muskellunge are most susceptible, followed by largemouth bass, yellow perch, rainbow trout, brook trout, brown trout, Chinook salmon, and coho salmon. The virus was first detected in Wisconsin in May 2007, when dead fish collected from the Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan systems were tested and were positive for the virus. Lake Michigan fish again tested positive for the virus in 2008 and 2009. Information on VHS Distribution in Wisconsin is available on the DNR website.

2010 monitoring and hatchery system testing results

Wisconsin DNR tests fish for VHS for several different reasons: "surveillance" testing to learn where the virus is present and whether it's spread; to learn if the wild fish DNR uses to get eggs for state fish hatcheries have the virus; and before stocking fish back into lakes or rivers, according to Nick Legler, a fish health biologist who coordinated the VHS surveillance testing.

DNR also tests fish for VHS as part of investigating fish kills that occur in lakes or rivers, and to respond to anglers who report seeing fish with signs of VHS such as hemorrhages on the skin or internal organs, bulging eyes, and bloated abdomens.

DNR's 2010 surveillance testing was funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and involved DNR crews collecting 3,586 fish from 27 inland lakes and rivers throughout Wisconsin. The fish were all collected between March 24 and May 27, before the water temperatures rose above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and the goal was to get a total of 150 fish from each water body of various species susceptible to the virus.

The fish were sent to one of three laboratories for testing: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service La Crosse Fish Health Center in Onalaska; the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison, and Micro Technologies in Richmond, Me.

Fish were tested from waters including Lake Monona in Dane County, Lac Courte Oreilles in Sawyer County, Shawano Lake in Shawano County, and Brule River Flowage in Florence County, and Rock Lake in Jefferson County.

The hatchery system testing was coordinated by Sue Marcquenski, DNR fish health specialist. The wild fish DNR collected eggs from for its hatchery operations were tested for VHS and other viruses. The resulting offspring of these fish were also tested for viruses about before they were transferred from DNR hatcheries into lakes or rivers. VHS was not detected in any fish from the state hatcheries.

Marcquenski said the wild broodfish are tested to find out whether they carry any virus that could be transmitted to other fish in the hatcheries. Their offspring are tested because at most DNR hatcheries, the fish are raised in outdoor facilities where they are exposed to birds, amphibians and mammals that can move fish pathogens from one place to another. "To be sure that the fish in the hatcheries are free of serious diseases, we test them for viruses about one month before they are stocked," she says.

Steps can help contain VHS and other aquatic invaders

Statewide surveys in fall 2008 and 2009, and surveys of boaters at boat landings in recent years suggest that the majority of boaters and anglers know about the three-year-old VHS rules and are following them. Those rules aim to prevent boaters and anglers from accidentally moving infected fish or water from one lake to another, Legler says. The VHS virus can survive in water for at least 14 days. Minnows can become infected with VHS after being exposed to VHS-contaminated water or fish, and game fish can become infected with VHS by eating infected minnows.

A few simple steps can help contain the disease and other aquatic invasive species such as Eurasian water-milfoil and zebra mussels.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Staggs (608) 267-0796; Nick Legler (608) 264-6028; Sue Marcquenski (608) 266-2871

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It's only August, but oak trees may indicate October

MADISON - The first signs of oak wilt, a tree-killing fungal disease, are now appearing in trees in counties in the southern two-thirds of Wisconsin.

"The first symptoms of oak wilt are branches with wilted leaves and leaves on the ground in summer when you wouldn't expect to see that," said Kyoko Scanlon, a forest pathologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry. "These are not the brown, dry leaves you see in autumn. These are partially green to bronze-green and are not completely dry."

Oak wilt affects trees in both the red oak and white oak groups. Once a tree is infected with oak wilt, water and nutrients can't move upward from the root system, and that causes the tree's leaves to wilt and fall. Eventually, oak wilt will kill the tree.

Scanlon said the red oak group, including northern red, northern pin, and black oaks, are particularly vulnerable to oak wilt. Once symptoms become visible, a tree loses most of its leaves (typically from the top downward) and dies very quickly, often within a few weeks.

"Anyone with an oak tree that is rapidly losing its leaves may want to have the tree examined for oak wilt by an International Society of Arboriculture-certified arborist or forester or send in a sample for a laboratory test," said Don Kissinger, a DNR urban forester. "A person should take immediate steps to protect nearby oaks if they value those trees."

The University of Wisconsin's Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic can help verify the presence of oak wilt. A sample must be sent to clinic, and a small fee is charged for the service. The clinic can be reached at (608) 262-2863 or via the Internet at [www.plantpath.wisc.edu/pddc].

Most often, oak wilt spreads from one oak to another through root grafts between neighboring trees. Removing a diseased or dead tree may not be enough to stop oak wilt from spreading. Forest health experts recommend using a vibratory plow or trencher to sever existing root grafts prior to removal of diseased trees. Contacting an urban forestry consultant to determine best time of year and placement of the root graft barriers is a good idea, as placement will vary depending on tree size and the distance between infected and healthy trees along with the soil type.

"There are also fungicide treatments available, but they are most effective as a preventative, and repeated applications are necessary for success," Scanlon said.

Some instances of oak wilt are caused by insects that carry the oak wilt spores to healthy trees. To prevent oak trees from being infected with oak wilt transported by insects, it is very important not to prune or wound oak trees from April through July and to take a cautious approach, avoid pruning till October. Pruning or injuring the tree causes the tree to release sap, which attracts the fungus-transporting insects. If tree removal, pruning or damage occurs to oak tree trunks or limbs during this summer and early fall time period, it is imperative to seal the wounds with some type of water-based (latex) paint. (It does not have to be commercially purchased tree wound paint.)

It's not always oak wilt

Symptoms similar to oak wilt may be caused by an infestation of the two-lined chestnut borer.

"The two-lined chestnut borer is an opportunist," Scanlon said. "It will attack weakened trees, favoring red and white oaks more or less equally." The borer frequently shows up in areas where a forest tent caterpillar or gypsy moth outbreak or drought has weakened trees. The adult borer lays eggs under the bark. When the larvae emerge, they eat their way through the fluid-conducting tissues of the tree, stopping the flow of nutrients to the leaves.

"The leaves turn uniformly brown, but often remain on the tree for a while," Scanlon said. "Unfortunately, an infestation of two-lined chestnut borer and oak wilt can occur at the same time on the same tree."

Maintaining vigorous healthy trees is the best defense against the insect. Watering, mulching, fertilizing properly, and avoiding physical damage to trees should be practiced.

Wisconsin communities may be eligible to participate in a cost-sharing program to help combat oak wilt. The Urban Forestry Grant Program is not available to individual property owners. But property owners with oak wilt are encouraged to contact their municipal forester or other local official to pursue a grant. Applications for the program are due by October 1. If a community is interested in applying for a grant, contact the Wisconsin DNR Urban Forestry Coordinator in area particular region.

Additional information about oak wilt and other forest health issues can be found on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Kyoko Scanlon (608) 275-3275 or Don Kissinger (715) 359-5793.

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Midwest wildlife officials want gray wolf removed from endangered species list

Wisconsin offers new web-based alerts of wolf activity

MADISON - Administrators from the natural resource agencies in 13 Midwestern states and three Canadian provinces have signed a joint resolution urging the U.S. Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list.

"Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan all have achieved the primary goal of the Endangered Species Act, and that is sustainable wolf populations," said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank. "It's clear in our minds that now is the time to turn over management of the wolf to the respective state natural resource management agencies."

The resolution was inked at a recent Board of Directors meeting of the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The association represents Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kentucky, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan. All states and provinces signed the resolution, including those with no known gray wolf populations at this time.

With the growth of the wolf population in Wisconsin and Michigan, there have been some problems with wolves killing livestock, pets and hunting dogs. Although owners of livestock and hunting dogs have been compensated for their losses, transferring management of wolves to state natural resource agencies will allow better control of the population and greater protections for livestock and pet owners.

"Overall, support for recovery of the wolf in the Midwest has been strong, but as the population continues to grow states need authority to manage wolves within their borders, including the ability to remove problem wolves, if broad public support for wolves is to continue," Frank said.

In April 2010, Wisconsin submitted a state petition to the Department of the Interior requesting the wolf be removed from the endangered species list in Wisconsin. Wisconsin's petition joined a similar action by Minnesota filed in March 2010. Wisconsin's estimated wolf population at the end of the 2009-2010 winter was more than 700.

"Wisconsin has worked cooperatively with the Department of the Interior on wolf recovery for more than 30 years and has fully supported Interior's recent efforts to delist the gray wolf," said Frank. "We believe, and scientific evidence supports, that delisting and transferring management of the wolf to Wisconsin is timely and will lead to improved management through effective action on problem wolves."

To aid citizens in avoiding wolf depredations, DNR biologists have created a new wolf depredation alert system that sends an email alert to subscribers with a link to details and a caution area map as soon as a depredation can be verified. The new web-based alert has more than 3,400 subscribers. Among them are hunters who began training hunting dogs on July 1.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bob Manwell - (608) 264-9248

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More than 3,400 subscribe to wolf caution area alert service

MADISON - More than 3,400 dog trainers, pet owners and others interested in keeping track of recent wolf activity have signed up for an e-mail or wireless service that sends out an alert when wolves attack hunting dogs or pets in Wisconsin.

Records show 3,462 subscribers now receive e-mail alerts of new caution areas and recent wolf depredations through GovDelivery, a e-mail notification service provided by the Department of Natural Resources.

Sign up is simple and only takes a few minutes. Use the search function on the DNR website to search for "dog depredation by wolves" and follow the simple instructions for subscribing to the alerts. It is possible to unsubscribe at anytime.

The alert will be sent to a subscriber's e-mail and/or wireless addresses of choice and will include a link to details of 2010 depredations and a caution map based on the location of any attacks.

Alerts on other topics are also available through the GovDelivery feature. At the DNR home page select "Subscribe to DNR Updates" and select the topics you want to follow.

Caution areas

"When wolves attack dogs in hunting or training situations, the DNR creates 'wolf caution areas' to warn hunters that a specific pack has attacked a dog or group of dogs," explains Adrian Wydeven, DNR biologist and wolf expert. "We encourage bear hunters to exercise greater caution if they plan to train hounds or hunt bear with hounds near any caution area, especially if they are near an actual kill site and for pet owners near a kill site to keep close tabs on their pets."

Details of wolf attacks on dogs and caution area maps are available on the DNR website along with additional wolf information and suggestions for avoiding unwanted contact with wolves.

Since Jan. 1, 2010 wolves have killed 12 and injured seven dogs. Eight of the fatal attacks have been on trailing hounds since opening of the bear trailing hound training season on July 1.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Adrian Wydeven, DNR mammalian ecologist, (715) 762-1363

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Survey provides valuable information about Chequamegon Bay fishery

Survey results show walleye stocking needed

ASHLAND - A wide variety of fish species found recently during a survey in the western portion of Chequamegon Bay in Lake Superior shows the bay generally supports a healthy fishery, but a decline in the number of smaller walleyes indicates natural walleye reproduction is limited, so continued walleye stocking is warranted, according to state fisheries biologists.

Department of Natural Resources fisheries managers will compare data with a like survey in 1999 and use the information collected to help manage, maintain and enhance the fishery of the area.

"We caught a wide assortment of fish, which reflects the unique mix of species we have in Chequamegon Bay" said Mike Seider, fisheries biologist in Bayfield.

Species found included walleye, yellow perch, bullheads, silver redhorse, pumpkinseed sunfish, carp, rock bass, northern pike and lake sturgeon. No trout or salmon were caught because the shallow water was above their preferred temperature range. Seider was surprised that no small mouth bass were netted but believed they may have taken up a different habitat type in the warmer and weedier water.

In June a trap net was set west of Excel Energy Plant in Ashland to repeat sampling that was done in 1999. The net was checked daily for a week. On each trip crews found 75-100 fish in the net

Seider said that although the net was only set in about 12 feet of water, several lake sturgeon were also captured each day with the largest fish measuring 50 inches. All the fish were measured and released, with some species receiving individually numbered tags. Walleye and northern pike had their stomachs pumped to assess their diet. The pumping does no harm to the fish which are returned to the water.

Lower walleye catches in the trap net supported the need for supplemental stocking in Chequamegon Bay, Seider said, adding that the number of walleyes under 20 inches declined substantially since 1999.

"This is not surprising because other recent DNR surveys had shown that the number of smaller walleyes was down in the absence of stocking," Seider said.

Walleye stocking was discontinued in the late 1990s because the population was flourishing and the DNR wanted to measure if there was natural reproduction along the Ashland shoreline.

"Our current fishing regulation of a five fish bag limit with only one fish larger than 20 inches has been very effective at protecting large fish because we consistently catch healthy numbers of walleyes greater than 20 inches throughout the year" Seider said. He explained that the decline of smaller fish since 1999, however, indicates natural reproduction is limited in the western portion of Chequamegon Bay.

Walleye stocking started in 1979 to compensate for over-fishing and quickly created a new localized population of walleye that returns to the Ashland shoreline each spring to spawn.

"Stocking really created a spawning population that did not exist previously," Seider said. "Although the Ashland shoreline appears to have adequate habitat, it has become more clear their spawning efforts are contributing very little to the fishery."

Fisheries managers reinitiated a stocking program by planting 200,000 walleyes in the bay in 2009 and about 450,000 walleye fingerlings June 2010. Stocking will be continued to help increase and maintain the walleye population in Chequamegon Bay.

Overall the recent survey provided an overview of the fishery in the bay needed in making management decisions about the species found, Seider said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael J. Seider (715) 779-4035 ext. 11

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Reduce, reuse and recycle when moving and heading back to school

MADISON - August has arrived, which for many families means back-to-school shopping or a move to a new city or apartment. Although shopping for new school supplies and packing up an old home can both generate extra waste, state recycling specialists say a little planning can help people reduce, reuse and recycle more and throw away less.

To assist people in shopping or moving, Department of Natural Resources recycling specialists have put together tips on reducing waste and finding recycling and reuse options.

"We know it's a busy time for students and their families," said Cynthia Moore, DNR recycling coordinator. "But with just a little planning, you can reduce waste and save money."

Back-to-school suggestions include:

Moving suggestions include:

More tips and links to more information are available on the Back-to-School Waste Reduction Tips and Green Moving Tips pages of the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Cynthia Moore, DNR Recycling Coordinator, at (608) 267-7550

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Bonus antlerless deer tags and state park deer hunting permits available August 21 and 22

MADISON - Antlerless deer (bonus) carcass tags for regular deer management units, and hunting access permits for state park deer management units go on sale starting Aug. 21.

Tags and permits will be sold at the rate of one per person per day. Tags and permits for odd numbered units will be available for sale on Saturday Aug. 21 from noon until midnight. Tags and permits for even numbered units will go on sale beginning Sunday Aug. 22 at noon.

Sales will continue Monday, August 23 for both odd and even numbered units for all remaining tags. Sales will continue until sold out or until the hunting season ends.

Tags and permits will be available for purchase at any DNR licensing sales location, through the DNR Online Licensing Center, or by phone toll free at 1 (877) 945-4236.

Deer hunters are encouraged to check the 2010 deer management unit designations map or in the 2010 Wisconsin Deer Hunting Regulations booklet for the units they plan to hunt in this fall.

Forty seven regular units will require hunters to purchase antlerless (bonus) tags if they wish to tag antlerless deer in those units this fall. Nineteen regular deer management units will not have any antlerless tags available for sale this year to encourage herd growth. Every gun and archery deer hunting license will include an antlerless carcass tag valid for units designated as Herd Control or Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD units have unlimited earn-a-buck (EAB) rules.

If hunters are planning to hunt in any of the twelve state parks that require access permits for deer hunting, they should plan accordingly, as many units will sell out quickly. Those interested in hunting these properties should first check the 2010 Wisconsin Deer Hunting Regulations or the Hunting Opportunities web page to learn about special weapon restrictions and season dates. Some state parks that allow deer hunting may not require access permits, but may have different season dates.

Purchasing a deer hunting license before Aug. 21 can speed up the permit purchasing process, suggest officials, since hunters must obtain a deer hunting license before they can purchase a bonus antlerless tag or state park access permit. Hunters can check for tag or access permit availability on the DNR website. Tag and permit availability are updated regularly. Units with relatively low numbers of available tags can be expected to sell out quickly. Units with a high number of tags available generally last longer or may not sell out.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Jason Fleener, Assistant Deer Ecologist - (608) 261-7589

For questions about tag sales and park access permits contact the DNR Call Center at 1-888-WDNRINFo)

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First week of deer observation survey brings in more than 800 reports

MADISON - The first week of Operation Deer Watch, a program that asks citizens to report deer observations during the months of August and September, produced 818 observation reports, filed by 420 individuals, according to Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists monitoring the program.

"This is a great response for the first week of a new program," said Tom Hauge, director of the DNR Bureau of Wildlife Management. "We welcome the extra eyes in the woods and appreciate the intense interest folks have in their natural resources and especially in the wildlife around them."

Reports have come in from all corners of the state," said Brian Dhuey, DNR research scientist, "we've received reports from 111 of our 139 DMUs (deer management units). DMU 77M (Milwaukee, and parts of Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha, Sheboygan, Racine, Kenosha and Manitowoc counties) has the most reports at 45, followed by DMU 64 (parts of Manitowoc, Calumet, Brown and Outagamie counties) with 29 reports."

"Operation Deer Watch is one of many volunteer efforts that can fit under the umbrella of citizen science," says Hauge. "For decades deer hunters have contributed to a huge volume of deer harvest data every time they registered their deer. Wisconsin has what is probably the most extensive record of deer sex, age and condition reports of any state in the country thanks to their efforts."

Each year, biologists use a formula to estimate deer populations. The formula includes the number of deer harvested from the hunting seasons, the percentage of yearling bucks and does harvested, the buck recovery rate, and a fawn-to-doe ratio to estimate the population in each deer management unit. Data from Operation Deer Watch will be used with DNR observations to help determine the fawn-to-doe ratio.

Another opportunity for deer hunters to contribute is by sending in a Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey. Started in 2009 the Deer Hunter Wildlife Observation Survey asks hunters to send in their observations of deer, raccoon, skunk, porcupine, red and gray fox, turkey, ruffed grouse, coyote, bear, otter, fisher, bobcat, house cat, badger, wolf, opossum, or other wildlife not normally seen in their area. Since deer hunters often spend many quiet observation hours in the woods, they can provide valuable information about species that are often very difficult to measure. In the first season, hunters filed reports covering approximately 20,000 hunting outings and 120,000 hours of observation. A summary of the 2009 season is available on the Wisconsin Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey page of the DNR website.

The 2010 version of the Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey starts Sept. 18, the first day of the 2010 archery deer season, ending Jan 23, 2011.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Dhuey - (608) 221-6342

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CWD surveillance plan for 2010

MADISON - Sampling and testing of hunter harvested deer for chronic wasting disease (CWD) will take place primarily within the disease management zone of southern Wisconsin in 2010, according to state wildlife officials.

"Our overall goal is to maximize our ability to detect trends in disease prevalence and distribution and assess the impacts of CWD management," said Davin Lopez, CWD coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources.

To that end, mandatory sampling of adult deer will take place in the western (parts of Dane and Iowa counties) and eastern (parts of Rock and Walworth counties) monitoring areas, and within an 84 square-mile area that encompasses Devil's Lake State Park "where long-term monitoring of disease patterns is important to understanding the dynamics of this disease," noted Lopez.

Active surveillance using solicited but voluntary sampling will also be conducted in the area surrounding the western monitoring area in parts of Dane, Iowa, Richland and Sauk counties and along the northeastern and eastern portions of the CWD-Management Zone (CWD-MZ) in parts of Dane, Dodge, Jefferson, Walworth and Waukesha counties.

The CWD-Management Zone covers all or parts of 18 counties and 22 deer management units (DMU) in southern Wisconsin.

Surveillance a Key Management Tool

Surveillance - the sampling and testing of deer - is one of the key components of DNR's disease management strategy, according to agency biologists and researchers.

This year the DNR will continue to examine and implement new strategies aimed at optimizing the "efficiency and possibility of detecting changes and trends in the location and prevalence of this disease" in the CWD-MZ, especially within the outer area of the disease's known distribution, according to Lopez.

Wildlife biologists will also be asking hunters to submit deer for sampling from areas around three deer farms in Crawford, Jefferson and Portage counties where CWD has previously been found in captive cervids.

Overall, DNR is planning to sample 8,950 adult deer in 2010. Through August 4, 2010 more than 159,000 free-ranging deer in Wisconsin have been analyzed for CWD with 1,354 testing positive for the disease. All positive deer were from within the current CWD-MZ.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Davin Lopez, CWD Coordinator, (608) 267-2948

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, August 10, 2010




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