NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 4,125 days

ARCHIVED Weekly News Published May 3, 2011

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Survey gives Wisconsin bats a clean bill of health

MADISON - A recently completed statewide survey of known bat wintering sites in Wisconsin showed no sign of white-nose syndrome, a fungus that kills bats by invading their skin and depleting their energy reserves during winter hibernation.

The invasive fungus currently exists in 18 states and four Canadian provinces and has been linked to the death of more than one million bats since 2007. White-nose syndrome (WNS; scientific name Geomyces destructans) has been confirmed within 190 miles of Wisconsin, well within the dispersal range of Wisconsin's most common bat species, the little brown bat.

"It is a relief to not find any signs of the disease in Wisconsin this winter, but it is likely only a matter of time before it does appear," said David Redell, a bat ecologist with the Department of Natural Resources. "Since it is a near certainty WNS will show up, possibly as soon as next winter, we are moving rapidly to survey our known bat colonies, seek out and document new colonies and develop plans aimed at minimizing the spread and effects of white-nose syndrome in Wisconsin."

Bats congregate in large numbers during winter weather in Wisconsin hibernacula (caves and mines). As many as 300,000 bats winter in the state with up to 143,000 in a single hibernaculum in east central Wisconsin. Redell says the arrival of white-nose syndrome in a large colony like this could easily kill many thousands of bats and spread the fungus to other bat populations as surviving bats emerge in spring to carry the fungus to other locations.

Survey crews monitored more than 100 possible hibernacula in the state representing more than 90 percent of the known underground locations over the winter of 2010-11. Redell says this effort represents one of the most extensive and thorough surveillance efforts in North America. The DNR has been aided in this endeavor by private landowners protecting sites, commercial cave operators educating their visitors, and recreational cavers practicing decontamination of their gear.

DNR staff and partners also are working to establish volunteer agreements with hibernacula owners, hold stakeholder meetings and increase the number of outreach and education programs. Scientists and others working on the problem will concentrate on coming up with workable and effective solutions for the disease when it arrives, hopefully saving as many bats as possible for recovery efforts.

Protecting hibernation sites in Wisconsin is important because of the state's high concentration of bats.

"Wisconsin has one of the highest concentrations of hibernating bats in the Midwest," said Redell. "Bats from our neighbor states Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan spend winters here so anything that happens to our hibernacula has far reaching impacts on the summer landscape."

A recent study, published in the journal Science, summed up the potential impacts that loss of our bat populations might produce. The cooperative study, authored by scientists from the University of Pretoria (South Africa), U.S. Geological Survey, University of Tennessee and Boston University, estimate that pest-control services provided by insect-eating bats in the United States range from a low of $3.7 billion to a high of $53 billion a year. Bats also eat mosquitoes, which are not only pests but can carry deadly diseases like the West Nile Virus, and harmful invasive species such as gypsy moths.

Wisconsin currently is home to four species of at-risk cave bats. The little brown bat, the northern long-eared bat, the eastern pipestrelle and the big brown bat all have suffered drastic declines in states where bats have become infected with WNS, with losses approaching 100 percent of cave bat populations. A mortality rate this severe means that these cave bat species face a very real threat of extinction.

A single little brown bat, which has a body no bigger than an adult's thumb, can eat 4 to 8 grams (the weight of about a grape or two) of insects each night according to the Science researchers. This amount represents the entire body weight of each individual bat, which is equivalent to a 100 pound human eating about 400 quarter-pound cheeseburgers every night. In terms of the number of insects eaten it adds up--the loss of the one million bats in the Northeast has probably resulted in between 660 and 1320 metric tons of insects no longer being eaten each year by bats in the region, say the Science authors.

"The lost consumption of this amount of insects could have many effects to the economy and ecosystem services these animals provide," adds Redell. "In addition to agriculture, insects impact forest and human health. More than two-thirds of all bat species in the world are insect-eaters which includes all 8 species of insectivorous bats found in Wisconsin."

People can learn more about how to help Wisconsin bats by visiting the Saving Wisconsin Bats page on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: David Redell - (608) 261-8450 or (608) 212-8719

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Grass carp discoveries concern Wisconsin fisheries officials

Purchase, possession and stocking of this Asian carp illegal in Wisconsin

MILWAUKEE -- They aren't the fish that leap out of the water and knock out boaters nor the ones that can reach 100 pounds, but the discoveries late last month of grass carp in the Milwaukee River and in the Lower Wisconsin River are very concerning, state fisheries officials say.

"Grass carp aren't any more desirable in Wisconsin waters than the other Asian carp that are at our doorstep," says Mike Staggs, Wisconsin's fisheries director. "We don't need these things spreading around the state. We need everyone to follow the rules designed to stop the spread of Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species."

Grass carp are plant eating machines that can rob lakes of the rooted plants that provide important habitat for native fish and wildlife, and leave behind so much fish waste that they can fuel excessive algae growth. Because of the damage they can do, grass carp are illegal to buy, possess or stock in Wisconsin and the DNR destroys the fish when it finds them.

"If they were to reproduce in our lakes, it can foster algae blooms because of their eating habits," says Randy Schumacher, fisheries supervisor in southeastern Wisconsin. "When you have algae, you lose perch, blue gills, etc. that feed off insects that feed off plants. So they are every bit as bad as the common carp and worse."

Grass carp are one of many Asian carp species that are causing problems in the United States, but they are not one of the three Asian carp species that may be making their way up the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal and in danger of colonizing the Great Lakes. Those species are the bighead carp, which eat plankton; the silver carp, which also eat plankton and have been known to jump out of the water and injure boaters; and the black carp, which eat snails and mollusks. A bighead carp was found last week on the St. Croix River at Prescott. Common carp, brought to the United States in the 1800s and stocked in Wisconsin, are invasive and destructive as well, uprooting aquatic plants and contributing to water quality problems.

Grass carp
This 32.3 inch grass carp was captured in late April in the Milwaukee River.
WDNR Photo

A single grass carp was captured April 27 by DNR fisheries research crews on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway, and a single grass carp was captured April 21 during fish population surveys on the Milwaukee River.

The two fish were the only Asian carp captured during the surveys, which the crews conduct with boats that can deliver an electric current to the water that stuns fish and makes them easy to capture in nets.

DNR is now working with the UW-Milwaukee Water Institute to examine the fish caught in the Milwaukee River to determine whether it has the immature sexual organs that might mark the fish as sterile. The grass carp from the Lower Wisconsin Riverway is having a DNA test run on it in Louisiana. Both grass carp caught in Wisconsin last week are old fish to judge by their size.

Randy Schumacher, fisheries supervisor for southeastern Wisconsin, says a few grass carp have been found in the Milwaukee River in the last decade.

"We've picked up a few over the years now dating back to 2003, which suggests that somebody perhaps had them in a pond and they escaped or were transferred to another water."

Some grass carp bred to be sterile are allowed in Illinois, and Iowa allows both sterile and fertile grass carp.

Grass carp in the Mississippi River

Grass carp have turned up in increasing numbers in the Upper Mississippi River in recent years, so it's likely that some grass carp from the Mississippi have been moving into the Lower Wisconsin in recent years, says Ron Benjamin, fish supervisor for the Mississippi River.

Grass carp were introduced to the United States several decades ago for aquatic plant control in aquaculture operations and in golf course and other ponds. Bighead, silver and black carp were introduced about 15 years later.

"We first found a few stragglers in the Upper Mississippi River in 1987, and in 1995, we started seeing them in the commercial harvest," says Benjamin. Wisconsin waters include 259 miles of the 839 mile portion of the river designed as the Upper Mississippi River, including pools 3-12.

Numbers of grass carp harvested commercially on the Mississippi increased starting in 2008, when massive flooding occurred in Iowa. Grass carp can still be legally sold and imported to Iowa, and the state itself produces at its hatcheries grass carp for stocking in aquaculture and other ponds. "The giant floods washed a ton of grass carp out of Iowa," Benjamin says. "Some came in the Mississippi River."

Commercial fishermen harvested 24,007 pounds of grass carp from Iowa and Wisconsin waters of the Mississippi River in 2008, 65,833 in 2009, and 32,628 in 2010, with the vast bulk of that coming from Iowa waters, Benjamin says.

Reproduction of grass carp has never been documented in Wisconsin waters but such reproduction has been documented in pool 14, about 60 miles south of the Wisconsin border, where they have found fish of different ages.

Black, silver and bighead carp are listed as injurious under the federal Lacey Act, making them illegal to transport across state lines without authorization. Wisconsin DNR has sought to have grass carp listed as injurious under the Lacey Act to keep them out of the state.

DNR has sought to take other actions within Wisconsin boundaries to prevent the fish from establishing populations here. DNR is cooperatively developing a set of Best Management Practices to lower the risk that fish imports will be contaminated with grass carp, mosquito fish and other invasive fish species. And businesses selling fish, aquatic plants and other regulated species are being contacted through a cooperative effort with DATCP and DNR with information about the invasive species rule, according to Mindy Wilkinson, who coordinates Wisconsin's invasive species classification program.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ron Benjamin (608) 785-9012; Randy Schumacher (414) 263-8672; Mindy Wilkinson ( 608) 266-6437; Bob Wakeman (262) 574-2149

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Gypsy moth aerial spraying to start soon

MADISON—Some Wisconsin residents will see and hear loud, low-flying planes around sunrise beginning in mid-May. The planes will be spraying gypsy moth caterpillars, an invasive and destructive pest that feeds on the leaves of many species of trees and shrubs.

Spray dates and times are weather dependent, but officials expect spraying to begin in southern Wisconsin in mid-May and end in northern Wisconsin in June.

People can view maps of the specific areas scheduled for treatment on the Wisconsin gypsy moth website [gypsymoth.wi.gov]., where they can also sign up for daily email updates to stay informed about spray plans. People can also request to have spray maps mailed to them by calling the toll-free Gypsy Moth Information Line 1-800-642-6684. Press menu option 1 for daily spray schedule updates.

Spraying will be conducted by two programs

The Slow the Spread Program focuses on efforts slowing the westward spread of gypsy moth in areas of Wisconsin where gypsy moth populations are low and emerging. It is conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and this year spray treatments include the following counties: Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Chippewa, Clark, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jackson, La Crosse, Lafayette, Monroe, Polk, Price, Richland, Rusk, Sawyer, Trempealeau, Vernon, and Washburn. This spraying includes portions of New Glarus state park and the Black River and Brule River state forests.

The Suppression Program focuses on eastern Wisconsin, where counties are quarantined for gypsy moth and the pest is well established. These areas are treated to prevent damage from very high populations and to reduce populations to more sustainable levels. This is a voluntary program that works with landowners and local governments. It is conducted by the Department of Natural resources and this year will treat portions of the following counties: Dane, Brown, Marinette, Menominee, Milwaukee, Rock, Sauk and Shawano. Spraying is planned within portions of Devil's Lake and Governor Thompson state parks and for the Milwaukee Zoo.

Know what to expect

Planes will start treatment at around 5 a.m. and could spray on weekends as well as during the week. The planes fly very low and loud over treatment sites and surrounding areas.

Planes will remain in the area until the completion of the day's spray plans and as long as weather conditions remain favorable. Spraying may last into the late morning or afternoon.

Most sites will be sprayed with Foray, which contains Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk). Btk is a naturally occurring soil bacteria that kills gypsy moth caterpillars when they ingest it.

Btk is not toxic to people, bees, pets or other wild animals. However, some people with severe allergies may wish to stay indoors during spray application or avoid areas to be sprayed on the day that spraying occurs.

The formulation of this bacterial insecticide used by the state's cooperative gypsy moth program is listed with the Organic Materials Review Institute as acceptable for use in certified organic food production.

DNR Suppression sites receive one application of Btk, while some DATCP Slow the Spread sites in western Wisconsin will receive two applications of Btk, five to 10 days apart.

In areas with endangered species of butterflies and moths, a gypsy moth specific product called Gypchek will be used instead of Btk.

The Slow the Spread program also will apply pheromone compound to disrupt gypsy moth mating at sites in western Wisconsin from mid-June to as late as early August. The compound interferes with the ability of male moths to find female moths in low, isolated populations, preventing reproduction.

More information about the programs or gypsy moths is available in a gypsy moth media kit available on the DNR website, on the Wisconsin gypsy moth website [gypsymoth.wi.gov] or by calling the toll-free Gypsy Moth Line at 1-800-642-MOTH (1-800-642-6684) to hear a recording of the programs' most up-to-date spray plans or talk to staff.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: DNR - Colleen Robinson Klug, 608-266-2172, Colleen.RobinsonKlug@wisconsin.gov; DATCP Contact: Nkauj (pronounced 'gow') Vang, 608-224-4591, Nkauj.Vang@wisconsin.gov

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Wetland restorations by federal agencies would be covered by general permit

MADISON -- The state permitting processes for wetland restoration projects done on private and public lands that are facilitated by federal agencies would be streamlined under a proposal up for public comment through May 16.

The Department of Natural Resources is proposing to issue a new standardized general permit for certain wetland restoration activities led by the Natural Resources Conservation Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Projects could proceed if they met the standards listed in the general permit, instead of going through the longer process of having an individually tailored permit drafted by a DNR staffer.

NRCS and the Fish and Wildlife Service have established wetland restoration programs, including the Wetland Reserve Program and the Wisconsin Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (both links exit DNR), says Ken Johnson, DNR water administrator.

"Our proposal recognizes the work their professional staff has done to get a project ready, and we think it will allow these agencies to facilitate more wetland restoration projects," he says.

"That's important, because these agencies, working with public and private landowners restore an average of more than 2,000 acres of wetlands every year," Hagen says. "We're excited about the progress this will help Wisconsin in reversing the loss of wetlands.

Sixteen conservation organizations and governmental agencies with wetland responsibilities came together in 2008 to create a collective vision for Wisconsin wetlands that called for protecting existing wetlands and restoring wetlands where it makes sense. Wisconsin today has about half of the wetland acreage present before statehood.

The proposed permit is currently available for public review on the wetlands restoration page of the DNR website and comment. Written comments on the proposed general permit or a public hearing request must be mailed to Cherie Hagen at 810 West Maple St., Spooner, WI 54801 and be received no later than May 16, 2011.

Please contact Cherie Hagen at 715-635-4034 or by email at cherie.hagen@wisconsin.gov with your request or for any questions.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Cherie Hagen (715) 635-4034

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Ballast water permit changes now in place

MADISON - Requirements for oceangoing ships arriving in Wisconsin's Great Lakes waters have changed in two major ways that officials say will work together to better protect Wisconsin waters from invasive species.

Effective April 1, the Department of Natural Resources modified requirements in its general permit that oceangoing ships arriving in Wisconsin ports must have. The ships must:

"Canadian research suggests that combining ballast water exchange with the numerical standard by the International Maritime Organization may result in good protection for our Great Lakes and inland waters," says Laura Madsen, DNR coordinator of the ballast water permitting program.

"We think it's an effective one-two punch for aquatic invasive species that might be hitching a ride in ballast water."

Large commercial vessels take on and release water to help balance the vessel as cargo is loaded on and off; plants, animals and pathogens are sucked in as well and can be released in the Great Lakes. Releases of ballast water are the leading way invasive aquatic species such as the zebra mussel, quagga mussel and round goby have been introduced to the Great Lakes over the last century.

New research is showing that exchanging ballast water at sea can reduce by up to 95 percent the number of invasive species that have the greatest chance of surviving and causing trouble in freshwater bodies, according to Sarah Bailey, PhD. a research scientist for the Canadian federal government's Department of Fisheries and Oceans and a member of the Great Lakes Ballast Water Collaborative, a regional network of scientists and policymakers that Wisconsin asked to examine its treatment standard in 2010.

Older research had raised questions about the effectiveness of ballast water exchange and the variation among ships in how frequently and how well they preformed the process. But Bailey's research is showing that done right, the plants, animals and pathogens are purged at sea as the ballast water is exchanged; organisms remaining in the tank are then subjected to the salt water taken in, which kills and weakens many of them, Bailey says.

"We've been completing analysis of flushing and finding such exchange is much more protective of freshwater ports than marine ports," Bailey says. "This idea of combining exchange with treatment may be a more meaningful increase in protection because you're now addressing two of the three factors necessary for a successful invasion, not just one."

The ultimate success or failure of any introduction of a harmful aquatic invasive species or pathogen depends on how many of the particular species are released over time; whether the receiving water's temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and other environmental conditions are hospitable to the invader; and whether the food and predator situation is conducive to its survival and growth, Bailey says.

Wisconsin started regulating large commercial vessels entering its Great Lakes waters in February 2010, joining Minnesota, Michigan and New York in doing so to provide greater protection than provided as a result of federal permit requirements. The federal government has taken more than a decade to develop ballast water regulations and they are still not done.

Wisconsin's ballast water discharge general permit called for phasing in a requirement that new and existing oceangoing ships meet a treatment standard 100 times higher than the IMO standard. DNR was required to determine, by the end of 2010, if effective treatment systems would be available by the implementation date, and if not, revert to the IMO standard.

DNR engaged the Great Lakes Ballast Water Collaborative (Collaborative), a group of experts from academia, government, the shipping industry, testing facilities, treatment vendors and nonprofit organizations to review ballast water treatment technologies. The group concluded in a report (pdf) that technology did not yet exist to verify whether a treatment system can rid ballast water of organisms effectively enough to meet the original Wisconsin standard.

"The technology is not quite there to support the higher standard. The good news is that research is showing that existing technologies may be more effective, and more protective, for freshwater systems than we thought," Madsen says.

More information on ballast water is available in a media kit on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laura Madsen - (608) 264-6285

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Researchers return to Winnebago System to look for VHS fish disease

Seek to develop new nonlethal test for game fish

OSHKOSH -- Four years after the deadly fish disease VHS was first diagnosed in Wisconsin, researchers are returning to the Lake Winnebago system, the site of that discovery, to learn if the virus is still a threat and to develop a faster, cheaper test to detect its presence.

"Our main goal is to develop an antibody test that lets us know whether the VHS virus was present in a fish population, and that won't require any fish to be killed," says Tony Goldberg, a University of Wisconsin-Madison Veterinary School epidemiologist and one of the principal investigators. "That's especially important for valuable and large game fish like musky and walleye."

Goldberg says the researchers also want to learn whether the VHS virus is still active in fish in Lake Winnebago, and to understand when the virus poses the biggest threat to fish.

Such predictive abilities could offer a new way to monitor and manage viral hemorrhagic septicemia throughout all of Wisconsin's waters, and also could be offered to resource managers around the country and world, he says.

Goldberg is working with Sue Marcquenski, fish health specialist for the Department of Natural Resources, Kathy Kurth of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, and Anna Wilson, a UW-Madison graduate student who previously worked with Marcquenski.

The work, funded by a $200,000 grant from UW Sea Grant, is piggybacking on DNR's spring surveys to collect freshwater drum, which was the first fish species in Wisconsin to suffer a disease outbreak caused by VHS. Drum, a rough fish that also is known as sheepshead, is a good forage item for walleye, sauger, and other game species during their first year of life.

VHS does not affect people nor pets, but can infect 28 species of fish and cause them to bleed to death. Besides Lake Winnebago, VHS also has been detected in a variety of species in Wisconsin's Lake Michigan waters and in lake herring from Wisconsin waters of Lake Superior. DNR's testing thus far has suggested that the disease has not spread to inland waters, but concerns about its future spread remain. VHS was most recently diagnosed in late March 2011 in gizzard shad in shipping canals of the Menomonee River in Milwaukee.

The researchers will be out on the water in coming weeks on the Lake Winnebago system with DNR fish crews. The teams will work together as the DNR conducts annual population assessments.

The VHS researchers will collect blood and organs from about 600 freshwater drum over the next two years. They'll assess those samples for the presence of virus antibodies at two points during a seasonal cycle, in early spring just before VHS has typically been most active, and in fall. The presence of antibodies in the drum will indicate whether the fish were exposed to the virus and survived and subsequently developed an immune response.

By sampling drum before and after the "critical window" for VHS outbreaks, the researchers can examine how the infection status of Lake Winnebago drum changes over the transmission season each year. These data, in combination with the DNR's long-term database on Lake Winnebago drum, will be used to make statistical predictions about when and where VHS is most likely to occur in the future.

Goldberg suspects that the infection may occur in waves, as new fish enter the fishery, or as the immunity wanes in older fish that survived the initial infection. "We think it could be like mumps in humans, with new waves starting as immunity wears off."

Wilson will be working with Kurth, an international expert in animal diagnostic testing, to develop the antibody test as a quicker, cheaper, and non-lethal alternative to current accepted testing methods. Right now, the only way to determine the presence of the VHS virus is by testing internal tissues or fluids from fish which requires killing the fish.

Marcquenski says that the test Kurth and Wilson are developing is also expected to help yield more accurate results regarding the true distribution and prevalence of the virus. The current test can only detect the presence of the virus when it's active. The new test will detect antibodies to the virus, which means the fish were infected at some time in the past and survived the infection.

If fish are tested with both methods, agencies will know if VHS is currently active or was active in the past, she says.

DNR fish biologists who manage Lake Winnebago are eager for the results. Kendall Kamke, senior fish biologist, notes that there have been no obvious effects of VHS on the sheepshead population or on other species in Lake Winnebago.

"There's nothing I could point to and think it might be related to VHS," he says. "But if they can give us a test that will allow us to avoid killing fish and something that could predict the threat level based on XYZ criteria, that would be the silver lining."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Sue Marcquenski, DNR fish health specialist, (608) 266-2871; Tony Goldberg, UW-Madison veterinary epidemiology professor, 608-890-2618 (office); 608-890-3255; Moira Harrington, Wisconsin Sea Grant communications manager, (608) 263-5371; or Kathy Kurth, WVDL virology section chief, (608) 262-5432

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Wisconsin state nursery system celebrates 100 years

WISCONSIN RAPIDS -- It is tree planting season in Wisconsin, and over the past 100 years the Wisconsin state nursery system has produced more than 1.5 billion tree seedlings planted in the state. The seedlings have been planted by public land managers and private landowners from a southern Kenosha County farm field to the cliffs of the Bayfield peninsula. The seedlings have blocked gusty winds from eroding soil, provided nesting habitat for songbirds and white-tailed deer, shaded picnickers and hunters, been processed into paper and lumber and provided fruits, nuts and sap for maple syrup.

The state nursery system began in 1910 when State Forester Edward Merriam Griffith directed staff in the Wisconsin Conservation Department to begin a small nursery near the shores of Trout Lake on cut-over pine land. That fall, Assistant State Forester Frank B. Moody, forestry student C. L. Harrington and three other young men collected pine cones from recently cut white and red pine after a timber harvest. The seeds were planted during the spring of 1911 and grew into the red and white pines that were distributed to state and county property as seedlings in 1913 for reforestation projects in the cut-over area of the Northwoods.

This year the nurseries are celebrating 100 years of seedling production.

The mission of the nursery program has always been to insure a consistent supply of high quality seedlings of desirable forest species and at an economical price to encourage reforestation in Wisconsin. The nursery system has adapted and thrived throughout the years, experiencing high demand for seedlings during the peak of the federal Conservation Reserve Program and the 1950s Soil Bank era and decreased sales during the Great Depression and the recent economic downturn.

Seedlings are sold at cost of production to Wisconsin forest landowners and fill an important need that cannot be met solely by the private sector.

The nursery staff is planning a number of activities throughout the year for the centennial celebration. Watch for updates on the State Nursery Program page of the DNR website or contact one of the nursery offices for more information: Hayward State Nursery, (715) 634-2717; Griffith State Nursery, (715) 424-3700; Wilson State Nursery, (608) 375-4123.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeremiah Auer, Wisconsin Rapids Griffith Nursery - (715) 424-3700 or Kirsten Held - (608) 264-6036

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Horicon Marsh Bird Festival May 6-9

HORICON -Bird enthusiasts and families can participate in more than 50 tours, hikes, demonstrations and other bird-related activities during the 15th annual Horicon Marsh Bird Festival, May 6-9 held at the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area and National Wildlife Refuge (exit DNR) in Dodge County.

Since the festival's inception in 1997, the event has become recognized as one of the premier birding experiences in the Midwest, drawing birders from across the nation, according to Bill Volkert, Department of Natural Resources wildlife educator and naturalist, who is based at the Horicon Marsh International Education Center.

"Each year, more than 500 people attend, with birders coming from throughout the upper Midwest and as far away as New York and California, and the event has even attracted international visitors, Volkert said.

The Bird Festival is held annually on the second weekend of May at the peak of spring migration. It's also Mother's Day weekend, which gives families a special Mother's Day activity in the outdoors, noted Volkert.

The First Light Bus Tours almost always sight more than 100 species of birds before noon. One of the most popular events is a bird banding demonstration where the public gets to observe migrant songbirds from Central and South America captured and marked. They also see these tiny songbirds up close and in the hand.

The 32,000 acre Horicon Marsh includes an 11,000 acre State Wildlife Area, with the remaining land designated a National Wildlife Refuge. The marsh received the prestigious title of "A Wetland of International Importance" in 1991 and it's also designated a unit of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve and recognized as a Globally Important Bird Area.

This year many of the Bird Festival events will begin at the Horicon Marsh International Education Center. This center is a $4.8 million project made possible largely due to tremendous local support. Construction began in November 2007 and required more than one year to complete. The center features an auditorium, two classrooms, traveling exhibit area, gift shop and a tremendous view of Horicon Marsh. Volunteers will be on hand to provide information and direct visitors to the many events. Maps, Festival Booklets and other handouts will be available. The Horicon Marsh International Education Center, is located off of Hwy. 28 between Mayville and Horicon.

More information is available on the Horicon Marsh Bird Festival Web site at Horicon Marsh Bird Club [www.horiconmarshbirdclub.com] (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT BILL VOLKERT: (920) 387-7877

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May 31 deadline to participate in Sandhill learn to deer hunt program

BABCOCK, Wis. - The May 31 deadline to apply to participate in the Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center's learn to hunt deer workshops and hunt for youth and beginner adults is approaching. Applications are available on the Sandhill Wildlife Area pages of the Department of Natural Resources website and at DNR Service Centers. Enrollment is limited to a total of 100 students. Applicants will be randomly selected and successful applicants will be notified by June 22. A fee of $40 will be charged to enter program.

The one-day workshops include information on deer biology and management, scouting, firearm safety, hunt rules and regulations, and hunter ethics. Those who complete the workshops return to Sandhill for a special hunt on Nov. 5-6.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Britt Searles - 715-884-6335

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 03, 2011




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