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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published August 2, 2011

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Hot weather has spurred blue-green algae blooms in some waters

MADISON -- The recent hot, humid weather in much of Wisconsin is fueling blue-green algae blooms in some popular waters, resulting in growing reports of health concerns related to toxins that can be produced by the algae and warnings from state and local public health and water quality officials.

They advise people to avoid swimming, wading, skiing or coming into contact with the water in areas of lakes and ponds where a green to bluish-green scum or mat of algae is present. They want people to make sure children and pets do not swim in or drink the water.

People are also encouraged to report potential algae-related illnesses to DHS by filling out an electronic form [www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/eh/bluegreenalgae/] (exit DNR) or calling (608) 266-1120.

Mark Werner, a toxicologist with the Department of Health Services says the agency has been "very busy in the last two weeks. We're getting inquiries from Tainter/Menomin lakes in Dunn County, Petenwell Flowage and Castlerock Flowage, Lake Winnebago, and a few others."

Blue green algae blooms
This map shows the potential algae-realted illnesses citizens reported to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services in 2009 and 2010.

Callers are reporting rashes, others gastrointestinal ailments, respiratory irritation, and "we've had one call from somebody who lives on Tainter or Menomin who reported feeling sick from the odor," Werner says. "That was a problem in 2009 from the ammonia from the decomposing algae, and it seems to be popping up again."

On July 28, public health officials in Winnebago, Calumet, and Fond du Lac counties and Department of Natural Resources water quality officials alerted beach goers and others to be cautious on Lake Winnebago (pdf; exit DNR) where blooms are occurring, and which historically has had blooms.

Earlier in July, renowned University of Wisconsin-Madison limnologist Steven Carpenter predicted that the Madison lakes would have a "bad" problem with blue green algae this summer because populations of a water flea that in the past has helped keep blue-green algae levels in check has been decreased by the invasive spiny water flea.

Blue-green algae, technically known as Cyanobacteria, are microscopic organisms that are naturally present in Wisconsin lakes, streams and ponds at low levels. When conditions are favorable, usually in summer, the number of algae can increase dramatically, forming pea-soup blooms and scums on the water surface. Some algal species produce toxins that, when ingested, can harm the neurological systems or liver of people, pets, livestock and wildlife, according to Gina Laliberte, a DNR scientist.

Not all Cyanobacteria produce toxins, but the presence of blue-green algae in a lake or pond is a marker for a potential hazard, she says.

Heavy rains earlier this season may have contributed to algal blooms by providing a surplus of nutrients, although these blooms are common in the summer months when plenty of sunlight is available and water temperatures are warm.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Gina LaLiberte, DNR, (608) 221-5377; Mark Werner, DHS, (608) 266-7480

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Purple loosestrife blooming; citizens asked to help control the invasive plant

MADISON - Purple loosestrife is in full bloom across Wisconsin and state invasive species officials are asking for citizens to help control these invaders.

"Purple loosestrife is easiest to find when it's flowering," says Brock Woods, who coordinates Wisconsin efforts to control purple loosestrife. "This is a crucial time to prevent this invasive plant from spreading and taking over wetlands and other special places."

One mature purple loosestrife plant produces more than 2 million seeds a season, so removing the plants while they're blooming and before they go to seed is very important, he says.

Purple loosestrife displaces native wetland plants and degrades wildlife habitat. Eventually, purple loosestrife can overrun wetlands thousands of acres in size. By law, purple loosestrife is a restricted invasive species in Wisconsin. It is illegal to sell, buy, transport introduce and transfer.

Citizens can help control purple loosestrife by reporting all infestations to DNR and pulling young plants and cutting off the flowering tops before they go to seed. They can also help by releasing special beetles that eat only purple loosestrife.

Report sightings of purple loosestrife and other invasive plants

Sightings of purple loosestrife on public land or private property can be reported to the DNR. Report populations of purple loosestrife and other invasive species by emailing the exact location, land ownership if known, population size, your contact information, and a photo or voucher specimen to Invasive.Species@wi.gov, or by calling by 608-266-6437. Details on reporting can be found on the DNR website.

Property owners can tackle the invader on their own land

Pulling small, young plants with all their roots sometimes stops permanent plants from getting established. While simply cutting off the flowing tops of older plants before they go to seed eliminates this year's seed crop, treating the stem stumps with herbicide provides a longer-lasting solution, Woods says.

If there is open or standing water at or very near the plants, use an herbicide labeled for use near water and get an aquatic plant management permit from the local DNR aquatic plant management coordinator.

Plants and seeds should be carefully bagged and sent to a landfill. Composting will not kill the seeds.

An information sheet with photos of these and many other invasive wetland plants (pdf) is available online, as is more detailed information about many invasive plant species.

Raise and release biocontrol beetles

Free equipment and starter beetles are still available to anyone interested in helping raise special beetles that eat only purple loosestrife.

DNR and the University of Wisconsin-Extension, along with hundreds of citizen cooperators, have been introducing natural insect enemies of purple loosestrife, from its home in Europe, to infested wetlands in the state since 1994.

Careful research over two decades has shown that these insects feed on purple loosestrife and are not a threat to other plants, Woods says. Insect releases monitored in Wisconsin and elsewhere have also shown that these beetles can effectively decrease purple loosestrife's size and seed output, thus letting native plants reduce its numbers naturally through increased competition.

Most beetles have been raised and released by citizens using a simple backyard process and free gear from DNR. Equipment and starter beetles are available in spring to anyone interested in helping to raise special beetles for their area. Field site and plants for rearing should be chosen yet this summer.

People interested in raising the beetles can learn more about the project on the purple loosestrife biocontrol page of the DNR website, and can contact Woods at (608) 221-6349 or brock.woods@wisconsin.gov for details.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brock Woods (608) 221-6349; Kelly Kearns (608) 267-5066

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First year of black bear, bobcat online reporting site successful

MADISON - The first year of an online site developed to collect reports of black bear and bobcat sightings from citizens produced more than 800 reports. This information has been valuable in documenting presence and range expansion for both species, according to wildlife biologists.

"Given that black bears are common in the northern third of Wisconsin, we are taking a special interest in sightings within areas designated as 'occasional' or 'rare' on the distribution map," said Brian Dhuey wildlife surveys researcher with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Black bear population and distribution in Wisconsin information is available on the DNR website.

Black bears have been reported in 51 of Wisconsin's 72 counties in 2011 via the online reporting site. Of those 51 counties, 23 lie in the rare or occasionally sighted areas on the black bear distribution map.

"Many times these southern bears are young males that are dispersing after being emancipated from their mothers," said Linda Olver, DNR bear biologist. "However, we have also had reports of sows with young in both Iowa and Sauk counties."

Of the 550 black bear observations reported so far this year, 76 percent were lone bears. Only 24 percent of observations reported multiple bears; typically these groups are sow with cubs, sow with yearling, or multiple yearling bears seen together. Of the total observations, 81 percent occurred in April, May, or June.

In addition to location information, observers are asked about the observation site habitat. Most black bears are reported along roads/roadsides or in residential areas.

Play it safe

Black bears are powerful wild animals. They can move with astonishing speed and should be treated with caution and respect. But wildlife officials say attacks by black bears on humans are very rare.

Olver has the following advice for people who may encounter a bear: "If a bear is near your home, wave your arms and make noise to scare the bear away from a safe position. If you find yourself unexpectedly close to a bear, back away slowly, do not turn and run. Go inside or take refuge in a vehicle and wait for the bear to leave. In most cases bears are attracted to homes because of easily available food found in bird feeders, pet dishes and garbage cans. If the bear has found food one or more times, it will likely return. When food is no longer available, the visits will likely stop."

Bobcat

More than 300 bobcats have been reported via the online reporting site by 170 individuals. Unlike black bears, bobcats are to be reported statewide. Bobcats have been reported in 56 of 72 counties (pdf). Only 8 percent of observations report sightings of multiple bobcats. Bobcats were observed in upland forests (30 percent of observations) followed by roads/roadsides (15 percent of observations) most frequently.

Trail cameras -- often placed in the woods as scouting tools or as a hobby - accounted for 47 percent of bobcat observations. These photographs are especially valuable for documenting bobcats as they are secretive animals and tracking their distribution is often difficult. Photos of bobcats or black bears can be sent to wildlife management directly from the reporting form. All photos can be viewed on the department's trail camera gallery.

People can continue to report bobcat sightings statewide and black bear sighting in the southern one-third of Wisconsin. These reports are adding to biologists' knowledge of where these animals are calling home in Wisconsin.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Dhuey (608) 221-6342 or Jes Rees (608) 221-6360.

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

Community assistance grants may be available to combat deadly oak wilt disease

MADISON - The first signs of oak wilt, a tree-killing fungal disease, are now appearing in trees throughout the state where oak wilt has been found. Oak wilt has been confirmed in all Wisconsin counties except Ashland, Bayfield, Calumet, Door, Douglas, Forest, Iron, Kewaunee, Lincoln, Manitowoc, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Sheboygan, Taylor, Vilas, and Washburn.

"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.

"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," said Brian Schwingle, a DNR forest health specialist.

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," Schwingle 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.

"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 its website [www.plantpath.wisc.edu/pddc].

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 3. If a community is interested in applying for a grant, contact the local Wisconsin DNR Urban Forestry Coordinator.

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, Brian Schwingle 715.365.8908 or Don Kissinger 715.359-5793.

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Now's the time to see if your larger pier needs to be registered

MADISON - Summer passes quickly, so owners of larger waterfront piers are encouraged to learn now if they qualify for a free, one-time registration of piers that exceed size standards set in 2004, state habitat protection officials say.

How to Measure Your Pier for Registration
[VIDEO, Length 3:35].

Watch this video to learn how to measure your pier to determine if you need to register.

"While the registration deadline's been extended to April 1, 2012, it's easier to measure your pier in the summer to see if it qualifies to be registered," says Martye Griffin, who coordinates the pier registration program for the Department of Natural Resources.

The vast majority of piers statewide do not need to be registered because they fit the size standards that lawmakers established in 2004 for piers to be exempt from state permitting processes.

Lawmakers created the free, one-time registration process to grandfather in most of the larger existing piers that exceeded the size standards. Having the pier registered protects property owners if neighbors or others complain about the pier's size in future years, and allows DNR and local governments to know the larger pier is legal.

Piers exempt from any permitting and that do not need to be registered are a maximum of 6 feet wide; can have a loading platform up to 8 feet wide; don't interfere with neighbors or public boating and fishing; and have no more than two boat slips for the first 50 feet of shoreline frontage owned and an additional boat slip for every full 50 feet owned thereafter, Griffin says.

Larger piers that don't fit these standards may qualify for the free, one-time registration. To qualify for registration, these piers must have been first placed in the water before February 2004 and meet additional dimensional limits.

A downloadable registration form and other materials to complete the registration process are available on the Piers, Docks and Wharves registration page of the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Martye Griffin (608) 266-2997

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A scarlet tanager lands on the cover of Wisconsin Natural Resources

MADISON - Readers will be seeing red when they pick up the August issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine. The cover story, "Respites for migratory birds," takes a look at the importance of habitat protection at Wisconsin Great Lakes stopover sites for migratory birds. The photos showcasing migratory birds up-close are colorful and catchy. A scarlet tanager wins the cover credit.

August <i>Wisconsin Natural Resources</i>
Click on image for August issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

"Shaping a diverse hunting heritage" celebrates the increasing role minority communities are playing in hunting and fishing in Wisconsin. It also stresses the importance of mentors in introducing youth to the outdoors.

A clever entry, "Jake's Journal," follows a fourth grader's experience turkey hunting with his father. It is as poignant as it is humorous. Turkey hunting is in this boy's blood.

A feature, "Frog warts, lizard gizzards or eye-of-newt," answers questions for those nosey about newts and gives a nod to the doctoring powers of Granny of The Beverly Hillbillies fame.

A story recapping several Wisconsin tree stand accidents that resulted in spinal injuries, "Tree stand tumbles," reminds hunters to be careful when climbing in and out of a stand to always use a harness. It also links to DNR resources for a safe hunt.

Just in time for those last summer family outings before school starts, the "Hidden in plain sight" piece highlights a host of activities that can be discovered in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest.

Finally, DNR wildlife staff send out a call to the public to help monitor Wisconsin's wildlife and to report information on species that without their help would be very difficult to obtain.

Remember to consider the magazine as a thoughtful, inexpensive gift that can share what you value about the outdoors with family, friends and professional colleagues. Six colorful issues are delivered to reader's doors all year for less than $1.50 a copy. Year-round the magazine shares ways and place to enjoy the Wisconsin outdoors for only $8.97. Subscribe toll-free at 1-800-678-9472, online at [www.wnrmag.com] or by mail. Subscription blanks and single issues are also available from our circulation office at P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Natasha Kassulke, editorial, at (608) 261-8446 or Karen Ecklund, circulation editor, at (608) 267-7410.

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Winnebago walleye fisheries featured in new video

MADISON -- A new video shows why Lake Winnebago boasts one of the state's premier walleye fisheries and how the Department of Natural Resources partners with anglers and other partners to keep it strong.

Winnebago Walleye Fishery is the introductory piece in a series about this frying pan favorite and the inland lake it calls home. Three more episodes will be posted in August.

A 2006 economic impact study found that walleye were the favorite target by an overwhelming majority of anglers who fish the Winnebago system and say they target a specific species. The study, conducted by UW-Extension, UW-Green Bay and the DNR, also found that angling on the system generates a total impact of $234 million on the local economy and supports 4,200 jobs.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kendall Kamke (920) 424-7880

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, August 02, 2011




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