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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published February 7, 2012

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Scientists go underground in effort to save bats

120 caves, mines to be searched for signs of deadly bat disease

MADISON - State bat scientists are going underground in February to search 120 caves and mines where bats hibernate for signs of a deadly disease that has killed millions of bats in the eastern U.S. since 2006 and spurred Wisconsin to add four cave bat species to the state's endangered and threatened species list.

Bat Monitoring
DNR cave and mine specialist Jennifer Schehr examines bats for white-nose syndrome. See more photos at DNR's Bats page in its Celebrating 40 years of protecting Wisconsin's natural heritage news feature page.
WDNR Photo

"White-nose syndrome has been wiping out cave bats across North America and it's on our doorstep," says Dave Redell, a bat ecologist who leads the Department of Natural Resource's bat crew. "We're at a critical time here for bats and we need help from the public if we're to save Wisconsin bats and continue saving residents the $1.5 billion in natural pest control they provide every year."

Voracious insect eaters, bats keep mosquitoes and crop and forest pests in check - a service one recent national study estimated at $658 million to $1.5 billion alone for Wisconsin's agricultural industry. While white-nose syndrome hasn't appeared in Wisconsin yet, Redell says he wouldn't be surprised if the bat crew finds the disease in Wisconsin caves this year. "We remain optimistic, however, and we've gotten great cooperation from landowners, partners and volunteers to keep the disease from arriving sooner than it could, and to slow its potential spread so we don't lose several species to extinction."

At the same time, he urges citizens to take steps aboveground to help keep bats healthy: identify bat roosting and hibernating sites, help count the bats and make a tax deductible donation to the Wisconsin Bat Conservation Fund. More information about these opportunities to get involved in efforts to save bats, and more information on Wisconsin bats and white-nose symdrome can be found on the special endangered species feature page of the DNR website.

Bat populations are susceptible to decline because of low reproductive rates - mothers typically give birth to just one pup per year - and white-nose syndrome has been particularly deadly to bats. Since its discovery in 2006 in New York, the disease has spread to 16 states and four Canadian provinces and has killed 90 to 100 percent of the bats in the caves and mines it contaminates. In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Exit DNR] estimated that 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats had died from white-nose.

Finding bat roosts

Paul White, a DNR conservation biologist and part of the bat crew, says that last year's exhaustive search of caves has laid the groundwork for an efficient and effective search for white-nose syndrome this year.

"Last year, we checked out 800 potential cave and mine locations to see if they were being used by bats," he says. "This year, we can focus on those sites likely to get white-nose syndrome because bats were present last year and conditions are suitable for the fungus."

White and colleagues will look for a fuzzy white fungus on the nose, mouth and ears of hibernating bats, and for signs of unusual behavior like bats hibernating near cave entrances where it's colder or bats flying around outside at night.

If white-nose syndrome is found, DNR staff and the landowner will work together to implement a management strategy specific to the site and based on a variety of factors. Management options vary and include decontamination, cave and mine access management, rehabilitation and disease treatment. Some promising research may lead to possible treatments.

Building partnerships to meet the threat

Wisconsin has one of the Midwest's largest populations of cave bats and the state has been working with partners to comprehensively meet the threat of white-nose syndrome, says Jennifer Schehr, a DNR cave and mine specialist and bat crew member.

DNR bat experts have built working relationships with landowners of mines and caves and have helped them take actions to keep the disease at bay, like limiting access to cave sites and training people how to clean equipment and gear that have been near a cave or mine, she says.

They've also enlisted volunteers to help locate bat roosting and hibernating sites and trained volunteers how to use special bat listening equipment to help assess bat numbers.

Another important step in meeting the white-nose threat occurred in June 2011, when Wisconsin added four bat cave species to the state threatened species list. The new listing makes it illegal for people to kill, transport or possess bats without a valid permit. The DNR has also put in place administrative rules that give the department authority to manage bats and establish prevention and control options.

"Getting bats listed as a threatened species is an important step and a success in and of itself," Schehr says. "It highlights the importance of bats in Wisconsin and provides vital safeguards that give our cave bats a better chance to survive as an important part of our ecosystem and economy."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Redell 608-261-8450; Erin Crain, 608-267-7479; Jennifer Schehr 608-267-0281; Paul White 608-267-0813



Winds, fluctuating temperatures, runoff mean changing ice conditions for sturgeon season

OSHKOSH, Wis. - Sturgeon spearers anxious to start the season this Saturday are urged to check with local clubs and sport shops around Lake Winnebago and the Upper River Lakes for the latest information on ice conditions and to keep safety as the top priority when participating in this year's season.

Sturgeon Spearing
Four generations of Schumachers -- three pictured here -- gather every year for sturgeon spearing season. See DNR's multi-media sturgeon spearing news feature for more photos, videos and stories.
WDNR Photo

As of Monday, the thickness ranged from 3 to 13 inches - and it has been constantly changing thanks to temperature fluctuations, runoff and wind. Department of Natural Resource conservation wardens in the spearing region credit local fishing clubs members for checking ice conditions and thickness.

Despite poor ice conditions now, the spearing season is set and goes on as scheduled, according to Ron Bruch, DNR sturgeon biologist as Oshkosh. The long-range forecast over the possible 16-day season (if spearers do not reach a harvest cap that would close the season earlier) includes colder temperatures that could improve ice conditions.

"Working with the public, Natural Resources Board, and the legislature, the DNR sets the seasons for fishing and hunting," Bruch says. "The anglers, spearers, and hunters who participate in these seasons are responsible for their own actions in the pursuit of their sport. Sportsmen and women make their own decisions, and may elect not to go out on the lakes to fish during thunderstorms, to hunt during ice storms, nor to spear or ice-fish on marginal or dangerous ice. Make sure you use good judgment when going out there."

Winds can cause ice shifts which, in turn, cause cracks in the ice. Water flow from creeks that are running also help to weaken ice in spots.

"It is hard to put out an accurate report because of these changing conditions," DNR Warden Supervisor April Dombrowski of Oshkosh said. "The bottom line is to be careful and get information from locals in the know before venturing on to the ice."

Todd Schaller, DNR recreation safety chief, says the ice is always unpredictable, but this year because of the warmer Wisconsin winter it's worse.

"It is important that spearers use caution if they choose to venture out," Schaller said, adding sturgeon spearing is a social event attracting family, friends and observers. "If ice thickness is unknown, stay on the shore and stay dry. You can enjoy the winter and stay safe at the same time.

Schaller says follow these safety tips if you do intend to go out on the ice for sturgeon - or other ice-fishing.

How to dress

Dress for the conditions. That means the proper clothing and equipment. Please include a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Personal Flotation Device (vest or coat) that will help you stay afloat and slow body heat loss should you fall in. Extra mittens and gloves should be standard so you always have a dry pair. Wear ice creepers on your boots to prevent slips.

Before you go

Contact local sport shops of fishing clubs to ask about ice conditions in the area you plan to travel or fish. Learn about the water you are going to use. Know if the lake has inlets, outlets or narrows that have currents known to thin the ice.

When you go

Do not go out alone. If you do, carry a cell phone and let someone know where you are and your expected return time. Follow that timeline.

Carry a spud bar to check the ice while walking to new areas during daylight only. Carry a couple of spikes and a length of light rope in an easily accessible pocket to help pull yourself - or others - out of the ice.

Do not travel in unfamiliar territories, especially at night.

Watch out

Watch out for pressure ridges, cracks or ice heaves. These can be dangerous due to thin, unstable ice and open water, and may be an obstruction to a car, truck or snowmobile.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Todd Schaller, DNR recreation safety chief, 608-267-2774



137,000 permits issued through drawing for spring 2012 turkey season

Season to run April 11 through May 22

MADISON - Turkey permits issued by the Department of Natural Resources through the spring turkey preference drawing numbered 137,598 for Wisconsin's 2012 spring wild turkey season. The department printed and mailed postcard notifications to successful applicants, which should be arriving within the next few weeks.

Hunters who do not receive a postcard by mid-February can check on the status of their permit application online through the DNR Online Licensing Center or by calling the DNR Customer Call Center from 7 a.m. through 10 p.m., seven days a week, at 1-888-WDNRINFo (1-888-936-7463).

A total of 234,568 permits will be available for the spring 2012 turkey season. This includes left-over permits that will be made available through over-the-counter sales beginning March 19. This is an increase from the 226,249 permits available during the 2011 spring season.

Of the permits available for 2012, 355 permits are allocated to state park and disabled-only turkey hunting zones. The increase in total permit availability partially reflects an increase in the number of permits made available to hunters in Zones 2 and 7, and is also due to an increase in permit issuance to correct an error that occurred during the drawing process.

Considering high historic demand for permits in Zones 2 and 7, as well as a healthy turkey flock in these zones as suggested by relatively high recent hunter success rates, the DNR wild turkey management committee decided to offer an additional 6,600 and 1,200 permits for Zones 2 and 7, respectively, compared to 2011 permit levels.

"These additional permits will go a long way toward meeting hunter demand in these zones, and will allow hunters greater access to permits for their desired time period," said Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist.

New spring turkey time periods seven days long

Additional hunting opportunities will be available to turkey hunters this spring, as the traditional time periods have been extended by two days, lengthening each time period to seven full days. The spring 2012 turkey hunting season will run from April 11 through May 22. The season is divided into six, 7-day time periods, each of which runs from Wednesday through the following Tuesday. This is a change from previous spring turkey seasons, during which the six time periods only ran for five days each.

A total of seven zones, 17 state parks and Fort McCoy will be open for hunting. Hunters are reminded that the Fort McCoy spring turkey hunting season is managed separately from the Wisconsin spring turkey hunt. Hunters who do not receive an approval to hunt turkeys through the state drawing in a Wisconsin turkey hunting zone for the 2012 spring season are eligible to apply for a spring permit at Fort McCoy. Applications can be obtained from Fort McCoy by calling 608-388-3337 or by visiting the Fort McCoy website [Exit DNR].

Hunters harvested 40,133 turkeys during the 2011 spring season. Final harvest numbers for the 2011 fall season will be published in the 2011 Wisconsin Big Game Hunting Summary in the spring of 2012.

Youth turkey hunt April 7-8 expands mentored hunting program

The Spring Turkey Youth Hunt was created in 2007 to provide youth under the age of 16 with an opportunity to hunt turkeys and gain valuable hunting experience by working closely with an experienced mentor before the regular season opens. Youth ages 12-15 who have already completed hunter education may hunt during the Youth Hunt while accompanied by an adult aged 18 or older. In addition, thanks to the Mentored Hunting Program that took effect in the fall of 2009, youth hunters aged 10 and 11 may now also participate in the 2012 Youth Turkey Hunt without first having completed hunter education, as long as they do so with a qualified adult mentor and follow the rules laid out under the laws of the program. Each youth must have a valid spring 2012 turkey harvest permit, license, and Wild Turkey Stamp.

Youth are allowed to hunt on April 7 and 8 in the turkey management zone for which their permit is valid, regardless of the time period for which their permit is issued, and may harvest only one male or bearded turkey during the two-day hunt. Youth who do not successfully harvest a turkey during the two-day youth hunt may use their unfilled permit during the time period and in the zone for which the permit was issued. All other spring turkey hunting regulations apply. More information on the Spring Turkey Youth Hunt and the Mentored Hunting Program is available on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Walter, upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861; Krista McGinley, assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-264-8963



Free Turkey Hunter Education Clinics offered, starting in late February

MADISON - Free turkey hunter education clinics will again be offered this year in Wisconsin. These free clinics are presented by volunteer instructors and are sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Clinics typically last two to three hours and are designed to cover wild turkey biology and behavior, hunting methods, regulations, safety precautions and landowner/hunter ethics, as well as tips for scoring trophy birds and a few ideas for preparing turkeys at home. The turkey hunter education clinics are for all ages and experience levels, from beginning turkey hunters interested in learning wild turkey hunting techniques to experienced hunters looking to brush up on their skills and learn new techniques.

These clinics will be held from late February through late March. Information and a listing of the dates and locations for each clinic will be available soon on the wild turkey page of the DNR website, or may be obtained by calling the DNR Customer Call Center from 7 a.m. through 10 p.m., seven days a week, at 1-888-WDNRINFo (1-888-936-7463). For the latest additions or changes to the schedule, please refer to the DNR website.

Hunters may have noticed that the number of turkey hunter education clinics offered has gone down in recent years. Department staff and clinic instructors are planning how to combine the success of the turkey hunter education clinic program with that of the Learn to Hunt program. Over the years, as Wisconsin hunters have become adept at the art of turkey hunting, interest and participation in the turkey clinics have declined. However, novice turkey hunters will be well-served by the Learn to Hunt Turkey programs, which offer a valuable combination of classroom and field instruction as well as a hands-on mentored hunting experience. To learn more, visit the Learn to Hunt page of the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Walter, upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861; Krista McGinley, assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-264-8963



So, you want to learn to hunt!

Contact(s): Keith Warnke, Hunting and Shooting Sport Coordinator, 608-576-5243; Joanne M. Haas, Bureau of Law Enforcement, 608-267-0798

Spring Learn to Hunt turkey events are a great place to start

MADISON - If you want to eat healthy while helping the environment and enjoying the outdoors, the state's hunting and shooting sport coordinator says participating in a Learn to Hunt event is one way to achieve a healthier lifestyle - and be involved in conservation at the same time.

In fact, Keith Warnke of the Department of Natural Resources says a spring Learn to Hunt Turkey event is the place to start.

"You'll be paired up with an experienced hunter, learn about conservation, hunting tactics and firearm safety," Warnke said. "Then you head outside to experience the excitement of turkey hunting in Wisconsin."

Learn to Hunt events welcome novice adult and youth hunters and in many cases are open for families. No license is required and, since novices will be hunting with a mentor, hunter education requirements are waived.

Sustainable food means healthy living

"Sustainable use of renewable resources for food is a perfect fit in an increasingly conservation-oriented world," Warnke said. "There is a strong and growing interest in lower impact living, food co-ops, farmer's markets and local food sources. Hunters and hunting have long been at the forefront of this movement."

Recently, however, the "natural path" of initiation into hunting - from parent/family member to child - has become more difficult.

"Kids and parents are busier today and live in urban centers further removed from their hunting land," he said. "The demands of work, school and other activities cut into the available time to hunt, let alone initiate new hunters."

But the interest remains.

"Whether the motivations are nature and conservation interests, camaraderie or sustainability, we are witnessing a growing interest in hunting from adults who missed the natural path as kids," Warnke said.

Find an event near you

The DNR hopes enthusiastic hunters and interested novices will take advantage of the LTH program and further Wisconsin's strong conservation and hunting heritage, he says.

For more than a decade, novice hunters have participated in these events to learn about hunting, be involved with a hunting mentor and start their own tradition.

Learn to Hunt events are usually free to novice hunters and take place over a weekend. To find an event near you, check the Learn to Hunt page of the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Keith Warnke, Hunting and Shooting Sport Coordinator, 608-576-5243; Joanne M. Haas, Bureau of Law Enforcement, 608-267-0798



Comment period opens on expansion of Voluntary Public Access Program

MADISON - The public has 30 days to comment on an environmental assessment for a federal grant that encourages private landowners in Wisconsin to open their lands to public hunting, fishing, trapping and wildlife observation.

The Department of Natural Resources received a $936,040 Voluntary Public Access grant in August 2011. Those funds would be used to purchase access leases in 37 counties. In September 2011, Wisconsin received a second allocation of $1,030,045. The DNR proposes to expand into an additional 12 counties where grant funds can be used to lease land and provide the public with new opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping and other wildlife-dependent recreation.

Along with the original 37 counties already approved for enrollment into the program, the proposed expansion would include Polk, Barron, Clark, Jackson, Juneau, Adams, Sauk, Columbia, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake and Kewaunee counties.

The DNR received the funding in the most recent federal Farm Bill as part of the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP)[Exit DNR]. As part of the funding award, the agency is required to complete a Programmatic Environmental Assessment in accordance with National Environmental Policy Act requirements.

The department released a Notice of Availability Feb.7, 2012, announcing a 30-day public comment period. Comments will be accepted until March 7, 2012.

A copy of the document can be found on the Voluntary Public Access page of the DNR website. Comments may be submitted to Melissa Keenan via e-mail at or via regular mail at DNR, 101 S. Webster St., PO Box 7921, Madison, WI, 53707-7921..

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Melissa Keenan, 608-266-5560



Trout survey hopes to capture anglers input

MADISON - Anglers, perhaps more than most, know that persistence pays off, so state trout managers hope 1,000 randomly selected trout anglers will show plenty of it when opening and answering a thick survey arriving in their mail in coming weeks.

"It's a lengthy survey, but we're asking anglers to please take the time to fill it out and send it back in," says Marty Engel, the Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist coordinating the effort.

"It's been 23 years since we last did a statewide survey of trout anglers, and we want to fully understand the average angler's perception of inland trout management, whether we're doing a good job, and what the anglers want out of their fishing so we can tailor regulations to those desires," he says. "Our intent is to manage the fish for the angler."

The mail surveys are part of DNR's ongoing review of the inland trout program and efforts to collect information from trout anglers to better conduct that review and shape the management program. The survey was mailed to 1,000 people who purchased inland trout stamps for 2011. The names were selected from the entire database of Wisconsin residents with inland trout stamps in 2011, according to Jordan Petchenik, the DNR social science researcher leading the mail survey.

Anglers receiving the survey are asked questions about all aspects of trout fishing and management in Wisconsin, and also are asked about the where, when and how many fish they caught and harvested last year.

A similar questionnaire was available at public information meetings held last March and April, and anglers could also have filled out that questionnaire online through the fishing season.

"The open house and online surveys provided an opportunity for anyone and everyone to offer their input," says Jordan Petchenik, a DNR social science researcher. "The purpose of the mail survey we're sending out now is so that we can say with statistical certainty that the results are representative of the trout fishing public."

Petchenik hopes to have those survey results available later this spring. In coming weeks, he hopes to have available results from a related survey, this one of people who had not bought an inland trout stamp in several years to learn why they were no longer trout fishing in Wisconsin. Returns from that survey are being summarized and will be available later this year.

Engel says that once all of the surveys are analyzed and summarized, DNR will have scientific information to begin addressing any need for change. "Such a scientific approach will help us sort out public opinion and perceptions on whether there is a need for change, in what areas, and whether we're talking a big change or just tweaking something."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scot Stewart 608-219-6514; Marty Engel, for the trout review process 715-684-2914; Jordan Petchenik on the mail survey 608-266-8523



Plant the seed for a green and healthy school

Free spring workshops available for teachers and school staff

MADISON - The Green & Healthy Schools Program is conducting two FREE workshops this spring to teach school staff, teachers and administrators how to incorporate the program into their schools. Workshops will be held on March 30 at Beaver Creek Reserve near Eau Claire, and April 20 at Bay Beach wildlife Sanctuary in Green Bay.

The workshops will connect GHS program staff with area schools and bring local resources and schools officials together. Training will provide an in-depth introduction to the program, specifically focusing on:

Workshop participants will also have the opportunity to connect with area businesses, nature centers, non-profit organizations and local governments. Educators will leave with a plan for making their individual schools green and healthy.

Substitute teacher costs for the Green Bay workshop will be reimbursed by the DNR, thanks to grants from the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, the R.D. & Linda Peters Foundation, the Menasha Corporation and Wisconsin Public Service Corporation. There is no reimbursement available for the Eau Claire workshop.

Participants are encouraged to register early, as space is limited. Registration for the workshops begins February 9. Registration closes for the Eau Claire workshop on March 16 and for the Green Bay workshop on April 6. For more information on the workshops, or to register, visit the GHS website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan Werner, 608-267-7622



Agency adds Flickr to social media kit

MADISON - Continuing its expansion into the social media world, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently added a DNR flickr page.

DNR flickr

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources offers this searchable collection of selected images to the public to use as they wish - since the images are in the public domain, no permission is necessary. We do ask that you please give credit to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Department communication staff will add images regularly, so if you don't see something today, it may be here the next time you visit.

The agency's collection includes high resolution photos of DNR properties, forests, state parks and wildlife areas, as well as flora and fauna of Wisconsin. Photos of outdoor recreation such as fishing, hunting, wildlife watching and nature study as well as some of the important business functions of the DNR round out this ever-growing archive.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Karen Ecklund, 608-267-7410


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, February 07, 2012

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