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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published May 1, 2012

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Wisconsin bats get a clean bill of health

Search of more than 100 caves turns up no traces of deadly bat disease

MADISON -- For the second year in a row, a statewide survey of more than 100 known bat wintering sites has found no signs of a deadly bat disease -- white-nose syndrome -- that has killed upwards of 6.7 million bats in the Eastern United States and Canada.

"We're extremely pleased to announce that neither the fungus nor the disease of white-nose syndrome was found in Wisconsin," says David Redell, a Department of Natural Resources bat ecologist. "It's a welcome relief in Wisconsin and in our neighboring states because so many of their bats winter here and any disease in our hibernacula could have far-reaching effects."

Bat survey

DNR bat surveillance crew members pass a cluster of hibernating big brown bats during cave searches in winter 2012.
WDNR Photo

Bats are voracious insect eaters, helping keep crop and forest pests and mosquitoes in check. A recent national study estimated the insect-eating services that bats provide between $658 million to $1.5 billion alone for Wisconsin's agricultural industry.

Redell believes that the arrival of the white-nose syndrome in Wisconsin is still imminent, given that white-nose syndrome was detected along the Mississippi River corridor, but that the delay has provided the "great benefit of time."

"The more time we have for research to understand how this disease spreads throughout populations of bats, the better able we can assess options that may possibly slow down the arrival and devastating effects of the disease," Redell says.

The delay also has given DNR time to work with private landowners to help them take voluntary steps to keep the disease out of caves and mines, with commercial tourist cave operators to educate visitors about the disease and prevention steps and for recreational cavers to learn how to decontaminate their gear to avoid accidentally spreading the fungus.

White-nose syndrome, so-called because the fungus leaves a powdery white fuzz on hibernating bats' noses, ears and wings, kills 70 to 100 percent of bats in contaminated caves. It was discovered in New York in 2006 and has since spread to 16 states and four Canadian provinces.

WNS map
Click on image for larger pdf map.

In January, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimated that 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats had died from white nose. 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.

Wisconsin has one of the highest concentrations of hibernating bats in the Midwest. Some bats from neighboring states of Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan -- up to 300,000 bats -- spend their winters here so any disease affecting Wisconsin's hibernacula has far reaching impacts on the summer landscape.

To determine if the disease was present in Wisconsin caves and mines with wintering bats, DNR's bat surveillance crew searched 114 sites for signs including a fuzzy white fungus on the nose, mouth and ears of hibernating bats, and unusual behavior like bats hibernating near cave entrances where it's colder or bats flying outside during the day during winter.

The sites searched this winter represented 95 percent of the known underground locations and represented one of the most extensive surveillance efforts in North America, Redell says. The sites had been identified by DNR crews last year from among 800 potential sites searched and determined to have bats present and conditions suitable for the fungus.

"Our entire bat crew has been 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," Redell says.

DNR also has put in place administrative rules that give DNR authority to manage bats and establish prevention and control options. Wisconsin added four bat cave species to the state threatened species list in June 2011, which makes it illegal for people to kill, transport or possess bats without a valid permit

DNR has been closely involved with researchers and other state biologists throughout North America in order to maintain and incorporate the most current knowledge of the disease and update the state's response plan, Redell says.

Tami Ryan, who leads DNR's wildlife health program, says DNR is "committed to continuing to collaborate with our many partners as well as other professionals with an interest in this important wildlife health issue," she says.

More information about how to help through donating time and money and more information about white-nose syndrome and bats can be found on a special bat feature in DNR's Celebrating 40 years of protecting Wisconsin's natural heritage.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Redell (608) 261-8450; Jennifer Schehr (608) 267-0281; Paul White (608) 267-0813

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Wisconsin Bat Festival swoops in to Madison May 12

See bats up close, build a bat house, support conservation efforts

MADISON -- See live bats up close and build your own bat house when a bigger and better Wisconsin Bat Festival (exit DNR) swoops into Madison on May 12.

Wisconsin bat festival
Live bats from around the world, like this Malayan bat, are a big hit at the Wisconsin Bat Festival May 12 in Madison.
WDNR Photo

"Usually bats fly at night and we rarely see them up close -- the Wisconsin Bat Festival is a chance for families to see bats from their own backyards and species from around the world at close range," says Jennifer Schehr, a Department of Natural Resources cave and mine specialist.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Warner Park Community Recreation Center, 1625 Northport Drive.

It features Rob Mies, TV personality and director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, presenting bats from around the world throughout the day. There are opportunities for kids to learn field techniques from bat biologists and a chance to meet and hear from children's book author/illustrator Brian Lies.

Admission for adults 16 and over is $10, and it's free for children with a paying adult. There is an additional charge for building a bat house. Tickets are also on sale for the grand prize drawing for mist-netting field trips with DNR Bat Ecologist David Redell, a personalized live-bat program at a venue of the winner's choice, bat houses and other great prizes, Schehr says.

All proceeds from the event benefit the Wisconsin Bat Conservation Fund, an endowment to promote bat conservation efforts in Wisconsin, particularly as concerns grow about the survival of some bats.

"Attending the festival is a great way to show your support for Wisconsin bats and have fun at the same time," Schehr says.

Cave bats in Wisconsin and elsewhere in eastern North America are threatened by a deadly bat disease called white-nose syndrome. Wisconsin's four cave bat species were officially listed in June 2011 as threatened species over concern about the possible impacts of white-nose syndrome.

The disease has killed millions of bats in the eastern U.S. since 2006 and is getting closer to Wisconsin. It has not been found here yet, and important monitoring, education and detection efforts in Wisconsin are being funded in part by the Wisconsin Bat Conservation Fund.

Attendees will be able to learn how citizens can get involved in bat science by helping observe and report bats as they leave their roost at night, and using bat detectors to help document the presence of bats.

"Attending the festival is a great way to show your support for Wisconsin bats and have fun at the same time," she says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennifer Schehr (608) 267-0281

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International Migratory Bird Day events held around Wisconsin

MADISON - Wisconsin is home to a great number, and a great variety, of migratory birds. The range of habitat found between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes brings many migrating bird species, from waterfowl to warblers, to Wisconsin each year.

Ruby-throated hummingbird
Ruby-throated hummingbird.
Ryan Brady Photo

International Migratory Bird Day is held each year on the second Saturday in May (May 12, 2012) to draw attention to the plight of migratory birds that yearly make incredible journeys between their breeding grounds in North America and their wintering grounds in Mexico, Central, and South America. Many of these birds are declining in numbers, primarily due to the loss of habitat.

The theme this year is "connecting people with nature" and for those interested in learning about birding in Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resources offers a series of five highway-based bird and nature viewing guides, each highlighting unique regional ecosystems of the state. Each Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail guide] links a set of waypoints, refuges and wild places that offer the best birding and wildlife watching opportunities and other nature experiences.

Together, the complete set offers wildlife viewers 368 specific sites where they can view the best of Wisconsin's wildlife in the habitats they depend on for survival. In Wisconsin, approximately 6 million acres of lands are owned and managed by public conservation agencies and partners. These areas include county forests, state wildlife areas, national wildlife refuges and parks, state and national forests and many other important local conservation recreational parks. National wildlife refuges and many state wildlife areas are managed specifically for birds and the habitats on which they depend.

The guides area also available from the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative (exit DNR) and Wisconsin Department of Tourism www.travelwisconsin.com.

One of the greatest sites to observe migratory birds in Wisconsin is in and around Horicon Marsh, which is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the nation and is home or a waypoint for 290 species of birds sighted over the years. The Horicon area will be host to many IMBD related events organized as the 15th Annual Horicon Marsh Bird Festival May 11-14.

International Migratory Bird Day activities are being held throughout Wisconsin in May. To find an event in your area, visit www.birdcitywisconsin.org (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Andy Paulios- 608-264-6137 or Bob Manwell 608-264-9248

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Horicon Marsh to host Annual Bird Festival May 11 and 14

HORICON -Bird enthusiasts, outdoors lovers and families can participate in tours, hikes, demonstrations and other bird-related activities during the annual Horicon Marsh Bird Festival, May 11-14.

The festival is held at various locations around the Horicon Marsh, a wetland of international importance in Dodge County, including the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area and National Wildlife Refuge (exit DNR).

At more than 33,000 acres, Horicon Marsh is one of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States. The marsh provides habitat for endangered species and is a critical rest stop for thousands of migrating ducks and Canada geese. It is recognized as a Wetland of International Importance, as both Globally and State Important Bird Areas and is also a unit of the Ice Age Scientific Reserve.

"The Horicon Marsh Bird Festival is a celebration introducing visitors to many birds at the peak of the spring migration," said Elizabeth Herzmann, a natural resources educator with the Department of Natural Resources at Horicon. "Over the years, a total of 304 species of birds have been sighted on this marsh. Migrating birds use it as a flyway."

The Bird Festival has been held annually on the second weekend of May since 1997 at the peak of spring migration. It's sponsored by the Horicon Marsh Bird Club, whose members also organize and conduct many of the activities, which include bus and boat tours, guided birding hikes, birds of prey shows, bird banding demonstration and many other activities. Some of the activities, such as the boat and bus tours, charge a fee.

The complete schedule and more information is available on the Horicon Marsh Bird Festival website at Horicon Marsh Bird Club www.horiconmarshbirdclub.com (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Elizabeth Herzmann - 920-387-7893

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Wisconsin establishes Lake Michigan Water Trail

MADISON - Kayakers, canoeists and other nonmotorized watercraft will eventually have improved access to 450 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline under a plan to establish a Lake Michigan Water Trail in Wisconsin that the state Natural Resources Board approved this month.

Future development of the water trail is aimed at linking 11 Wisconsin counties along the Lake Michigan shoreline and is primarily oriented around increasing and improving public access to the shoreline and water.

"With Wisconsin being home to more than 1.8 million kayakers and anglers, this water trail designation will allow for increased funding of access and development of launch sites along the Lake Michigan Shoreline," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "The Wisconsin segment of the trail ultimately would connect with similar trails being developed by the Lake Michigan states of Indiana, Illinois and, Michigan."

This project was a collaboration between the DNR, National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, Wisconsin Costal Management Program and Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission.

The trail will eventually run from the Wisconsin-Illinois border north to the tip of the Door County Peninsula and then south along the Green Bay shoreline to the city of Green Bay into seven segments. A water trail consists of a series of access points that offer public services like parking, picnic areas, restrooms, emergency services and camping. Each segment was inventoried for existing features complementing a water trail. This collaborative process identified more than 360 sites in 11 Wisconsin counties for potential nonmotorized water access to Lake Michigan.

The trail is expected to boost local economies with expenditures from anglers and kayakers at outfitters, hotels, gas stations and restaurants. Recent estimates value spending produced by the entire outdoor recreation industry at $7.5 billion in Wisconsin. In a recent Department of Tourism study, travelers rated Wisconsin's natural resources as one of our top strengths as a tourism draw. Excellent fishing and state park facilities, beautiful scenery and fall color, are key motivators for travel to Wisconsin

With nearly 2 million residents living within a 30-minute drive to the Lake Michigan shoreline - more than one-third of Wisconsin's population -- this trail will have positive impacts for public recreation, public health, environmental stewardship, and economic development.

Support for the project has come from federal, state, industry and local stakeholder groups; and the Lake Michigan Water Trail was selected as one the top 100 national state projects as part of the Presidents Obama's Americas Great Outdoors program that encourages increasing outdoor recreation opportunities close to home.

"The water trail offers exciting way for more people to get outside and connect with nature," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "We plan to be adding more trails in the future."

Another water trail is planned along the Wisconsin shores of Lake Superior as part of a plan to establish a multi-state Lake Superior Water Trail. Several other water trails have been developed along different bodies of water. These include the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail, Menominee River Trail, the Capital Water Trails, the Rhinelander Whitewater Trail, the Yahara Waterways Trail, the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, a trail along the Kickapoo River, the Jefferson County Waterways, and other marked trails at state parks and state forests.

For more information and maps of the trail, search keyword "Lake Michigan Water Trail," on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Prey - 608- 266-2182 or Bill Cosh - 608-267-2773

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More than 330,000 catchable trout to be stocked

MADISON -- More than 330,000 catchable size trout are being stocked in dozens of inland trout waters across Wisconsin before the May 5 inland fishing season opener. A list of waters receiving fish [pdf]] and how many were planned for stocking is now available. Search "where to fish" on the Department of Natural Resources website and then look under "Trout Fishing."

Coregonus being loaded.
DNR's new Lake Michigan research boat, the RV Coregonus, being loaded with brown trout to be stocked into Green Bay waters
WDNR Photo

"We should be finishing with trout stocking this week - right before the opener," says David Giehtbrock, DNR statewide fish production manager. "We were able to start a little earlier this year, and we had good conditions for stocking the entire spring."

DNR fisheries crews have been stocking rainbow, brown, and brook trout raised at Nevin Fish Hatchery, Osceola Fish Hatchery and St. Croix Falls Hatchery. They've also been working with fishing club volunteers, students, and others to help stock the fish club members raised under cooperative rearing agreements with DNR.

Coop stocking.
The Rolling Hills Sportsman's Club and Hillsboro High School raised and stocked 7,371 wild brook trout in streams in Vernon and Monroe counties.
WDNR Photo

Some of the fish were stocked in urban fishing waters, small lakes and ponds cooperatively managed with the local municipality and used as a place for fishing clinics and kids fishing.

Altogether, there will be 331,731 catchable-size trout stocked this spring, with rainbow trout comprising the largest share, 155,822, followed by brook trout at 105,160 fish, and 70,749 brown trout, according to Rachel Koehler, DNR assistant production manager and microbiologist.

The trout are stocked in waters where the habitat is marginal and there is no natural reproduction. They are a small subset of the state's overall trout treasury -- more than 13,000 miles of classified trout water and trout populations that have generally increased statewide over the last 60 years.

Stocking database for all fish species updated and can give a line on where to go

In other stocking news, anglers can go online to see which waters have been stocked over time, including in 2011, when 21 million fish were stocked, including nearly 8 million larger fish.

"We had an extremely good year with muskellunge production and average or above-average years on walleye and northern pike production," Giehtbrock says.

The stocking database contains information on stocking from 1972 through 2011. Stocking data for 2012 isn't available because those fish are being stocked now and the process will continue through the fall. To access the database, search the DNR website for "fish stocking" and then click on the link for the "stocking database."

The vast majority of Wisconsin lakes and rivers are naturally reproducing, but some people like to fish waters where stocking supplements low natural reproduction or provides a fishery that otherwise wouldn't exist, Giehtbrock says. The stocking database will give them an idea of what was stocked when and where, and what kind of fish.

In 2011, DNR raised and stocked 21,206,820 fish weighing a total of 430,919 pounds. About 13 million of these fish were fry, days old fish.

The rest, 7,871,706 fish were fingerling or larger. The numbers mentioned include fish stocked by DNR hatcheries, ponds or coop ponds. No private stocking is recorded in this table of data, Giehtbrock says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Giehtbrock (608) 266-8229

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Access, signage for state properties to be improved over next two years

Additional electrical campsites will be added at some state parks

MADISON - Opportunities to explore and enjoy more than 200 publicly owned properties encompassing more than 500,000 acres in locations all across Wisconsin will be enhanced thanks to a $5 million investment in improvements over the next two years.

Conservation infrastructure
Click on map for larger view.

"The legislature recognized the need to invest in properties the state already owns but has not been able to improve since they were purchased," said Scott Gunderson, executive assistant for the Department of Natural Resources. "They designated an additional $7 million in Stewardship bonding to fund these projects in the current two year state budget, with $5 million designated for currently undeveloped properties and $2 million for adding to the number of electric sites in state park campgrounds and some additional smaller projects."

The Conservation Infrastructure Development Initiative improvements will include new access roads, parking lots, and signage.

"There are a number of public properties that are not signed so it is easy to miss them," said Steve Miller, director of DNR's facilities management bureau. "They may have limited access due to rough or no roads or do not have parking lots. We'll change that. We will be improving existing roads, constructing new gravel surfaced roads and gravel surfaced small parking lots so citizens from birders to hikers, from hunters to anglers, can enjoy the lands they own."

Eleven state parks -- Big Foot Beach, Blue Mound, Bong, Buckhorn, Hartman Creek, Interstate, Lake Kegonsa, Kohler-Andrae, Point Beach, Rocky Arbor and Roche-A-Cri,- are developing plans to add up to 66 new or upgraded electrified camping sites with work beginning this spring as soon as contracts can be finalized. Another seven parks -- High Cliff, Peninsula, Wildcat Mountain, Kettle Moraine North and South, Yellowstone Lake and Devil's Lake -- will tentatively add 338 upgraded or new electric sites with work beginning in fall 2012.

"Wisconsin has an amazing variety and wealth of public lands," said Miller. "The goal of this effort is to help people get out and enjoy them. We hope to enhance access to DNR owned lands."

When finished, Miller says there will be an additional 294 improved or new parking areas and another 90 miles of improved or new access roads and another 1,220 property and boundary signs to help citizens identify and enjoy public lands.

Sites to be improved were identified by local DNR land management staff through a screening process that whittled down an estimated $12 million in needed improvements to the budgeted $5 million. Where possible, the work will be bid out to local contractors and businesses.

Gunderson feels that efficiencies in the bidding process will provide enough savings over initial estimates to allow additional projects from the "cut" list to be included in the final project tally. "This is a great opportunity to get out and explore," said Gunderson, "these are the public's lands and are there to enjoy."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Gunderson - 608-267-9521 or Steve Miller - 608-266-5782

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International Composting Awareness Week

Wisconsin residents encouraged to learn and compost more

MADISON - Many Wisconsin residents perform the routine task of taking out the garbage once a week, but state waste management specialists say it's likely almost 25 percent of their trash is organic material that could be composted. In other words, a quarter of what is being thrown away isn't garbage at all.

That's why the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is inviting people all over the state to learn and compost more during International Composting Awareness Week May 6-12.

"Composting has a lot of benefits and can be done in a variety of easy and bug-free ways," said Ann Coakley, DNR waste and materials management director. "This is a worldwide event, and it's a great opportunity for folks to start composting at home or work, or learn more about the benefits of composting."

Organic materials that have traditionally been considered waste - grass clippings, leaves, vegetable scraps, and coffee grounds, for example - can sidestep the trash can and become a household staple in your garden or backyard.

"The end result of composting is a nutrient-rich, soil-like material that can be used in many ways," said Brad Wolbert, DNR recycling and solid waste chief. "People can sprinkle it into their lawn soil or use it in their gardens. It can also be used as mulch around trees and shrubs. The benefits are just great."

Wolbert noted that compost improves the health of lawns and gardens by providing organic material and nutrients to soil. Composting ultimately saves people money by reducing the need for fertilizers, and municipalities spend fewer tax dollars collecting yard material. Compost also saves water, since it helps soil hold moisture and reduces water runoff.

Since state law bans yard material from Wisconsin landfills, composting is also an environmentally-friendly option for managing leaves, branches, grass clippings and other yard trimmings.

Home composting isn't complicated, and the DNR website has helpful resources for people to learn more and get started. Here are some quick tips to remember:

To find more information about composting, go to the DNR website and search keyword "compost." The DNR also has a poster titled Garbage to Gardens: Compost Grows [pdf]. For free copies, contact Elisabeth Olson at (608) 264-9258 or elisabeth.olson@wisconsin.gov.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Brad Wolbert - 608-264-6286

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New videos show steps anglers, boaters take to avoid spreading aquatic invasive species

MADISON - Two new public service announcements show boaters, anglers and other water users the four easy steps to take to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species and the fish disease VHS.

The animated 30-second spot "Sneaky Critters" and "Talking Sign" are now available on DNR's YouTube channel "invasive species" (exit DNR) playlist and ready to be shared, says Deborah Seiler, outreach coordinator for Department of Natural Resources and UW-Extension aquatic invasive species efforts.

"We hope these new PSAs do get spread around," Seiler says. "We encourage anyone or any group that's interested in AIS prevention to share the videos and embed them on your blog or website."

The video public service announcements remind water users to:

Seiler says that the more people can remind fellow boaters and anglers to take steps to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species and VHS fish disease, the healthier Wisconsin lakes, fish and local economies will be.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Deborah Seiler (608) 267-3531

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 01, 2012




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