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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published May 22, 2012

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Wisconsin State Parks Open House, June 3

Take advantage of an open air library to learn more about nature

MADISON - People visiting Wisconsin State Parks on Sunday June 3 will enjoy free admission, and if they visit one of the 49 parks participating in the "Read to Lead at Wisconsin State Parks" program, they can check out a book paired with that park intended to help them learn more about nature and the environment.

Read to Lead in Wisconsin State Parks
Visitors to any of 49 Wisconsin State Parks on Wisconsin State Park Open House Day June 3 can check out a nature book paired with the park.

The first Sunday of the first full weekend of June is always State Parks Open House Day, and admission stickers and trail passes are waived at all Department of Natural Resources properties. In addition, Saturday, June 2 is National Trails Day, and trail fees on state-operated trails are waived statewide that day. Cooperatively-run state trails also may participate in the statewide open house day.

The weekend of statewide open house day coincides with "Free Fishing Weekend," the first consecutive Saturday and Sunday in June.

"We hope people who come out to enjoy our beautiful state parks on open house day will take the opportunity to help their children or children they know learn more about our natural world by checking out one of our Read to Lead books," says DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Reading is integral to learning and learning about nature is integral to developing a fuller appreciation of our natural resources."

Read to Lead in Wisconsin State Parks challenges children, ages 5 through 9, to read 20 or more nature books from the DNR Read to Lead checklist [pdf]. A state park and nature book are paired each week throughout the year, with copies of the featured book available at each featured park, but kids don't have to read the book during the week it's featured. Many of the books are also available through public libraries.

The featured park and book for the week of State Park Open House Day is Lake Wissota State Park and "Flute's Journey: The Life of a Wood Thrush" by Lynne Cherry. It's the story of a wood thrush that hatches out of a little turquoise egg, learns to fly, eats berries and insects, flies to Costa Rica for the winter, and returns to start a family of his own.

People can search for "read" on the DNR website to find the complete list of which books are available at which parks.

Once a child has read, or had someone read to them, 20 or more books from the list, they fill out an entry form, send it in, and are entered to win a drawing for a Kindle Fire or other prizes. The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks helped fund the prizes. Entries must be postmarked by January 7, 2013.

In addition to reading, visitors on open house day can learn more about butterflies and bats by attending programs at Devil's Lake State Park in Sauk County, enjoy "Fling into Spring" with family games and a fishing contest at Cadiz Springs State Park in Green County, attend "Spring into Summer Nature Fest" with four activity stations for people of all ages at the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Fond du Lac County, or enjoy the "Art along the Willow" art fair at Willow River State Park in St. Croix County.

There will also be a kids fishing clinic at the Mauthe Lake recreation area in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, and people can search for "fishing equipment for loan" on the DNR website to find of list of parks that loan fish poles and tackle to also take advantage of free fishing weekend.

For more information on activities at state properties on National Trails Day or State Parks Open House, search "Get Outdoors," on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION on State Parks Open House Day contact Wisconsin State Parks - 608-266-2181; on Read to Lead in Wisconsin State Parks contact Carrie Morgan at 608-267-5239



Free Fishing Weekend June 2-3

No license needed to fish any Wisconsin water

MADISON - Try fishing for the first time or rediscover the fun during Free Fishing Weekend, June 2 and 3, when anybody can fish anywhere in Wisconsin for free.

Free Fishing Weekend

A fishing license or inland trout stamp or Great Lakes trout stamp are not needed on these days for Wisconsin residents or nonresidents; dozens of free fishing clinics are going on across the state for people to learn to fish; and loaner fishing gear is available at many sites to help anglers try their luck.

"Free Fishing Weekend is a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends on the water," says Theresa Stabo, who directs Wisconsin's aquatic education. "Fishing's fun, it's easy, and it's cheap, and there are places to go fishing virtually right outside your back door."

Wisconsin has more than 15,000 lakes, 42,000 miles of flowing rivers, and is bordered by two Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.

During Free Fishing Weekend, rules governing the number and size of fish anglers can keep are still in place, as are fishing season dates Go to DNR's online fishing regulations to look up the rules for inland lakes.

The fishing clinics, some conducted by DNR staff and others by fishing clubs and civic organizations, are free and provide equipment during the instruction and fishing time.

People who don't have their own fishing gear can borrow rods and reels and other gear from nearly 50 DNR tackler loaner sites across the state.

A list of fishing clinics, tackle loaner sites, and other information to help make Free Fishing Weekend a weekend of fun with family and friends are available on DNR's Free Fishing Weekend web page.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Theresa Stabo - 608-266-2272 or Lisa Gaumnitz - 608-264-8942



Safe Boating Week: Make it a habit -- wear a life jacket every trip

MADISON - It's the preventable death that will haunt the survivors. That's what National Safe Boating Week is about - saving lives with the simple maneuver of donning a life jacket.

"Safe boating means making it a habit to put on your life jacket - and making sure everyone in your boat has one on, too - before you turn the key and pull your boat from the dock," says Roy Zellmer, boating law administrator for the Department of Natural Resources. "The belief you will be able to get the jacket on as you fall over the boat's side for whatever reason is unrealistic."

National Safe Boating Week is the last full week before the much celebrated Memorial Day weekend, which typically kicks off the summer recreational and boating. And Wisconsin is well known to the boating community.

Watch more video segments on boating safety on DNR YouTube Channel Recreation Safety playlist.

The Badger State is home to 15,000 lakes and 84,000 miles of rivers enjoyed by nearly one million resident boaters and thousands of out-of-state boaters. National Safe Boating Week is intended to to help all boating enthusiasts continue to enjoy this recreational opportunity in the safest way possible. And that means wearing a life jacket.

Of the 23 boating fatalities in Wisconsin last year, 13 were drowning and none of the victims was properly wearing a life jacket. From 2007-2011 there were 67 people who drowned in boating incidents in Wisconsin and 91 percent of them were not wearing lifejackets.

"This mirrors the national statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, which show over the past few years that 90 percent of all boaters who drown were not wearing a life jacket," Zellmer said. "Wearing a life jacket is one of the simplest ways to save lives while boating. Having a life jacket with you, but not wearing it is like not wearing your seatbelt in a car - by the time you realize you need it, it's too late to put it on."

The U.S. Coast Guard and Wisconsin law require vessels under 16 feet in length to be equipped with one Type I, Type II, Type III or Type V personal flotation device, commonly called a life jacket, for each person on board. This means that even canoes and kayaks must carry a wearable life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board. Vessels 16 foot or more in length must be similarly equipped and there also must also be at least one Type IV throwable PFD for the boat.

In order to be an acceptable, each PFD must be:

Type V PFDs (those that inflate) do not meet the PFD carriage requirements unless they are worn.

PFDs come in a variety of shapes, colors, and materials. Some are made to be more rugged and last longer while others are made to also protect the wearer from cold water. Sellmers says no matter which PFD one chooses, they should get one that's right for their planned activities, and the water conditions they expect to encounter. Always look for the United States Coast Guard approval number on any PFD you buy.

National Safe Boating Week is a good time to review other important safety items for boaters as well, Zellmer said. These include:

"Mixing alcohol with a high-speed motor on a watery track is a recipe for disaster," Zellmer said. "We would like to make 2012 the safest boating season ever. We can do it if everyone follows safe boating practices."

For more information about safe boating in Wisconsin search for "boat" on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Joanne M. Haas, DNR Public Affairs Manager - Division of Enforcement and Science, 608-267-0798



Bat babies on their way

Rules in place starting June 1 to keep mothers and babies together

MADISON - Bats sometimes roost in attics, barns and other warm places to have their young and nurse their babies. People who don't want bats in such places should take steps by June 1 to safely and humanely get them out and seal off their entry points or wait until after Aug. 15 to do so, state bat experts says.

"Baby bats are not able to fly for that first month or two after they're born, and their mothers need to be able to leave to feed and then return to the roost and nurse them, so it's important that exclusions not be done between June 1 and August 15," says Heather Kaarakka, the Department of Natural Resources bat roost coordinator.

"We don't want to leave bat pups and their mothers with no home or separate the mothers from the pups, which would die of starvation," she says. "Excluding bats during that timeframe can also backfire for the property owner - the mother bats will be frantically trying to get back to their pups and will end up finding their way into people's living spaces."

Four of Wisconsin's native bat species are now considered threatened due to a deadly bat disease, white-nose syndrome, that has killed an estimated 6.7 million bats in the eastern U.S. and Canada and is closing in on Wisconsin, raising concerns that these mammals, voracious eaters of crop and forest pests and mosquitoes, might be eliminated. The four species were added to the state's threatened species list in 2011 and it's now illegal to kill these bat species in most cases, and illegal to exclude them from buildings from June 1 through August 15.

There are a few exceptions that may be granted for exclusion during this time, specifically for roosts that are in hospitals, schools, daycare centers and other public buildings in which the bats roosting - and their droppings -- may cause health issues, Kaarakka says.

Wisconsin's four cave bat species emerge in April and May from a winter of hibernating in Wisconsin caves or mines. They move toward summer sites near water to find hatching insects. Females give birth in June and July, with most bats giving birth to one baby a year, called a pup. Bat mothers have their babies, or "pups," in maternity colonies with hundreds of other mothers and pups; male bats are usually solitary roosters.

There are a number of humane ways to exclude bats from an attic or other place where they may not be wanted, says Paul White, a conservation biologist with the DNR's bat program. Excluding bats involves locating and sealing the actual access points to an attic or other part of a structure where bats may try to roost, placing one-way doors at the entrance, and eventually sealing the holes to prevent access.

DNR's Bat Exclusion guide [pdf] provides step-by-step instructions for excluding bats from an attic or other structure.

People who don't want to take the exclusion steps themselves can contact professional bat exclusion experts, White says. Bat Conservation International has a list of bat exclusion professionals who have agreed to carry out this task in a humane way. That list and more information and videos on how to get bats out, can be found on their Bats in Buildings website (exit DNR).

People who don't want bats inside but don't mind having them on their property also can build a bat house as an alternative roosting location; follow instructions in Build a Bat House [pdf] and be patient; the bats may not take to the new digs in the first or even second year, he says.

More bat roost locations and volunteers sought

People with bats in their attic or barn or other structure can help Wisconsin bats out by volunteering to observe and record the bats' nightly excursions or allowing volunteers to track the creatures on their property.

"Monitoring a bat roost is simple and fun, and I've had quite a few school groups, in addition to citizens, get involved," says Kaarakka, who also coordinates this project. "The data we collect from the monitoring effort gets used to estimate summer population levels of little brown bats and big brown bats as well as the distribution of those species in the state.

"We can also use information collected on each roost site to help determine what types of roosts and microclimate those species prefer and share that knowledge with other bat biologists."

People who monitor bat roost sites position themselves so they can see the bats exit against a night sky as they fly out of the roost. Bats begin exiting about half an hour after sunset and will continue to fly out for about 30 minutes.

While away from the roost, the bats feed on insects. A bat can catch an insect every 10 seconds and a nursing female can consume her weight every night in mosquitoes and/or other insects, White says. A recent study estimated the value of bats' consumption of agricultural insect pests at between $658 million and $1.5 billion annually.

People interested in getting involved in roost monitoring, or want more information about the project they should contact Heather Kaarakka at or 608-266-2576.

DNR's bat feature page in a Web series "Celebrating 40 years of protecting Wisconsin's natural heritage" contains more information on monitoring bat roots and other ways for citizens to get involved in helping protect bats.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Heather Kaarakka- (608-266-2576; Paul White - 608-267-0813 or Bob Manwell, DNR Office of Communications - 608-264-9248



Former trout anglers weigh in on why they left the sport

Survey: Lack of time cited as primary reason for dropping out

MADISON - While Wisconsin's inland trout regulations were cited by some former trout anglers as a reason they dropped the sport, the most frequently cited reason was a lack of time, according to a recently released study of people who had once been trout anglers but hadn't purchased an inland trout stamp in three years.

The study is part of the Department of Natural Resources' efforts to reach out to user groups to better understand their needs and barriers to enjoying Wisconsin's outdoors.

"The primary reason for angler drop out -- and this is consistent with what we've seen across outdoor recreation -- is lack of time, or more specifically, how anglers choose to allocate their time," says Jordan Petchenik, the DNR researcher who was the principal investigator in the study.

Time constraints was cited by over one third (35 percent) of the former anglers as their primary reason for not trout fishing. Old age, poor health and lack of companions was ranked first as by 21 percent; the quality of fishery of their favorite trout water was named as the top reason by 13 percent, and trout regulations were cited by 12 percent as their most important reason for no longer fishing for trout.

The survey can be found by searching for "trout review" on the the DNR website.

The survey is part of Wisconsin's ongoing review of inland trout fishing; in spring 2011, participants at public meetings got to tell DNR fish biologists what they like about trout fishing now and what they think could be improved. Meeting participants also filled out a survey to give more specific feedback, nearly 2,000 completed the same survey online, and a companion mail survey of randomly selected active trout anglers was sent out last fall and Petchenik is analyzing results now.

Petchenik says the survey of former trout anglers was aimed at learning why people left the sport, whether DNR could do anything about those reasons, and whether regulations were causing people to drop out.

"For quite a while, everyone from DNR administrators on through our regional field staff would hear anecdotally, 'we have too many regulations and the ones we have are too complex,' and that people were dropping out of trout fishing as a result," he says. "Good science should not be based solely on anecdotal information, so one of the reasons behind the study was to find out, 'how critical are our regulations in helping explain angler dropout?'"

Petchenik mailed out surveys in October 2011 to more than 800 randomly picked fishing license holders who had once been avid trout anglers but who had not bought since 2008 an inland trout stamp that would allow them to fish for trout in Wisconsin's inland waters. Sixty-eight percent returned the survey, a good rate particularly given that people who had given up a sport were asked to take time now to reflect on their reasons for leaving the sport.

Petchenik says that encouragingly, the vast majority of former anglers indicated a willingness to return to the sport. "The positive sign is that they're not saying I'm never going to pick up a rod again. They're saying, 'at this time I have other priorities. But at some time, I hope to return to trout fishing.'"

Considerably more former trout anglers were satisfied than dissatisfied with their Wisconsin trout fishing experiences. More than 83 percent report they were "very satisfied" with their trout fishing experiences. Fewer than 1 in 5, or 18 percent, were dissatisfied.

Four of the seven influences on dropping out of the sport relate to DNR management and policies, Petchenik says.

"It makes us recognize there are some aspects that are under our control to a great extent - like improving access, improving the quality of the fishing experience and simplifying regs - and that if we can address those to the satisfaction of our former anglers, there is every indication some of those anglers would return."

Other major findings from the survey of former anglers:

Petchenik says that one thing he will look for in the companion study of active trout anglers is what differences there are between the two groups.

Scot Stewart, the southern district fish supervisor leading the trout review effort, says that fisheries managers will use these results, along with those from the 2011 public meetings and web survey and the random survey of current trout anglers, "to begin crafting a straw dog proposal" to take to a second set of public meetings to develop a final proposal that will be submitted to anglers through the hearings process.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jordan Petchenik (608) 266-8523; Marty Engel (715) 684-2914 ext. 110



Traveling for the holiday? Leave the firewood at home.

MADISON - State forest health specialists remind campers and travelers that firewood can carry harmful forest insects and diseases.

"Invasive species threaten the health of our forests and urban trees," said Andrea Diss-Torrance, forest health specialist with the Department of Natural Resources. "Insect pests such as emerald ash borer and gypsy moth and diseases like oak wilt and Dutch elm disease spread to new areas easily in firewood. Collectively, these invasive species have already killed millions of trees in Wisconsin."

All travelers should follow quarantine rules to help protect Wisconsin's trees and to avoid fines. Second homeowners are advised not to move firewood long distances between their properties, to reduce the risk to their trees. The only exception is firewood certified by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Certified wood can be freely moved around the state because it is free of invasive pests and diseases that harm trees. The current year and one of three treatments will be listed on the label to identify that the wood has either been seasoned for two years, debarked, or heat treated. A list of certified dealers is available online at

Certified wood label
Certified wood will have a label like the one in this photo.

To help protect the health of public land in Wisconsin, firewood is only allowed on state managed properties if it is:

  1. from within 25 miles of the property, AND
  2. from within Wisconsin, AND
  3. from outside an area quarantined for emerald ash borer, (unless the property is also in the same or a connected quarantined area)

  4. or
  5. Certified by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Most state parks and forests have local firewood available for sale on site or from sellers nearby the property. To check availability, contact the property. Contact information is online. Visit and search "parks." Many federal, county and private campgrounds also restrict firewood on their properties. Prospective visitors should call ahead for details before travelling.

"A campsite surrounded by healthy, mature trees is basic to a quality camping experience, and so is having a campfire." says Diss-Torrance. "If we are going to enjoy both, we need to take some precautions to prevent introducing invasive pests and diseases to the parks and forests we enjoy the most. By using certified wood or wood from trees grown nearby, you help to prevent such introductions."

For more details about firewood in Wisconsin visit and search the keyword "firewood" or call 1-877-303-WOOD (9663).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Colleen Robinson Klug, DNR Forest Health Educator, (608) 266-2172 or Andrea Diss-Torrance, DNR Forest Health Specialist, (608) 264-9247



Time to start mowing to prevent weeds from spreading

MADISON -- The unusually warm and early spring of 2012 has caused most plants to speed up their usual timetable. Trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants have been leafing out and flowering between one-and-a-half to three weeks ahead of schedule, according to phenological data compiled by state officials.

"Anyone managing weeds needs to be adapting their work plan according to how plants are growing," says Kelley Kearns, a native plant conservation specialist with the Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Endangered Resources.

Kearns says roadside mowing done just before or at the early stages of flowering can prevent most weeds from setting seeds. For many of the most aggressive roadside weeds, that optimal mowing time is now for the southern part of Wisconsin, and within the next few weeks for the central and northern regions. Some invasive plants have already begun to bloom.

leafy spurge
Leafy spurge.
WDNR Photo

Large chartreuse colored patches on roadsides are leafy spurge, a noxious weed that has extensive roots that range up to 35 feet, seeds that are explosively ejected and is a major pest in pastures and hayfields. Yellow sweet clover, though useful as forage and by bees, is a highly invasive plant in prairies.

Several other invasive plants will be flowering by late May, Kearns says, including the yellow umbrella shaped flower clusters of wild parsnip. This plant causes burns when the sap gets on exposed skin, so anyone pulling, mowing or weed whipping parsnip needs to be well covered.

Canada thistle, the noxious weed that farmers have been fighting for years, will soon show its tufts of purple flowers and is generally found in large patches.

Spotted knapweed [pdf] also has tufts of purple flowers, but is generally only 2 feet high and found in sandy or drier soils, especially in the central and northern parts of the state.

"Mowing, cutting or pulling these plants before they produce seed is critical to preventing their spread," Kearns says. "If they are mowed after seeds have begun to develop, mowing equipment is likely to spread the seeds to new areas. Most of the more persistent weeds will not be killed by mowing, and may re-flower later in the summer, especially with the extended growing season we are experiencing."

Kearns says eradicating these weeds generally requires several years and a combination of pulling, cutting, prescribed fire and/or careful application of specific herbicides at the correct time.

For more details on controlling these plants, search "invasives" on the DNR website or type in the plant's name as the key word. The University of Wisconsin also has extensive control information about most of these weeds at Weed Science publications (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kelley Kearns - 608-266- 5066 or Paul Holtan - DNR Office of Communications 608-267-7517



Unattended white-tailed deer fawns are not abandoned

Fawns are left hidden for protection; mom is often nearby

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: - An audio public service announcement on leaving wildlife in the wild is available in MP3 format for downloading.

MADISON - Reports have begun to come in from across Wisconsin that the first fawns of the year have begun to be born in the wild, and state wildlife officials are reminding people that fawns left unattended are not orphaned or abandoned.

A newborn fawn lies curled up and motionless in a tuft of grass next to a trout stream in Vernon County. The tiny fawn, perhaps a week old, is well camouflaged and has virtually no scent, which helps protect it from predators. It's survival technique during the first weeks of life is to remain perfectly still until its mother returns. The doe was likely foraging nearby when it detected the far off approach of a human and took cover.
DNR Photo by Ed Culhane

Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists say that unlike humans, one way animals protect their offspring is to conceal them from predators in natural vegetation.

A well-intended person may attempt to rescue or to feed a wild baby animal because, they think the baby is afraid, alone and abandoned, said Amanda Cyr, DNR wildlife biologist.

"It usually is not. Its mother is following natural behavior instincts to help the babies survive and thrive," Cyr says. "Human interventions, while done with good intentions, instead can damage the health and well-being of the baby animal."

Too much human or domestic animal disturbance or activity near a baby animal also could cause the mother to shy away from the area. Cyr also advises to keep a close watch on pets so they don't disturb a nest of baby animals.

"Fawns have little scent to attract a predator and their spots help them blend in to the environment," she says. "They move very little in their first weeks while they are alone in a place the mother selected. If you see a fawn lying on the ground by itself, you should leave the fawn where it is and not disrupt the area."

Baby rabbits also are usually alone in their nest during the day when the mother is not there. The baby rabbit's best protection from predators is to remain in their nest which is concealed with grass or vegetation.

"The mother will come back to the nest in the morning and evening to feed the babies," Cyr said.

"If you find a baby wild animal, the best policy is to leave them alone."

What is the law on assisting wildlife?

State and federal laws prohibit the possession of live native wild animals without a license or permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). A permit from the USFWS is required to possess all native birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. A few species are allowed to be possessed without a license, but the take of these species must be from a legal source.

If it is absolutely necessary to help a young animal that is injured or its mother has been killed, a person may legally have the animal in their possession for up to 24 hours for the purpose of transporting the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

To get the name of a wildlife rehabilitator, contact the DNR Call Center (1-888-WDNRINFo / 936-7463) or visit the DNR's online directory of licensed wildlife rehabilitators search "wildlife" and look for the link under Wildlife health and rehabilitation.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Amanda Cyr - 715-359-5508 or Joanne Haas, DNR office of Communications - 608-267-0798


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 22, 2012

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