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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published June 19, 2012

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Wisconsin's gray wolf population grew in 2012

PARK FALLS, Wis. -- Wisconsin's gray wolf population at the close of the 2011-2012 winter was estimated to be 815-880, a roughly 4 percent increase over the 2010-2011 end-of-winter estimate. A total of 41-42 wolves were counted on Native American reservations and thus the total count of wolves outside of reservations was 774-838 wolves. A late winter population of 350 wolves outside reservations is the current state wolf population goal for Wisconsin.

Wolves in Wisconsin were removed from the federal endangered species list on January 27, 2012, and management authority was returned to the states and tribes for gray wolves living in the Western Great Lakes. Since 2004, the State of Wisconsin listed the gray wolf as a protected wild animal, and on April 2, 2012 it was designated a game species. The Department of Natural Resources is developing rules to allow a public wolf hunting and trapping season (PDF) starting October 15, 2012.

The annual winter wolf count relies on aerial tracking of radio-collared wolves, and snow track surveys by DNR and volunteer trackers. Also included are wolf sightings by members of the public and other agencies, including observations from trail cameras. The agency has conducted these counts since the winter of 1979-1980 when there were 25 wolves in the state.

A total of 213 wolf packs were detected in Wisconsin during the winter count consisting of at least two adult wolves each. Biologists found 51 packs distributed across central Wisconsin and 162 packs in northern Wisconsin. The largest pack in the state was Fort McCoy Pack in Monroe County with 10 wolves. At least 63 packs had five or more wolves in them.

It appeared the wolf population increased in 2012. With federal delisting and new status as a game species, controls will be applied to the wolf population to reduce conflicts, and reduce the population to more socially accepted levels, while maintaining a sustainable and healthy wolf population.

In 2010 the Wisconsin DNR initiated a Web notification of all wolf attacks on dogs for hunters and others concerned about wolf depredations. People can have their email address added to the notification list by searching for "wolf" on the DNR website and then clicking on the link for "dog depredations."

DNR continues to encourage volunteers in monitoring wolves

Wisconsin's wolf population estimate is based on data gathered by agency biologists and technicians, and more than 150 volunteers. DNR has conducted annual wolf surveys since winter 1979-1980, and volunteers have been involved in the surveys since 1995.

"Volunteer trackers have become a critical portion of our surveys that have allowed us to obtain reliable estimates of the state wolf population in winter," said Adrian Wydeven, DNR mammalian ecologist who coordinates the wolf survey. "We hope to continue attracting citizens in helping to determine the annual population of wolves in the state."

There are two upcoming training and educational opportunities for wolf survey volunteers (links below exit DNR).

Volunteer trackers, who have attended wolf ecology and carnivore tracking training, will be assigned survey blocks of about 200 square miles each, and will be asked to conducted at least three good surveys of their block during winter. Details on the volunteer tracking program and additional training opportunities are found on the Wisconsin DNR website,

FOR MORE INFORMATION: on Wisconsin's wolf population or volunteer training contact Adrian Wydeven - (715) 762-1363; on the GovDelivery notification service contact Dawn Hinebaugh (608) 266-5243



Open house meeting set for Governor Knowles State Forest draft master plan

GRANTSBURG, Wis. - Improvements and lengthening of the trail system for hiking, horseback riding, and cross country skiing; upgrades to an existing 32-mile snowmobile trail; a new group equestrian campground; and improvements to existing campgrounds, including the addition of electricity and showers, are among the changes proposed in a draft master plan for Governor Knowles State Forest.

The plan also identifies 10 areas, totaling 7,989 acres, under consideration for boundary expansion to meet ecological, economic and social benefits of the 38,000-acre forest located in Burnett and Polk counties in northwestern Wisconsin.

Master plans guide management activity on Department of Natural Resource's owned lands and are updated every 15 years. The plans address state forest management, recreation, and boundary expansion areas for consideration as part of sustainable forestry.

The public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the Draft Master Plan for the Governor Knowles State Forest at a June 25 open house meeting. The open house event will take place from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Crex Meadows Wildlife Education and Visitor Center, 102 East Crex Avenue, Grantsburg.

People can also provide comments on the plan either online or by regular mail. The draft master plan and environmental analysis are available by searching the DNR website for "master planning" and clicking on the link for Governor Knowles State Forest. The page includes an on-line comment form. Comments on the plan will be accepted through July 13, 2012.

Established in 1970 as the St. Croix River State Forest, the forest was re-designated the Governor Knowles State Forest in 1981 to recognize former Governor Warren P. Knowles for his administration's progress in conservation.

Originally designated to protect the St. Croix River, the forest is long and narrow, with most of the 55 mile length of the property lying along the St. Croix National Scenic Riverwa, which is managed by the National Park Service. Governor Knowles State Forest contains a diverse group of natural communities and habitats and is a popular destination for horseback riders, hunters, hikers, and canoeists and kayakers who come to enjoy the St. Croix River.

For information or to obtain a printed documents people can contact Bob Dall, DNR, 107 Sutliff Avenue, Rhinelander, WI 54501 (715) 365-8993,




Conservation wardens to enforce safety by stopping impaired operators

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release has been updated with the correct dates for Operation Dry Water, which will take place June 22-24.

MADISON -- Boaters will see Wisconsin's conservation wardens and local boat patrols on the water looking for impaired boat operators whose blood alcohol level is over the state limit of 0.08 percent as part of the national Operation Dry Water campaign slated for June 22 through 24.

"We want to enhance everyone's safety by removing intoxicated boat operators from the water. We hope to educate as many boaters as possible about the hazards of operating while intoxicated," said Roy Zellmer, Department of Natural Resources boating law administrator.

A boat operator or passenger with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident. When impaired by alcohol, boating accidents are more likely and more deadly for both passengers and boat operators, many of whom capsize their vessel or simply fall overboard.

Operating while intoxicated is a primary contributing factor in nearly one in five boating fatalities nationwide, and Wisconsin's conservation wardens and boat patrols are committed to enforcing laws against this high-risk behavior to protect everyone on the water. Boaters found operating a recreational vessel with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher will find their voyage terminated and they will be removed from the water for everyone's safety.

Last year, Wisconsin's conservation warden service and local water patrols dedicated 1,684 hours and contacted 1,870 boaters during Operation Dry Water. There were 14 arrests of boating under the influence and 162 other boating citations issued along with 599 boating-related warnings.

Operation Dry Water, a multi-agency, education and enforcement initiative launched by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in 2009 in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, puts thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers on the water nationwide the last weekend in June to give operating while intoxicated enforcement high visibility during the peak boating season.

"Boaters who choose to operate while intoxicate will face the consequences of that decision," Zellmer said. "We want recreational boaters to enjoy themselves, but there will be zero tolerance for boating under the influence."

Operation Dry Water is a joint program of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the U.S. Coast Guard. For more information, visit For more information on boating in Wisconsin, search for "boat" on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Roy Zellmer 608-212-5385 or Joanne Haas, Office of Communications - 608-267-0798



New compost production rules in effect starting June 1

MADISON - Across Wisconsin, backyard compost bins turn grass clippings, leaves, vegetable peels, apple cores and other everyday materials into nutrient-rich compost and mulch. But backyard bins can't handle the volumes of scraps and trimmings generated by stores, restaurants, landscaping companies and municipal leaf collection programs.

That's where the professional and municipal compost producers come into the picture. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has new regulations just out that focus on boosting opportunities for large-scale composting throughout the state.

According to Brad Wolbert, chief of the DNR recycling and solid waste section, the new rules were inspired in part by the large amounts of food and other recoverable organic material going to Wisconsin landfills. "The rules provide an easier path for grocery stores, cafeterias and others to divert their food scraps from landfills to compost facilities," said Wolbert. "We are seeing an explosion of interest in composting all across the state."

In addition, Wolbert said the new rules set up a voluntary compost quality designation that could help consumers identify premium compost. The program gives compost producers the opportunity to have compost tested and classified as "Class A Compost." Such compost would need to meet stringent limits on contaminants.

The rule changes primarily affect section NR 502.12 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code; they will:

Wolbert noted that finding ways to put organic materials back to work through composting has the potential to create more job opportunities than merely landfilling them. "It doesn't make sense to bury these resources when we can recover economic value from them," he said.

To learn more about composting, please visit the DNR's website and search "compost."

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



$75,000 in grants will aid citizen-based monitoring projects

MADISON - Eighteen Wisconsin organizations and projects will share a combined $75,000 from the Department of Natural Resources for efforts using volunteers to carry out natural resources management projects including building bat houses and monitoring bat populations, assessing eagle populations, checking brook trout for gill lice and collecting rain, hail and snow totals.

"We're very pleased with the interest, variety and quality of projects proposed, " says Owen Boyle, who coordinates the Citizen-based Monitoring Program for DNR. "Those receiving awards will contribute valuable information about Wisconsin's natural resources, support many DNR initiatives, and will help stretch state dollars further."

The projects were chosen from 49 applicants for funding to help start or expand volunteer-based programs that conduct high priority natural resource monitoring projects in Wisconsin, says Boyle.

DNR and organizations with monitoring programs have formed a loose affiliation called the Citizen-based Monitoring Network of Wisconsin to improve their effectiveness by providing communications, resources and recognition. DNR funds a full-time person to coordinate the effort and every year, DNR has annually awarded up to $100,000 in seed money to help organizations and programs advance their volunteer-based monitoring projects.

Sponsoring organizations typically contribute $3 in donated time and money for every $1 the state provides toward the projects.

Citizen-based monitoring has a long and successful history in Wisconsin; more than 150 organizations in Wisconsin put volunteers to work every year monitoring water quality and counting and noting the numbers, distribution and habitat of native and invasive species. In 2011, citizens donated more than 300,000 hours to such efforts. Learn more on DNR website feature page, Volunteers help sustain wild Wisconsin.

Sponsoring organizations by geographic area (projects crossing region boundaries are listed under the region where the project leader is located) and what they'll be doing include:

Northern Wisconsin

Northeastern Wisconsin

South Central Wisconsin

Southeast Region

West Central Region


FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Owen Boyle (608) 261-6449



Seven "green" reasons to raise a glass during June Dairy Month

MADISON - June is Dairy Month, and Wisconsin's got good reasons to celebrate some green gains along with the dairy industry's economic, cultural and culinary importance to the state, state environmental officials say.

Video: More dairies are joining Wisconsin's environmental leadership program, Green Tier.

"Dairying is a huge part of who we are what we do in Wisconsin," says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "We recognize the importance of our dairy farmers and the industry, and want to highlight some important gains that help better protect the environment and farmers' bottom line."

Stepp says that dairy farmers and others in the dairy industry have worked hard with county, state and federal agricultural, energy and natural resource staff to achieve the following green gains:

  1. Wisconsin is the nation's leader in converting animal manure into green energy. In 2009, methane gas produced by anaerobic manure digesters generated 657.1 million Kilowatt hours in Wisconsin, up 600 percent from a decade earlier and enough to power more than 67,000 homes. Wisconsin Boasts Lead in cow power (exit DNR).
  2. More dairies are entering DNR's environmental leadership program, called Green Tier, to help improve their environmental performance and their bottom line, with the lessons learned helping benefit the industry and regulators.
  3. Counties reported a 12 percent increase statewide in the number of nutrient management plans developed to help farmers manage manure and commercial fertilizer in 2010, the most recent years for which statistics are available. Such plans guide when, where and how much manure and other nutrients farmers spread, maximizing manure as a crop fertilizer, reducing overapplication that can result in runoff that can pollute lakes, streams and drinking water, according to the 2010 Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Annual Progress Report (PDF) (exit DNR).
  4. Nearly 170,000 acres of buffers, reduced tillage and other best management practices to reduce erosion from cropland were installed in 2010 in Wisconsin, and more than 500 manure storage facilities, sediment basins, and other best management practices to better manage manure on farms were installed in 2010, according to the 2010 Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Annual Progress Report (PDF) (exit DNR).
  5. More Wisconsin farmers are developing emergency plans for handling manure spills and reporting such occurrences immediately, environmental officials say, allowing for quicker response that can prevent or minimize runoff into lakes, streams or drinking water. Case in point: An Allenton farmer's emergency planning and quick action on April 4, 2012 in calling the DNR's Spill Emergency Hotline, close cooperation with the DNR, and fast clean up work prevented a 100-gallon manure spill from polluting Wisconsin waters. Watch DNR's "How to Respond to a Manure Spill" video (exit DNR) to see other measures that farmers and the county, state and federal staff working with them take to keep manure on the land.
  6. Wisconsin led the nation in grass-based dairy farms, with one survey showing that nearly 30 percent of new dairy farmers using managed grazing, almost twice the rate for dairy farmers as a whole at that time. The benefits to farmers, their dairy cows, and the soil and water are detailed in "Green pastures, green futures," in the December 2008 Natural Resources magazine.
  7. Wisconsin leads the nation in organic dairy farms, with the number of such farms growing 157 percent from 2002 to 2007. Wisconsin sales of organic milk accounted for 11.4 percent of the U.S. total, according to Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin: 2012 status report (exit DNR).

For more information on dairy farming and green gains, go to the DNR website and search for agri-business.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Bauman (608) 266-9993



Leash laws on state wildlife areas intended to protect nesting birds, other wildlife

MADISON - Many people see state wildlife areas as good places to take dogs for walks and exercise, but doing so during the spring nesting season is not good for many ground and shrub-nesting birds. That's why, with the exception of designated Class 1 dog training areas, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources requires all dogs be leashed on state lands from April 15 through July 31.

"Wisconsin's wildlife areas are important places for birds to nest, mammals to bear and raise young and frogs to eat bugs and sing," said Eric Lobner, DNR southern district regional wildlife manager. "While we whole heartedly want the public to use and enjoy state wildlife areas, it's also important to protect these areas for their role as nesting habitat for birds and other wildlife."

Lobner said that dogs roaming off leash during nesting season can have a negative impact on many bird species, especially birds that nest on the ground, such as western meadowlarks or other small grassland birds, waterfowl and pheasants.

Dogs can injure birds and will destroy nests because of their natural prey drive. Even if a dog simply flushes a bird off the nest or splits up young broods, those actions can stress birds, create a loss of energy and foraging time, and increase their vulnerability to other predators.

For more information about DNR natural areas and Class 1 dog training areas, visit the DNR website and search "state lands," and look under the tab for state wildlife areas.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Eric Lobner - 608- 275-3474 or Don Bates, DNR area wildlife supervisor - 608-935-1947



Learn to hunt deer at Buckhorn State Park

Opportunity is not just for kids

NECEDAH, Wis. -- Anyone 10 years old and older including novice adult hunters who have had an interest in hunting but weren't sure how to give it a try are encouraged to consider a Learn-to-Hunt deer outing at Buckhorn State Park along the Castle Rock Flowage in Juneau County.

Heather Wolf, Buckhorn State Park manager, says this is the 15th year the park has hosted a Learn to Hunt Deer Hunt program.

"We have had 693 participants over the years. First time hunters and their chaperones have learned together at the workshop and have enjoyed their time spent in the woods," Wolf said.

To participate in the November 2012 hunt, search the Department of Natural Resources website for "Buckhorn," and then click on the "learn to deer hunt" link on right column. Download the application form [PDF], complete it, and mail it to the address shown by August 10.

There are two parts to the Learn to Hunt Deer at Buckhorn. First, a workshop is held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 8 or 9 at the LaValle Sportsman's Club. Attendance by hunters and chaperones is mandatory. Second, the hunt occurs Nov. 3 and 4 at Buckhorn State Park and adjacent wildlife area.

Applicants will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis and will be notified upon receipt of their applications.

A chaperone must accompany each applicant. Applicants may select a chaperone (i.e., family or friend) or authorize Buckhorn staff to assign a qualified chaperone. This person will not be allowed to hunt or carry a firearm and must be at least 18 years old. The chaperone must have at least five years of deer hunting experience. The chaperone is necessary to ensure novice hunters get the complete hunting experience in a safe environment. Chaperones help hunters with firearm safety, deer identification, scouting, and field dressing, among other things.

Successful applicants and their chaperones must attend a workshop in order to participate in the hunt.

A hunting license is not required and back tags will be furnished. This is a bonus deer and will not preclude the harvest of a deer during the regular season. The bag limit will be one deer of either sex. Only shotguns will be permitted; muzzleloaders and rifles are not permitted.

Chaperones also are needed, says Keith Warnke DNR Hunting and Shooting Sport Coordinator. "If you are a hunter and want to give back to the hunting heritage by getting a new hunter started, your skills are needed!" Warnke said. To volunteer to be a chaperone, contact the park at 608-565-2789

"Learn to Hunt events are a great way to break into hunting. Novice hunters paired up with an experienced hunter will learn about conservation, safety, ethics, deer hunting tactics and firearm safety during a one-day workshop," Warnke said. "Then, the novice hunters get a chance to experience a two-day November gun deer hunt."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Heather Wolf - 608-565-2789 or Keith Warnke - 608-266-5243


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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