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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published September 18, 2012

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Southern duck zone opens at 9 a.m. Sept. 29

MADISON - The last Saturday in September marks the opening of duck hunting in the Wisconsin southern migratory g game bird zone. This season opens at 9 a.m. Sept 29 and runs through Oct. 7, then closes for a five-day split before reopening on Saturday Oct. 13 and running through Dec. 2.

Waterfowl hunters should note that the goose season in the south portion of the Exterior zone will also be closed during the five-day split. This split does not affect goose hunting in the Horicon zone.

Hunters along the Mississippi river are reminded that it is a separate zone with differing season dates. This new zone has a longer split, so hunters should be aware that hunting in the Mississippi river zone will be closed from Oct. 1 through Oct. 12 and reopen on Oct. 13.

"With encouraging spring breeding counts, Wisconsin waterfowlers could have potential for a good hunting season, especially if water levels improve," said Kent Van Horn, migratory game bird ecologist for the state Department of Natural Resources.

"Continental breeding surveys that have been ongoing for 57 years reported record high numbers of ducks this spring. However, even with promising breeding indications, local conditions and scouting will be the most important factors when pursuing ducks this fall. Because some areas of the state remain very dry, scouting this fall will be particularly important to identify the areas that are holding water and birds."

The daily bag limit for the full 60 days is six ducks, not to include more than four mallards of which only one may be a hen, three wood ducks, one black duck, two redheads, four scaup, two pintail, and one canvasback. In addition, the bag limit includes five mergansers to include not more than two hooded mergansers. Coot daily bag is 15.

Duck and other migratory game bird hunters are reminded to make sure they are registered for the federal Harvest Information Program (HIP) if they did not do so when purchasing a license. It takes only a minute and is free of charge at any license vendor or online.

More information on waterfowl hunting in Wisconsin is available by searching for "waterfowl" on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kent Van Horn - (608) 266-8841 or James Christopoulos - (608) 261-6458



Public input sessions scheduled on elk management in Wisconsin

MADISON -- Public input sessions on elk management and the future of the elk herd in Wisconsin will be held around the state in early October.

The Department of Natural Resources and partner groups have been considering changes to Wisconsin's current elk management plan that could include increasing the size of the current Clam Lake elk range, and moving forward with plans to establish a new elk herd in the Black River State Forest area.

At the time elk were first introduced, plans were also made, but never carried out, to reintroduce elk to the Black River State Forest near Black River Falls. Since then there has been considerable interest from partners to again consider additional reintroductions at these two locations.

Any changes to the elk management plan would ultimately have to be approved by the state Natural Resources Board.

"Partners and the public have been critical to our elk reintroduction and we are looking to them again for input," said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist.

The Wisconsin Legislature authorized the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1993 to evaluate the potential for reintroducing elk to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest near Clam Lake. During February 1995, 25 elk were trapped, held in a quarantine facility for 90 days while undergoing rigorous disease testing, and transported to the Clam Lake release site. After being held in a pen for a two week acclimation period, the elk were released into the forest.

Management responsibility of the herd transferred from the university to DNR in May 1999 after the initial reintroduction study was considered a success. At that time, approximately 40 elk were present in the herd.

As of May 15, 2012, approximately 150 elk were present in the state, comprised of the main herd near Clam Lake and a second smaller satalite herd located near Butternut.

More information including the full elk management plan is available by searching for "elk reintroduction" on the DNR website. The public will have an opportunity to submit feedback on the elk plan revisions that will be presented at the meetings. The meetings all run from 7-9 p.m. on the following dates at the locations listed:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT; Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist, at 608-261-7589



Planning begins on Menominee River State Recreation Area

Public Input Workshop scheduled for Sept. 26
to help guide Wisconsin and Michigan in planning and development

MADISON -- The public will have an opportunity provide input at an upcoming informational workshop on how a new recreational area along the Menominee River in northeastern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan should be jointly managed by Wisconsin and Michigan.

The Menominee River State Recreation Area encompasses both sides of the Menominee River. Starting just down river from Niagara, Wis., this new recreation area provides more than 9,000 acres of public lands and access to 17 miles of river, offering premier outdoor recreation opportunities.

The Wisconsin and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources will hold a public workshop designed to provide input on the jointly managed area on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 from 6 to 8 p.m. Central Standard Time at the Auditorium of the Norway Public Schools, 300 Section St., Norway, Mich.

This concept of joint planning, development and management of a state recreation area is a unique opportunity for both states to benefit from a collaboration, said Jeff Prey, who is coordinating planning efforts for the Wisconsin DNR.

Michigan and Wisconsin DNR staff will be at the workshop to present information about this new recreation area, to outline the "Concept of Management," and to gather input from the public on what is significant about this property. Input from this workshop will be the first of many opportunities for the public to share and contribute toward the future of this exciting new park and partnership between the two states.

Future actions regarding the Menominee River State Recreation Area will be guided by a management plan that will set future development and management of the property.

Public input may also be provided at that Menominee River State Recreation Area master planning page of teh DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Prey, Wisconsin DNR 608-266-2182 or Paul Curtis, Michigan DNR 517-335-4832



Wisconsin seeks to develop strategy to cut phosphorus and nitrate pollution

Sept. 26 meeting open to all; pre-registration advised

MADISON - State, federal and local officials will meet in Madison Sept. 26 with agricultural, industrial, municipal and environmental groups to develop a strategy to more effectively reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.

Nitrates contaminate up to 30 percent of private wells in some Wisconsin counties and excess phosphorus can fuel algae blooms in lakes and rivers and along Lake Michigan shorelines and contribute to the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.

Blue-green algae
One of the goals of a state nutrient reduction strategy under development is to reduce the excessive phosphorus levels that fuel blue green algae, like this shown here in a Wisconsin lake.
WDNR Photo

The meeting is part of an effort underway in Wisconsin to better coordinate and focus existing programs, and to identify gaps and find cost-effective ways to reduce the nutrients phosphorus and nitrate entering state waters. Anyone interested is welcome to attend the meeting; people are encouraged to register in advance.

"Excess nutrients entering our waters are a growing national problem and a problem in Wisconsin," says Jim Baumann, the Department of Natural Resources water resources engineer coordinating the effort. "We want to get ideas from stakeholders on how we can improve what we're doing collectively now, identify priority areas where the problems are the worst, and focus on cost- effective approaches to reduce the phosphorus and nitrogen reaching these and other state waters."

Baumann says the partnership to develop a nutrient reduction strategy responds to a federal requirement and that the finished strategy will put Wisconsin in a better position to maintain and seek new federal grants to help control nutrient pollution.

The partnership effort also offers Wisconsin an opportunity to recognize progress already made.

"Since 1993, we've reduced phosphorus from point sources by 67 percent," Bauman says.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as part of its response to the Gulf dead zone, has called on each state contributing to the problem to develop a nutrient-reduction framework. About two-thirds of Wisconsin drains into the Mississippi River system. The nutrients that Wisconsin and the other 11 states send down the river have resulted in oxygen levels so low in a Gulf area the size of Massachusetts fish and other aquatic life can't survive.

Wisconsin wants its strategy to first address nutrient-related surface water problems in Lake Michigan and in many lakes and streams in Wisconsin. This in turn will help mitigate the causes of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, Baumann says.

And the strategy will also serve to address the growing nitrate contamination of Wisconsin groundwater and private and public wells. About 10 percent of all private wells in Wisconsin exceed the state and federal nitrate drinking water standard of 10 parts per million statewide, with rates higher in agricultural areas.

The state health department recommends that nitrate contaminated water not be fed to infants under 6 months and that people of all ages avoid long-term consumption of water with a nitrate level above the standard as research suggests it may increase the risk of thyroid disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.

"The strategy we intend to develop is an opportunity to pull together in one place a complete picture of all we do in Wisconsin to reduce nutrients," Baumann says, noting that the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service, state agriculture department, DNR and local conservation departments all have long had programs aimed at keeping soil and manure on the land and out of state waters by offering financial incentives to farmers to adopt best management practices.

New phosphorus rules that set standards for the amount of phosphorus allowed in different categories of lakes and streams took effect in December 2010, as did related rules allowing for those limits to be incorporated into municipal and industrial wastewater permits. A month later, new performance standards took effect for farmers requiring them to curb phosphorus potentially coming off their fields.

Wisconsin's 2010 phosphorus rules, and answers to the following questions, will help guide development of the nutrient-reduction strategy in coming years, Baumann says.

The meeting runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Lussier Family Heritage Center, 3101 Lake Farm Road near Madison. People interested in participating in the meeting are asked to pre-register online. (exit DNR)

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jim Baumann (608) 261-6425



Report highlights recommendations to protect groundwater and public health

MADISON - Better understanding viruses in groundwater and their risk to human health, and finding solutions to contaminants that seep into groundwater and get into public and private water wells are among the top recommendations made to lawmakers by a multi-agency group coordinating groundwater information.

The Groundwater Coordinating Council, or GCC, has for more than 25 years ensured that state agencies including health, agriculture, natural resources, the University of Wisconsin system and others work together to develop effective public education about groundwater, pursue joint monitoring and research, and foster collaborative cost-effective solutions to groundwater programs. The council is required to report annually to the legislature on Wisconsin's progress in protecting its groundwater resources, their overall condition, and emerging threats to those resources.

The GCC report can be found online on the Department of Natural Resources website by searching for "groundwater" and looking under the GCC heading.

"Collaborative research and monitoring in Wisconsin in the past year have significantly contributed to our understanding of groundwater issues," says Ken Johnson, DNR Water Division administrator and chair of the council. "Our report reflects work that all agencies agree are most critical to help ensure safe sources of drinking water. That includes recommendations to address nitrate and viral contamination that especially put kids at risk and recommendations to ensure sustainable supplies of clean groundwater for Wisconsin's citizens, industry, agriculture and our wildlife."

Report recommendations call for Wisconsin to evaluate the prevalence in groundwater and groundwater wells of viruses and other microbial contaminants, and to develop appropriate responses. The report notes that viruses "have recently been unexpectedly identified in municipal and domestic wells," challenging standard thinking that such contaminants would be filtered out and absorbed before reaching groundwater aquifers that supply public and private drinking water wells.

"More research is needed to refine our understanding of their occurrence and threat to human health," the report recommends, and references research on viruses and other microbial agents in public and private wells [PDF].

The report also recommends Wisconsin find solutions to pollution that seeps into groundwater, noting that one-third of private wells contain at least a detectable level of pesticide or pesticide breakdown products, and that 10 percent of private wells statewide contain elevated levels of nitrate, with significantly higher rates in agricultural areas.

"Nitrate contamination that approaches unsafe levels in drinking water is pervasive in Wisconsin - posing an acute risk to infants and a chronic risk of serious disease in adults," the report states.

Federal, state and local land conservation programs have long encouraged voluntary participation in agricultural practices to reduce nitrate and other pollutants, but such efforts are expected to get a boost by Wisconsin's development of a nutrient reduction strategy that specifically focuses on reducing nitrate and phosphorus pollution.

Also, a DNR pilot project is getting underway to work with local landowners and counties where nitrate levels in drinking water supplied by public system are high to develop and implement best management practices for reducing nitrate contribution to groundwater and to monitor the results of those practices.

The report also contains ongoing recommendation, and highlights emerging issues for groundwater including frac sand mining, metallic mining and dairy industry expansion and concentration.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Helmuth (608) 266-5234; Mary Ellen Vollbrecht (608) 266-2104



Federal research to control Asian carp the topic of Sept. 26 informational meeting

Water guns as well as underwater speakers to be tried on fish

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Proposed federal research to evaluate using water guns or underwater speakers as a barrier to Asian carp is the topic of a public informational meeting Sept. 26 in La Crosse.

Bighead carp
A bighead carp captured on the Lower Wisconsin River in fall 2011. Occasional stray Asian carp have been found in the Lower Wisconsin and Upper Mississippi rivers, but there has been no evidence of reproducing populations.
Michael Kienitz Photo

The Department of Natural Resources will be holding the informational hearing to seek comments on the proposed use of Asian carp during the research in the outdoor pond complex at the U.S. Geological Survey Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center located in La Crosse, according to Bob Wakeman, DNR's aquatic invasive species coordinator.

The proposed research would focus on using sound and pressure waves generated by two different methods as a barrier to Asian carp species. Researchers would test using water guns and underwater speakers to generate sound and pressure waves that would be uncomfortable for the carp and would compel them to swim away.

"Because of the statewide interest and concern about Asian carp, we wanted to have a chance for people to learn more about this research, the controlled conditions under which it would occur, and the possibility that it can help deliver some much needed help in slowing the spread of Asian carp to Wisconsin waters," Wakeman says.

USGS would transport bighead and silver carp to their facility for the research; under state and federal law, the transport, possession, transfer, or introduction of Asian carp are prohibited and can be done only under the conditions of permits from DNR and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. USGS has received the necessary federal permit for the research.

Four Asian carp species imported for use in southern U.S. fish farms and wastewater treatment plants in the 1970s have since escaped and been invading waters in the Mississippi River system. Certain species of Asian carp have been found on occasion in the Mississippi River as far north as Minnesota and up to the Prairie du Sac dam on the Lower Wisconsin River. There is no evidence that these populations are reproducing in Wisconsin waters, but they represent the leading edge of a much larger population moving north toward the Upper Mississippi River and the Great Lakes and posing a potentially serious concern to both water systems, Wakeman says.

Asian carp are a threat to waterways due to their high reproduction and voracious appetites. Bighead and silver carp are filter feeders that can eat 20 percent of their body weight per day, competing with young game fish. In other waters where they've become established, Asian carp have quickly proliferated to comprise up to 90 percent of a fish community's biomass.

DNR and the federal fish and wildlife service have previously permitted the use of Asian carp at the USGS facility's indoor laboratory in a number of research projects including developing control techniques to selectively deliver a fish toxicant to silver and bighead carp.

This project is one of several research partnerships on aquatic invasive species supported by DNR and aimed at better understanding and controlling these invasive species. Other ongoing projects including Asian carp monitoring with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, testing Eurasian water milfoil control methods with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, research on spiny water flea and rainbow smelt with the University of Wisconsin, and research with USGS to test control treatments for zebra mussels.

The informational meeting on Sept. 26 runs from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the U.S. Geological Survey's conference center, 2630 Fanta Reed Road, La Crosse.

The public is invited to come and learn about the proposed research, view the draft permit and provide comments. Written comments may also be submitted to Bob Wakeman, Wisconsin DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison WI 53707-7921 by Oct. 5, 2012. Based upon the comments received, DNR may approve, deny or modify the draft permit, Wakeman says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bob Wakeman, DNR, 262-719-0740 or Randy Hines, USGS, 608-781-6398



Pockets of dead deer found in Columbia and Rock counties died from EHD

MADISON - State wildlife officials have confirmed that tissue samples submitted from deer found dead in Columbia and Rock counties have tested positive for Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, or EHD. A number of citizens in southern Wisconsin contacted the Department of Natural Resources with recent observations of small groups of dead deer. Reports came primarily from the Town of Dekorra in Columbia County, but also from Rock, Waukesha and Walworth counties.

DNR wildlife health specialists submitted the tissue samples for testing to Michigan State University's Diagnostic Center for Population & Animal Health, which confirmed they died of EHD. Additional tests of deer from Waukesha and Walworth counties are pending and expected within the next one to two weeks.

"Our neighbor states have been seeing EHD outbreaks for the last several weeks and now it has made its way into southern Wisconsin," said Eric Lobner, DNR southern Wisconsin wildlife supervisor.

EHD is a fairly common disease carried by midges -- commonly referred to as no-see-ums -- but the virus that causes the disease does not infect humans, according to health specialists, so people are not at risk when handling infected deer, eating venison from infected deer or being bitten by infected midges.

"We are fortunate that the public is tuned into our deer and was quick to report these small pockets of problems," Lobner said. "By sharing information about the outbreak, we are hoping to get help from the public by providing more eyes on the ground in order to continue to collect observations of sick or dead deer. These observations will help us more clearly understand the geographic distribution and number of deer affected by this disease. This will be valuable information to inform management decisions for future years and provide a better understanding of overall impact of the disease on our deer population."

EHD is often fatal, typically killing an infected deer within seven days. The last EHD observation in Wisconsin was in 2002 in Iowa County where 14 deer died from the virus. EHD is common across southern states and occasionally shows up as far north as the upper Midwest. This year, outbreaks of EHD have been reported in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. The disease is typically short lived as the flies that transmit the disease die with the first hard frost.

Individuals that observe deer exhibiting the following signs are encouraged to report their observations to the DNR:

Wildlife officials say there is no risk to people or pets from deer that have died of EHD and that deer carcasses can be left on the landscape to decompose. The DNR will not be collecting or removing deer that have died as a result of this outbreak.

As a result of this confirmation, the DNR is no longer collecting samples from dead deer found in Columbia and Rock counties; however, officials do want to take samples from dead deer reported in counties where EHD has not been confirmed. Also, in order to monitor the geographic distribution and the number of deer affected by this EHD event, the DNR does want people to continue to report sick or dead deer within Columbia and Rock counties.

"Often in cases of diseases like this, once we have confirmed the presence of the disease our goal is to have a better handle on the distribution and the number of deer that are affected by the disease," Lobner said. "Keeping a close eye on the health of our deer is important. Though there is little we can do to prevent the disease, with the onset of cold weather and frost, this outbreak should be over soon. Any information we can get will help us better understand the impact of the disease on our herd. "

To report a sick deer observation please call the DNR call center toll free at 1-888-WDNR- INFo (1-888-936-7463), email, or use the chat feature on the DNR website. Staff are available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Please be prepared to provide details about the condition of the deer and the exact location where the deer was observed. Individuals interested in finding more information on sick deer in Wisconsin can visit the Wisconsin DNR website at keyword "sick deer."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Eric Lobner 608-235-0860 or Bill Cosh, DNR spokesperson, 608-267-2773



Wisconsin residents will be able to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs Sept. 29

Proper disposal will protect Wisconsin's communities and environment

MADISON -- People with unwanted, expired or unused prescription drugs will be able to properly and safely dispose of them during many one-day "Take Back" evens that are scheduled in communities across state on Sept. 29.

"Unused medications impact Wisconsin's communities through accidental poisonings, drug abuse and related crimes," said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "When drugs are flushed or disposed of in landfills, they may also impact Wisconsin's air, surface waters, groundwater, fish and wildlife."

Local law enforcement agencies and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration have scheduled prescription drug "Take Back" events that will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at more than 130 Wisconsin locations. These events are free and anonymous and intended for household medications.

People can find locations of the DEA-sponsored events being on the "Take Back Initiative" (exit DNR) page of the DEA website.

The Sept. 29 events are not the only option available for Wisconsin residents, according to Barb Bickford, DNR medical waste coordinator.

"There are now 154 locations throughout the state that accept unwanted medications on an ongoing basis," Bickford said. "These include at least one permanent drop-off location in 52 of the state's 72 counties. Many of the remaining 20 counties are served by one-day collection events."

DEA reported that a "Take Back" day last April was a great success, with a record 37,642 pounds, or 18.7 tons, worth of prescription drugs were dropped off at collection sites throughout Wisconsin, which made Wisconsin the third largest contributor of unwanted medications in the country.

In 2011, a total of more than 92,000 pounds, or 46 tons, of pharmaceuticals were collected in Wisconsin by municipalities, household hazardous waste programs, the DEA and a mail-back program run by the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

"Prescription drug abuse is a significant problem. More deaths were caused last year by prescription drug abuse than by heroin and cocaine overdose deaths combined," said SAC Jack Riley, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Chicago Field Division. "The National Take Back Initiative is an excellent way to reduce the potential for misuse by providing a safe and secure method for people to clean out their medicine cabinets and properly dispose of unused medication anonymously."

People can find locations of both permanent (on-going) collection sites and one-day events for household medications, visit the following University of Wisconsin Extension website: Wisconsin Medication Collection Sites and Events (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Barb Bickford, 608-267-3548



Sept. 22 proclaimed 'Hunting and Fishing Day' in Wisconsin

MADISON - The State of Wisconsin will officially be observing in National Hunting and Fishing Day on Sept. 22, under a proclamation issued by Gov. Scott Walker.

National Hunting and Fishing Day, formalized by Congress in 1971, was created by the National Shooting Sports Foundation to celebrate conservation successes of hunters and anglers and is celebrated the fourth Saturday of every September.

Governor Walker issued the following proclamation for Wisconsin:


National Hunting and Fishing Day

September 22, 2012

WHEREAS, conserving our state's natural and wildlife resources for future generations is one of the most important responsibilities we have, and

WHEREAS, hunters, trappers and anglers contribute $2.9 billion annually to Wisconsin's economy through their purchases, and

WHEREAS, Wisconsin has national prominence as a destination for hunters and anglers with more than 600,000 participants in the annual deer hunt and over 1.4 million anglers, and

WHEREAS, sportsmen and women, through their organizations, contribute thousands of volunteer hours to conservation projects, youth and adult outdoor education programs, and fundraising for conservation, and

WHEREAS, Saturday, September 22, 2012 is National Hunting and Fishing day,

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Scott Walker, Governor of the State of Wisconsin, do hereby proclaim September 22, 2012 as Hunting and Fishing Day throughout the State of Wisconsin, and I commend this observance to all of our citizens.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Cosh, DNR spokesperson, 608-267-2773


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 18, 2012

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