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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published January 3, 2013

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Spend the New Year watching eagles soar over Wisconsin rivers

BOSCOBEL - Wisconsin residents should have plenty of opportunities again this January and February to view bald eagles congregating along the Wisconsin, Mississippi and Fox rivers, state wildlife officials say.

Citizens can enjoy a growing number of eagle watching events in communities along these rivers as the birds move to their traditional open-water winter haunts in search of fish and other food.

New this year, local partners are putting on an eagle watching event in the Fox Valley on Jan. 26, joining a slate of longer running celebrations and educational programs held along the other rivers: Bald Eagle Watching Days in Prairie du Sac and Sauk City on Jan. 18-19; Eagles on Ice in Alma on Jan. 19; Bald Eagle Appreciation Day in Prairie du Chien on Feb. 23; Bald Eagle Days in Cassville on Jan. 26 and 27, and Eagle Day in Ferryville on March 2.

More information and links to these events, and more information about bald eagles in Wisconsin can be found on DNR's bald eagle feature page.

"They are recovering so well as a species in North America and nesting in pretty high numbers along Wisconsin's major rivers, so there should be good opportunities to see them again this year," says Dan Goltz, Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist based in Boscobel and part of a team that conducts annual aerial surveys along the Wisconsin River, from the Petenwell Dam to the Mississippi River.

Each winter, hundreds of bald eagles congregate along areas of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers where they feed on fish in the open water below dams. Wildlife officials say this is the largest concentration of wintering bald eagles in the lower 48 states, offering some of the best eagle viewing in the nation. Bald eagles, listed in the 1970s on state and federal endangered species lists, have recovered under protections for the species and for their nesting and feeding habits, and also with the ban on the pesticide DDT, which had contributed to poor chick hatching rtes. They were removed from the state list in 1997 and the federal list a decade later.

In recent years, concentrations of wintering bald eagles have been observed in new areas of the state. For example, in January 2012, people reported 24 eagles on Lake Monona in Madison, 68 eagles at Kaukauna, 45 at Green Bay and 50 to 100 at various agricultural fields in southwestern Wisconsin, according to the most recent eagle and osprey survey report.

Goltz says it's hard to predict from year to year how many eagles will be seen; the number fluctuates wildly and depends a lot on ice conditions. "In years where we have really cold weather and a lot of the smaller streams and rivers flowing into Wisconsin River are frozen, the eagles that want fish for lunch are forced to concentrate on open water and the numbers will be higher than when more of the streams are open," said Goltz.

During January 2012, there were 186 eagles counted during the survey, compared to 473 in 2011, a year with colder temperatures. The 20 year average for this survey is 196 eagles in January. This year's aerial survey is set for Jan. 8, and Goltz expects the birds to be a little more spread out, given that there are still more streams and rivers with open water.

Ron Eckstein, a retired DNR wildlife biologist who long led eagle recovery efforts in Wisconsin, notes that the eagles congregating along Wisconsin rivers in winter are adults that typically breed in northern Minnesota and Ontario in the summer and winter down here in search of open water. The other big group of eagles to view during winter months includes immature eagles hatched earlier in the year.

Adult eagles that nest in Wisconsin are very territorial and want to stay in their territory as long as possible. "A small portion of these birds from the northern part of the state moves south into central and southern for part of the time in January," said Eckstein.

The eagles wintering along the Fox River tend to be local Green Bay eagles. Green Bay is not as much in the migratory path of bald eagles that nest in northern Minnesota and Ontario.

Dick Nikolai, wildlife biologist in Appleton, says that the number of eagles congregating on the Fox River has been going steadily up since the first eagle was seen in the early 1990s, and the first nesting eagle was documented in the late 1980s, and has really taken off since 2008.

He attributes the rise in eagles in the Green Bay area in winter to the Fox River cleanup, the dams and paper mills along the river that create open water, a warmer winter climate and abundant gizzard shad in the Winnebago System and along the Fox River.

"Coming to work today, January 2, I saw five or six eagles so I am going to say the opportunities are definitely there," said Nikolai.

He is working with other groups to offer the first official eagle watching day - January 26 at 1,000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna. Other partners include the NE Wisconsin Alliance and various municipalities.

"The main reason we're having the event is to alert people that we have this resource in our backyard during the winter time, and to highlight the importance of the paper industry, the locks and the cleanup that make it all possible," he said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan Goltz, (608) 485-0876; Dick Nikolai, (920) 832-1804

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Snowy January is time to plan spring Learn to Hunts

More female participants in 2012; overall growth last two years

MADISON - The January snow season is prime time to plan 2013 Learn to Hunt events, which last year saw an increase in the number of female participants among the more than 4,000 novices who enrolled in events the last two years.

Keith Warnke, Department of Natural Resources Hunting and Shooting Sports coordinator, says Learn to Hunt events are popular with those interested in learning more about this state tradition but have never had any personal experience. "Many adults who did not come from hunting families are interested in hunting, but don't know how to get started," said Warnke. "Learn to Hunt events are a great way for them to learn in a controlled environment with an experienced mentor."

The Learn to Hunt program started in 1998 to provide youth and adults opportunities to experience a genuine hunt with an experienced hunter. Warnke says interest in the program continues to grow.

"The composition of Learn to Hunt events has continued to evolve, with more females and adults participating in recent years," Warnke said. "Compared to 2011, last year's number of females participating in Learn to Hunt events increased by 53 percent."

Despite the short days and frigid temperatures, Warnke said now's the time to start planning your Learn to Hunt Turkey event. Events may be scheduled before, during or after the six spring turkey time periods; however, most are held in late March and early April. Interested individuals and clubs will want to get started now to complete the necessary steps.

The department has made it easy for sponsors to organize Learn to Hunt events with on-line applications, reimbursement opportunities, assistance in finding event insurance and event advertising on the DNR's website.

Sponsors will need to submit a completed application form to the local wildlife biologist for approval, and should make sure at least one of the event instructors is a certified Hunter Education Instructor. Mentors assisting in the event will need to submit an application to be a mentor. Following the event, sponsors must submit a report of event participants and may apply for a $25 reimbursement per participant to assist with event costs. In addition, Warnke says the program will help advertise events by posting them on the DNR's Learn to Hunt web page and the Hunter's Network Facebook page.

More information on the Learn to Hunt program is available on the DNR's web site, keyword "LTH."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Keith Warnke, (608) 576-5243; Joanne M. Haas, (608) 267-0798

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Public invited to submit water quality data

Info can help determine 2014 list of impaired lakes and rivers

MADISON - Citizens around Wisconsin are invited to submit information they've collected about streams, rivers and lakes to feed into the state's biennial process for determining which waters do not meet water quality standards.

The Department of Natural Resources will use information received by the close of business March 1, 2013, to help assess the condition of Wisconsin's water bodies and develop the state's list of impaired waters and biennial water quality report, which the agency must submit to Congress under federal Clean Water Act rules.

"DNR is committed to working together with our nonprofit partners, local governments, community-based water management organizations and citizens across the state to help meet our water quality data needs," says Aaron Larson, DNR's Impaired Waters List coordinator.

Every two years, people have the opportunity to submit their data for use in developing assessment reports that can help steer scarce state resources to clean up lakes and rivers. The department considers that information along with internal monitoring data and other assessments.

"Water quality data from our partners are used to compare against standards, which is often the first step in the management of our water resources. Assessing these data helps us determine the health of a lake or stream, and which management actions may be necessary to improve water quality," says Larson.

The agency is interested in receiving all types of water quality data and information for lakes and rivers - called surface waters - particularly data collected between January 1, 2003, and December 31, 2012. Data must be submitted in a specific format to allow for efficient analysis, and meet the quality assurance and regulatory decision-making needs associated with these programs.

More information about data quality requirements and how to submit data can be found on the DNR's water quality assessment page.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Aaron Larson (608) 264-6129; Bob Masnado (608) 267-7662

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Agency seeks public comments on state strategic plan to control invasive species

MADISON - A draft statewide strategic plan to guide Wisconsin state agencies and partners in responding to the threat of invasive species to state ecosystems, recreational opportunities and economic sectors is now available for public comment.

The draft was developed by the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council, which includes representatives from state agencies and seven private members from industry, the university system and nongovernmental organizations.

The plan provides an overarching strategy that individual agency and partner plans can draw from and that is supportive of successful ongoing work in Wisconsin, according to Paul Schumacher, chair of the council and a member of Wisconsin Lakes, from Door County.

"Invasive species like the emerald ash borer, Eurasian water-milfoil and garlic mustard harm our environment, cost billions of dollars annually across the nation and threaten core Wisconsin business sectors such as agriculture, tourism, forestry and energy. The list of invasive species 'knocking at our door' continues to grow," Schumacher says.

"Our state agency and partner groups are doing a lot individually and together to help prevent the introduction and spread of new invasive species and to control ones already established here. This statewide plan identifies common themes and areas of shared interest where increased cooperation can help achieve even more progress."

Schumacher says the draft strategy is not intended to replace existing project or species specific plans, and in fact was developed with the help of 32 experts representing 15 organizations involved in invasive species control.

The plan and all discussion summaries can be found on the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council website under the "Strategic Plan."

To provide comments or for more information please contact Mindy Wilkinson, DNR's invasive species coordinator, at Melinda.Wilkinson@wisconsin.gov, or 608-266-6437; or Paul Schumacher, Chair of the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council, spaulsdoor@aol.com, or 920-823-2109.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mindy Wilkinson (608) 266-6437

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Reports document efforts and successes in addressing invasive species

MADISON - Two online reports document progress made in 2011-2012 in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive species to Wisconsin lakes, rivers, forests and wetlands, and outline needs to fill in the gaps.

Posted in December 2012, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Report to the Legislature on Invasive Species Programs, highlights efforts by DNR programs to address invasive species, which can crowd out native plant and animal species, threaten core business sectors including agriculture, tourism, forestry and energy, and hamper recreation.

Report highlights include the department's systematic surveys of lakes to detect invaders when their populations can most cost-efficiently be addressed, expanding efforts to get out the "Don't Move Firewood" message, inspecting a record number of boats and contacting people with information about aquatic invasive species.

The report details DNR investment in managing invasive species and highlights where additional funds and capacity building are strongly needed in order to protect Wisconsin from some of the worst invaders, says Mindy Wilkinson, DNR invasive species coordinator.

A second report, the 2010-2012 Wisconsin Aquatic Invasive Species Progress Report, drills down into efforts to help stop the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species including Eurasian water-milfoil, zebra mussels, Asian carp and more.

"There are an enormous number of people that make the AIS Partnership successful and Wisconsin is fortunate to have these dedicated and enthusiastic individuals and organizations as partners." says Bob Wakeman, DNR's statewide AIS coordinator. "I'd like to thank everyone that has worked so hard to prevent, contain and control AIS in Wisconsin."

Wakeman says this network has allowed the DNR to help expand successful local programs to all areas of the state. In one example, the Purple Loosestrife Biocontrol Project organizes hundreds of citizen cooperators to raise and release Galerucella beetles to control purple loosestrife in their local wetlands. Over the past two years, 4.6 billion beetles have been raised and released into 200 wetland sites throughout Wisconsin and are showing significant progress in knocking back the loosestrife populations.

Local prevention and control grants have allowed the DNR to provide almost $4 million annually to help local groups address aquatic invasive species in their waterways. The grants help sustain ongoing efforts as well as get innovative projects off the ground, such as Aquatic Invasive Removal Stations in Dane County, which provide tools to help boaters pull off hard-to-reach vegetation.

Wisconsin's statewide Landing Blitz, a concentrated push to help inspect boats and share AIS prevention methods at boat landings during the busy July 4th holiday week, is made possible by volunteers and paid inspectors from local lake groups, county and tribal entities, non-profit organizations and college interns with University of Wisconsin Sea Grant and UW-Oshkosh. The number of participating lakes grew from 90 in 2011 to more than 200 this year, and resulted in nearly 16,000 boats being inspected and more than 34,000 people contacted.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mindy Wilkinson (608) 266-6437; Chrystal Schreck (608) 264-8590; Bob Wakeman (262) 574-2149

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Last Revised: Thursday, January 03, 2013




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