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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published October 15, 2013

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Flock takes flight! Whooping crane migration underway

New flock of chicks to begin first migration down south through Wisconsin skies

HORICON, Wis. - Nine whooping crane chicks will soon take to the skies and migrate to southeastern states at the end of October as efforts continue to restore the endangered species to the eastern United States.

The cranes, which are hatched and raised in captivity at the International Crane Foundation near Baraboo, are reared by costumed biologists resembling cranes. The whooping crane chicks are part of the direct autumn release project conducted by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, a coalition of government agencies and non-profit organizations. These chicks learn their migration route by following older birds that have successfully migrated in the past.

In addition, following months of preparation and training, eight other whooping crane chicks were released from the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area and began their migration journey behind an ultralight plane. On the second day of October, winds were light, skies were clear and there was no fog, which created ideal conditions for the flock to launch and begin their way south, according to Operation Migration, a member partnership.

"We're excited for the direct autumn release birds to take off and hope the good weather holds for the ultra-light led birds. We're looking forward to following their first journey south to warmer weather," said Davin Lopez, whooping crane coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources. "The DNR is once again pleased to be a part of the efforts to restore whooping cranes to eastern North America."

Every summer, whooping crane chicks are conditioned to follow the ultralight aircraft. This year's flock was raised in Maryland before being brought to Wisconsin and trained to follow the plane as a surrogate parent, according to Lopez. This technique repeatedly proves effective because of the birds' natural instinct to imprint on the first creature that nurtures it.

The two release methods, conditioning the chicks to follow behind an ultralight plane and directly releasing young birds as a group in the company of adult birds, are being used to increase the odds that crane chicks will successfully learn the migration routes, continue them in subsequent years and behave like wild birds.

Migration can take anywhere from six to 16 weeks depending on the exact route and weather conditions, Lopez says. First migration is one of many critical life stages for the birds. Follow this year's ultralight flock and stay connected with their journey through the Operation Migration Website. For more updates on the other birds' progress, visit the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership website (both links exit DNR).

Since 1999, DNR has played a major role in efforts to restore a migratory whooping crane population in eastern North America. The department is a founding member of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership and the summer breeding area is in Wisconsin, Lopez says.

Before these efforts to establish a flock in the eastern U.S. began, only one migratory population of whooping cranes existed in the wild, raising concerns that any catastrophic event could have completely eliminated the species. There are now 101 whooping cranes in the eastern migratory flock because of the partnership's efforts and nearly 500 total including non-migratory flocks.

Oct. 31 online chat set for discussing whooping cranes

People who have more questions about cranes or are interested in the release techniques and research can join the DNR and partners on Oct. 31 at noon for a live online chat exclusively discussing and answering questions regarding whooping cranes. People from all over are encouraged and welcomed to join in the conversation, Lopez says.

Partners participating in the online chat include Joan Garland, outreach coordinator for the International Crane Foundation, and Heather Ray, the associate director of development for Operation Migration.

To participate, visit the DNR home page,, and look for the box on the right to enter the chat, or search the phrase "ask the experts." Or join the conversation on DNR's Facebook page,, by clicking the "Cover it Live Chat" box on the top of the page.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Davin Lopez, DNR, 608-266-0837



Revised fishing tournament rules topic of hearings

MADISON - Draft changes to fishing tournament rules aimed at increasing tournament angler satisfaction while addressing concerns about crowding at boat ramps and fish mortality potentially associated with tournaments are the topic of public hearings in late October and early November.

The current fishing tournament rules have been in effect for more than three years and the Department of Natural Resources has taken a critical look at the rule to identify areas for improvement, says DNR Fisheries Director Mike Staggs.

"The rules have generally worked well since they went into effect in 2011, but we've learned that some aren't needed and found ways we can streamline others to make them work even better in the future," he says. "We thank the various tournament organizers who have provided input the past several years."

Jonathan Hansen, the DNR tournament program coordinator, says the changes include defining new permit exceptions and participant limits, streamlining tournament permit application procedures, and clarifying boat and live well requirements.

"Many resorts and bars have season-long tournaments where fishing is dispersed over many weeks. The new rule would allow these tournaments without a permit because they have little chance of adding to typical tournament crowding or fish mortality," he says.

Kate Strom Hiorns, DNR fisheries policy specialist, says the rule also would replace the current permit application open period with a first-come first-serve application process. "Overall, the rule should make the permit process more transparent and less confusing for tournament organizers," she says.

In addition, DNR worked with tournament anglers to develop a standard approach for when and where bag limits will be reduced in hot summer months and to standardize boundaries on Green Bay to help prevent fish dying after tournaments with a catch-hold-release format, she says.

Public hearings will be held in three locations around the state that typically hold large numbers of fishing tournaments:

To view a copy of the proposed rules, search the DNR website, and search for "proposed administrative rules" and click on the button for "View proposed permanent natural resources rules." The fishing tournament rule can be found under FH-01-12.

For more information or to submit written comments, contact Kate Strom Hiorns, DNR Headquarters, 101 S. Webster, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921, or via email at:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kate Strom Hiorns, 608-266-0828; Jon Hansen, 608-266-6883



Winnebago systems sturgeon spearing license deadline Oct. 31

Big fish on tap for season

OSHKOSH - The deadline to buy sturgeon spearing licenses for the 2014 Lake Winnebago System seasons is Oct. 31, with the seasons shaping up to provide ample opportunity to land the fish of a lifetime as well as enjoy a tradition that brings together family and friends.

"We have been seeing a record number of big fish in the harvest over the last decade and expect more of the same for the 2014 seasons," says Ryan Koenigs, Department of Natural Resources Winnebago System sturgeon biologist. "Nine of the top 10 fish on record have been harvested since 2004 and a record high 9.5 percent of the fish harvested last year exceeded 100 pounds."

For the second year, 12-year-olds can participate in the lake sturgeon spearing season if they buy a license. Also, adults whose names were drawn in the Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing lottery can transfer their 2014 tags to youngsters, allowing youngsters a chance to spear on the lakes, where success rates have historically been higher.

There are separate seasons for Lake Winnebago and for the Upriver Lakes that begin at the same time, with participation in the Upriver Lakes season determined by lottery. The 2014 season open on Saturday, Feb. 8.

Spearers of all ages will find a healthy fishery that boasts a record number of big fish, including the 87.5 inch, 240-pound sturgeon DNR fish crews captured and tagged on April 10, 2012, below the Shawano Dam and not among the fish harvested in the 2013 seasons.

The trend in trophy-size fish has been increasing significantly over the last decade due to the distribution of age classes currently in the population and the impact of harvest regulations implemented over the last 20 years to increase survival of these larger fish, Koenigs says. "The fish are starting to show us their true growth potential, and I expect to continue to see larger fish in our harvest and population assessments."

The harvest caps are the same as they have been the last two years -- 400 juvenile females, 828 adult females and 1,200 males.

How and where to get spearing licenses

Licenses are $20 for residents and $65 for non-residents and can be purchased at any license sales location; over the Internet by going to DNR's home page and clicking on the online license center or by calling toll-free 1-877-WI LICENSE (1-877-945-4236.)

The minimum spearing age is 12 years, and youth who turn 12 between Nov. 1, 2013, and the last day of the 2014 spearing season can still buy a spearing license after Oct. 31. Military personnel home on leave can also purchase a license after Oct. 31.

There are unlimited license sales on Lake Winnebago, while the Upriver Lakes fishery is managed by a lottery and limited to 500 permitted spearers. Once a person is authorized to buy an Upriver Lakes license for a season, they are not able to buy a license for Lake Winnebago.

Spearers are now able to transfer Upriver Lakes spear licenses to youth spearers (age 12-17), and can do so by filling a transfer of license form at least 15 days before the 2014 sturgeon spear fishery. Spearers who applied for an Upriver Lakes license in the lottery but were not authorized received a preference point and can still buy a Lake Winnebago license before Oct. 31.

For more information on the fisherie and management, search the DNR website for "lake sturgeon."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ryan Koenigs,, 920-303-5450



Hearing set on rules defining placement of Lake Superior trap nets

BAYFIELD - A proposed rule defining the number and placement of commercial fishing trap nets in a restricted use area on Lake Superior is the topic of a public hearing Nov. 7 in Bayfield.

The proposed rule is aimed at improving safety for recreational anglers and boaters and reducing conflicts with commercial fishers.

It would define the number and placement of commercial fishing trap nets placed in the Restricted Use Area of Lake Superior, bounded by the Bayfield Ferry line, a line between Houghton Point and Long Island Point, and a line between Long Island Point and the southernmost point on Madeleine Island, according to Peter Stevens, Department of Natural Resources Lake Superior fisheries supervisor.

Commercial fishers may currently place trap nets in the Restricted Use Area for the taking of whitefish or herring from June 1 to August 15. "Commercial use of this area can create confusion about the exact placement and orientation of individual nets, raising safety concerns for recreational boaters and anglers," Stevens says.

In addition, commercial fishers have experienced suspected acts of vandalism to their nets in this area, resulting in expensive repair costs, he says.

To address these issues, DNR is proposing a rule that includes three changes:

A public hearing on the proposed rules is set for 6 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Bayfield Ranger Station, 141 S. Third St.

To view a copy of the proposed rules, search the DNR website, for "proposed administrative rules" and click on the button for View proposed permanent rules. The Lake Superior trap net rule can be found under FH-25-12.

For more information or to submit written comments, contact Kate Strom Hiorns, DNR Headquarters, 101 S. Webster, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921, or via email at:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kate Strom Hiorns, 608-266-0828; Peter Stevens, 715-779-4035 Ext. 12



DNR expands social media outreach to include Pinterest

MADISON -- In an ongoing effort to increase customer service opportunities, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has launched its presence on Pinterest. The social media site focuses on sharing photos and helping users plan everything from dinner to trips to projects around the home.

DNR Pinterest

Pinterest is one of the fastest-growing social media sites with an estimated 70 million users.

"We are constantly evaluating how to best reach our customers and we feel Pinterest gives us a unique opportunity to reach out to women who may not know the services and opportunities the DNR provides," said Trish Nitschke, DNR social media and outreach coordinator.

Pinners can find the page at

"There they will discover wonderful information about our state parks, things to do with their kids, and even craft projects for those rainy (or soon to be snowy) days," Nitschke said. "We welcome repins and encourage users to tag us @Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in their pins."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Trish Nitschke, 920-360-3252



Federal waterfowl production areas added to properties that are open for recreation in Wisconsin

MADISON - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that federal Waterfowl Production Areas in Wisconsin and other states have been reopened, adding additional areas that remain open for hunting and outdoor recreation in Wisconsin.

"Dozens of federally owned waterfowl production areas scattered across 17 counties in southern and northwestern Wisconsin provide over 20,000 ac of public land for hunting and other outdoor recreation," said Kent Van Horn, waterfowl ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources. "These areas of wetland, grassland and other habitats are important areas for public hunting of waterfowl, pheasants, deer and other game."

Other federal properties that remain open for hunting and outdoor recreation include the Chequamegon and Nicolet National Forests, though facilities in the forests such as improved campgrounds and visitor centers remain closed. National refuges at Horicon and along the upper Mississippi River are closed to public access, as is the Apostle Islands National Lake Shore.

In addition, all state, county and local parks and recreation areas remain open across Wisconsin.

Van Horn said Waterfowl Production Areas are purchased by federal duck stamp revenue. Every waterfowl hunter must purchase these stamps and Wisconsin has ranked in the top five states in the nation for the number of waterfowl hunters in recent years.

"As a result, Wisconsin hunters have been an important source of revenue to purchase these important public lands. Keeping them open for use by these hunters is the right thing to do," Van Horn said.

The management of WPA's are often in cooperation and adjacent to state managed lands so keeping this partnership whole is important both for wildlife habitat and public recreation.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Cosh, DNR Spokesperson, 608-267-7517



State Natural Resources Board to meet Oct. 22-23

MADISON -- The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board will conduct its monthly meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday Oct. 22-23 in Madison.

The board, which sets policy for the state Department of Natural Resources, will convene at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday and 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, in Room G09, of the State Natural Resources Building (GEF 2), 101 South Webster St.

On Tuesday, the board will hear an overview of ongoing and proposed deer research activities being conducted by the DNR science service program and collaborators and have a discussion on the use of science in the state's deer management activities.

Highlights for Wednesday (see agenda for all items): the DNR will be seeking adoption of proposed rules affecting changes in environmental analysis and review procedures for department actions under Ch. NR 150, Wis. Adm. Code; adoption of an emergency rule which supports the efforts of the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative; and adoption of a proposed rule related to muskrat and mink trapping seasons. The DNR is also seeking final board approval for a number of master plans for state properties including High Cliff State Park, the White River Property Group, and amendments to the master plan for the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest and Willow Flowage Scenic Waters Area.

Any individuals with any concerns they would like to bring to the attention of the board are welcome to speak. The registration deadline is 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 18.

To register, contact Laurie Ross, NRB liaison, at 608-267-7420, or by email at The same deadline applies to individuals who wish to address the board during Wednesday's business meeting.

People who are unable to attend the meeting are now able to follow board meetings live over the Internet as well as see meeting archives through the Department of Natural Resources website. The meeting are webcast live using a software product called Mediasite.

To view the meetings live, people should visit the DNR website ( and search "NRB" then click on the link for "webcasts" below the "Meeting materials" tab. Meeting agendas, meeting minutes and the catalog of NRB meeting recordings will also all contain links that enable citizens to "tune-in" to the live Webcasts and to traverse previously recorded meetings.

More information, including the meeting agenda and details about public participation, is available by searching the DNR website for "NRB."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurie Ross, NRB liaison, 608-267-7420



Public hearings on proposed Deer Trustee Report implementation rules begin Oct. 22

MADISON - The public is being reminded they will have an opportunity to learn more about and comment on rules the Department of Natural Resources is proposing to implement recommendations in the Deer Trustee Report at public hearings that will be held at 35 locations statewide [PDF] from Oct. 22 to Oct. 31.

To view a summary of the proposed rules, visit and search keywords "deer trustee report."

The official comment period will run from Oct. 14 to Nov. 8. If unable to attend a public hearing during this time, the public is encouraged to complete a survey and submit comments online through the "deer trustee report Web page."

Also available at this site are summaries of the action team proposals upon which the proposed rules are largely based, videos, and other information on the implementation process to date.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Eric Lobner, DNR Deer Trustee Report implementation coordinator, 608-235-0860


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Last Revised: Tuesday, October 15, 2013

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