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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published April 8, 2014

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21 Work*Play*Earth Day events scheduled for 2014

MADISON - People can celebrate Earth Day while helping out and enjoying Wisconsin state park, forest, trail and wildlife properties during the sixth annual Work*Play*Earth Day. Volunteer events are sponsored by the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks and Department of Natural Resources properties. The events will be held April 19, 26 and May 3, 2014.

Work*Play*Earth Day

Volunteers can join DNR staff, local friends group members, and people from nearby communities to help repair and enhance park, forest and trail properties. Activities include planting trees and shrubs, installing benches, removing invasive plants, painting picnic tables and other structures, raking and cleaning up leaves and picking up litter. Refreshments will be provided and Friends of Wisconsin State Parks will also provide appreciation gifts for volunteers.

"When the work is done, volunteers join staff in hiking or biking park trails, visiting nature centers or interpretive displays, or enjoying any of the recreational opportunities available at the different properties," said Patty Loosen, friends coordinator for the state parks program.

Loosen says during the 2013 Work *Play* Earth Day events, more than 700 volunteers donated more than 2,500 hours cleaning up and maintaining parks and trails, planting more than 500 trees, doing invasive species work and building bird houses, planting native plants and repairing picnic tables.

Mirror Lake Work*Play*Earth Day
About 30 people showed up for Mirror Lake State Park's Work*Play*Earth Day 2013 event despite cold rain. Here volunteers painted and assembled picnic chairs.
Photo courtesy of Friends of Mirror Lake State Park

Volunteers should check with the park, forest, trail or recreation area where they would like to participate for event start times and details. Volunteers should wear work boots or athletic shoes, long pants and bring their own work gloves. Come and be part of the 2014 Work*Play*Earth Day events at these Wisconsin state properties!

To find out more about the parks listed below, search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for "find a park."

Saturday - April 19, 2014

Saturday - April 26, 2014

Saturday - May 3, 2014

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Patricia Loosen - Statewide Friends Group Coordinator 608-264-8994 or Patricia.Loosen@wisconsin.gov

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Public meeting set to begin process of updating Lower Wisconsin Riverway master plan

SPRING GREEN, Wis. - The public has an opportunity at two upcoming open house meetings to get involved with the initial phases of the process to review and update of the master plan for the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway property.

The Department of Natural Resources is beginning the process to review and update the 25-year-old master plan for the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. Tower Hill State Park will also be included in the planning effort.

Two open-house style public meetings are planned to share information about the upcoming planning process and public participation opportunities, and to hear what issues the public would like to see included in the plan review. A short presentation will be made at 6:30 p.m. at each meeting. The meetings will be held:

In addition to at the meetings, people may submit comments to the DNR by mail or email, according to Matt Seguin, DNR riverway manager.

"The department is very interested in the public's input as to the future management of this unique property. A questionnaire will also be available to fill out at the meeting or on line," Sequin said.

The comment period for this beginning phase of planning will run until July 31, 2014.

Established by the legislature in 1989, the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway is a 92-mile river corridor stretching from Prairie du Sac to the Mississippi River. It is one of the longest remaining stretches of free-flowing river in the Midwest. The Riverway includes miles of meandering shoreline and sandbars; acres of wetlands, prairie, and forests, tall bluffs and backwater ponds.

"The area is rich in high quality habitats and rare plant and wildlife species. Recreational opportunities are diverse and include such activities as canoeing, camping on sandbars, fishing, hunting, hiking, wildlife watching and mushroom picking," Sequin said.

Information on the Riverway and the planning process, including a Regional and Property Analysis and maps, and a Public Involvement Plan can be found by searching the DNR website dnr.wi.gov, for keywords "master planning," and then clicking on link for "Lower Wisconsin State Riverway." Copies of the materials are also available at the DNR's Tower Hill State Park office or by contacting Matt Seguin at 608-588-7723 or by email at Matthew.seguin@Wisconsin.gov.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Matt Seguin, Manager, Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, 608-588-7723 or Matthew.seguin@Wisconsin.gov

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Avoid problems with black bear

MADISON - With the arrival of spring, black bears have begun to emerge from their dens in search of food. State wildlife officials are encouraging homeowners statewide to take precautions to reduce the potential for problems with hungry bear.

"More than 800 complaints about bear are called in each year," says Brad Koele, Department of Natural Resources wildlife damage specialist.

Koele says many of these conflicts occur as a result of some type of attractant such as bird feeders, garbage cans, grills, or pet food left outside and accessible to bear. Although conflicts can occur anytime bear are active it is especially important to remove attractants during the spring when bears are emerging from dens and natural foods are limited.

"Just because you see a bear does not mean it's a causing conflict," Koele adds. "Black bears normally avoid contact with people. However, when food sources are available bears can quickly learn to associate humans with food and can become a nuisance. Highly habituated bears can be dangerous and may need to be euthanized. Preventing the problem in the first place is the best solution for both humans and bears."

It is illegal to intentionally feed bears in Wisconsin, but it is also important for homeowners to make sure they are not unintentionally feeding bears by allowing a food source to be accessible near their home.

Wildlife biologists encourage residents to follow these steps to avoid attracting bears:

"If a bear is near your home, wave your arms and make noise to scare it away," Koele said. "Then back away slowly or go inside and wait for the bear to leave. When scaring the bear away, make sure it has a clear escape route. Never corner a bear or shoot at a bear with a firearm in an attempt to scare the bear away."

If a bear finds food such as bird feed or garbage near a home it will likely return. The visits will eventually stop when food is no longer available. Bears will periodically check sites where food was once available, so it may take several days to weeks before the bear will quit visiting a site once the food source has been removed.

"If you encounter a bear while in the woods you should stay calm and not approach it. Give it space, walk away, and watch from a distance. Never approach a sow with cubs," Koele said.

Wildlife officials say it is also unlawful and unethical to shoot at bears.

"We get reports every year from bear meat processors of legally harvested bear that have large amounts of bird shot in the meat. Sometimes it is so bad that the meat must be disposed of," says Michael Zeckmeister, northern wildlife supervisor.

Shooting at bears with a shotgun is illegal, extremely inhumane and could result in significant injuries or even be fatal to the bear.

"There are a variety of non-lethal, humane abatement options available for resolving conflicts with bears," Zeckmeister said.

Homeowners who are unable to resolve a conflict with a bear should contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture -Wildlife Services toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for properties in Southern Wisconsin, and 1-800-228-1368 for properties Northern Wisconsin. The Department of Natural Resources partners with USDA-Wildlife Services for responding to black bear complaints.

For more information search the DNR website for "black bear management."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Koele (715) 356-5211 or Dan Hirchert (608) 267-7974.

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Wisconsin elk herd not quite ready for hunt in 2014

MADISON -- After evaluating available information and taking into account the severity of this winter, the state wildlife officials and several key partners have agreed that the state's first elk hunt in the modern era will have to wait at least one more year.

"We started the year with the birth of about 34 calves, inching us closer to a population of over 200 animals, which is the number required before a hunt will take place," said Kevin Wallenfang, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources big game ecologist and elk management program leader.

"However, several elk were lost due to a variety of causes this year and due to the severity of this winter we recently encountered the first incident of winter-related mortality since 2001," Wallenfang said. "It's disappointing to those who are eager for the first elk season, but there are a number of positive things to continue focusing on while we help the herd to increase. The long-term success of the elk herd is the priority."

According to state law, a Wisconsin elk hunt may not take place until the population surpasses 200 animals. Generally located near Clam Lake in Ashland County, Wisconsin's current elk herd is estimated to be roughly 190 animals after spring calving in 2014.

"We agree with the decision," said Lou George, a regional director for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. "It keeps getting closer to that magic 200, but it's just not there yet. Regardless, we will continue to support any and all efforts to restore wild elk to the state." The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has been a key partner in Wisconsin's reintroduction effort.

For more information on elk in Wisconsin, search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keyword "elk."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kevin Wallenfang, 608-261-7589

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More than 90,000 pounds of donated venison sent to food pantries statewide in 2013

MADISON -- Hunters, meat processors and food pantries helped the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and its partners donate more than 90,000 pounds of venison to those in need in 2013.

"We are very proud to be part of this community-based program," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Anytime we can have a safe, successful deer hunt and donate valuable food to our pantries it's a win-win for Wisconsin."

More than 2,000 deer were donated through the DNR deer donation program and processed packages of ground venison were distributed to food pantries statewide. The number of deer donated decreased by 27 percent compared to 2012, likely a result of fewer deer harvested.

"Regardless of the number of deer donated, the program is always considered a success," said DNR wildlife damage biologist Dan Hirchert.

"The deer donation program was designed to provide an outlet for surplus deer - whether hunters consume their own deer or donate to those in need, the meat is being put to great use," Hirchert said.

Since the program began in 2000, hunters have donated more than 85,000 deer and more than 3.8 million pounds of venison. The collected meat is distributed to Wisconsin families in need of food assistance. The program relies on cooperation with counties across the state, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services and community programs like Hunt for the Hungry and Target Hunger. These organizations help organize donations, coordinate processing, and distribute venison.

For more information about the DNR's deer donation program and more on how people can help, search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keywords "deer donation."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan Hirchert, 608-267-7974

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Extended ice cover expected to cause more fish kills

MADISON - With ice 3 feet deep still covering many lakes in northern Wisconsin and yet more snow delivered last week, state fish biologists are expecting an increase in fish kills due to low oxygen levels in some shallower lakes.

As a result, anglers and lakeshore property owners could see an increased number of fish littering shorelines throughout Wisconsin this spring when the ice finally melts.

"We expect some winterkill every year, but we're likely to see more due to heavy snow and the long ice cover," says Paul Cunningham, Department of Natural Resources fisheries ecologist. "Shallow lakes with large amounts of aquatic vegetation and mucky bottoms are prone to this problem. They have much lower oxygen capacity to begin with, and that oxygen is consumed as the plants decay, leaving little for fish and other aquatic life as the ice cover prevents oxygen from the atmosphere from entering the lakes."

Winterkill is a natural process occurring when fish don't have enough oxygen. In ice capped winters, most oxygen in the water comes from aquatic plants. However, when the ice and snow cover is thick, plants cannot get the sunlight needed, and instead of producing oxygen, they die back and decompose. Last year, DNR documented 18 fish kills caused by low dissolved oxygen levels in winter.

Cunningham says it's rare for lakes to experience total winterkill. Tributaries or springs where oxygen supplies are better are usually temporarily sought out by some fish.

"For some waters, partial winterkill is a natural, beneficial process that results in increased growth rates and improved size structure of the survivors and a better fishery all together," he says. "On more shallow lakes with excessive algae blooms, winterkill can have negative impacts to anglers because the majority of game fish die, and rough fish like black bullheads and carp survive, making it a challenge to restore and maintain game fish populations in these lakes."

Fortunately, usually enough fish survive, either in the lake or in connecting waters, to repopulate the lake in a couple of years. Only for extreme die-offs is fish restocking necessary, Cunningham says.

Rehabilitation of winterkill lakes typically involves restocking of species such as northern pike, largemouth bass, yellow perch, pumpkinseed and bluegill. After completing fish kill investigations, local fisheries biologists make the decision to request fish for restocking in the extreme cases of severe winterkill. DNR has contingency plans to increase production of largemouth bass and northern pike that may be needed for restocking lakes that are severely impacted by winterkill this year.

What to do if people see a fish kill

While the lack of oxygen normally kills fish in later winter, the fish may not be noticed until a month after the ice has melted from lakes. The dead fish are preserved by the cold water under the ice, but start decomposing as the water warms and the bloated fish float to the shore.

People witnessing a fish kill are asked to note the water body, fish species and approximate number of dead or dying fish and contact their local fisheries biologist or call the DNR TIP line at 1-800-TIP-WDNR, 1-800-847-9367. Do not collect fish samples from a suspected winterkill fish kill.

"They are several things we can look for to distinguish a winter kill," says Cunningham. "One sign is that the dead fish may appear fuzzy from a fungus infection, which is normal in winterkills. Another sign is the strong smell of sulfur dioxide, which smells like rotten eggs."

Other distinguishing factors include the species of fish affected and the rate of decomposition.

"With winterkills, fish may be partially decomposed, depending on when they died," says Sue Marcquenski, DNR fish health specialist. "And if the dead fish are comprised of all the different species in the lake at the time of ice out, winterkill is the likely cause."

If dying fish or fish in distress are observed this spring, the cause may be different than winterkill. If dying fish are observed, please contact local fisheries biologists or the DNR TIP line and indicate fish are actively dying (not a winterkill).

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Paul Cunningham, 608-267-7502, Sue Marcquenski 608-266-2871)

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Globally important research on frogs, lake challenges on tap for lakes conference

Wisconsin Lakes Partnership Conference set for April 24-26 in Stevens Point

STEVENS POINT - A world-renowned frog scientist and Wisconsin researchers who just completed an unprecedented 30-year study of how atmospheric pollution and environmental changes affect lakes will be among the top presenters at the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership Convention April 24-26 in Stevens Point.

"The Wisconsin Lakes Conference is a great opportunity to learn from, and be inspired by top experts in their fields, as well as to share successes and get new ideas from the lake organization members and others who do so much of the hands-on work to protect and restore Wisconsin lakes," says Carroll Schaal, who leads the Department of Natural Resource lakes and rivers section.

Mary Knipper, president of Wisconsin Lakes, says that the conference them, Back to the Point, reflects that the gathering returns to Stevens Point, where the event had its beginnings. "More importantly, it signals the continuity and confirmation of our original focus and goals. Lakes protection has its roots in advocacy, collaborations and partnerships which continue to guide us today and into the future."

Attendees at the annual gathering of Wisconsin lake district commissioners, lake association members, professional lake managers, lake scientists and consultants also get the chance to learn the latest news and science concerning aquatic invasive species, lake levels, phosphorus and other challenges to lakes, says Schaal. In all, the convention offers 25 different workshops or tours, 50 concurrent sessions, a poster session, and presentation of the Lake Stewardship Awards.

Eric Olson, who directs the UW-Extension Lakes program in Stevens Point, expects up to 600 attendees over the course of the three days, and notes that Wisconsin prides itself on having one of the best attended and most diverse annual lakes conference. "This gathering of lake lovers has information and ideas for everyone, from cabin owners to lake managers to university researchers. We aim to bring lake stakeholders together for a shared experience that can't be found anywhere else."

On April 25, a panel of lake scientists discuss the evolution of lake challenges over the past three decades, highlighting the long-term experiments carried out at Little Rock Lake in Vilas County and the management implications of lake research in Wisconsin. Carl Watras, a DNR research scientist; Susan Knight, a UW botanist and aquatic invasive species specialist; and Tim Kratz, director of the UW Trout Lake Station, will participate in the discussion, which is moderated by Glen Moberg from Wisconsin Public Radio.

On April 26, Tyrone Hayes, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California - Berkeley, will give the morning keynote address. He directs a path-breaking research and teaching program focusing on environmental contaminants' effects on frogs and ways people can help conserve amphibians. Also on tap that day: Tours of UW-Stevens Point's Schmeeckle Reserve, a workshop on community sustainability led by Torbjorn Laht, a Swedish leader in the "eco-municipality" movement, and a hands-on workshop where attendees can build their own lake monitoring gear.

A new workshop offering on April 24 explores the environmental and social connections between Wisconsin and Nicaragua, a nation rich in lake resources but challenged by poverty and looming ecological changes. Migratory birds that spend their summers in Wisconsin spend their winters in Nicaragua, making protecting habitat there and lakes there of special importance to Wisconsin, Olson says.

The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership Convention is set for the Holiday Inn Hotel and Convention Center, 1001 Amber Ave. in Stevens Point. It is sponsored by the University of Wisconsin Extension Lakes, a part of the UW-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Lakes and DNR.

Pre-registration is required. Pricing options depend on days and sessions attended, with sessions offered a la carte.

Registration information and a full schedule of events and descriptions are available on the UW-Extension website: www.uwsp.edu/uwexlakes/conventions (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Carroll Schaal, DNR, 608-261-6423; Eric Olson, UWEX Lakes, 715-346-2192

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Now is the time to take hunter, trapper education courses

MADISON - Young people and people new to hunting and trapping who are looking forward to participating in fall hunting and trapping seasons should state the process now of finding and enrolling in a hunter or trapper education course.

"Don't wait until fall to get enrolled in hunter education," said Brenda VonRueden, of the Department of Natural Resources hunter education program. "There are more hunter and trapper education courses taught now than any other time of year."

Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1973, must have completed a hunter education course and show the certificate to purchase any hunting license in Wisconsin. Anyone who had not previously purchased a trapping license prior to 1992 and who is not actively engaged in farming is required to take a trapper education course.

Hunter and trapper education courses are led by trained, certified and dedicated volunteer instructors and are offered statewide throughout the year.

The Wisconsin DNR offers three convenient ways to become hunter education certified:

"Thanks to hunter education, hunting is safe and getting safer," VonRueden said. "Hunter education covers the firearm handling skills, regulations, and responsibilities of a safe and ethical hunter. Every year, almost 30,000 youth and adults in Wisconsin become certified in hunter education."

Anyone wishing to enter a trapper education course must preregister to attend one of the courses, which are usually held on two full weekend days. A correspondence trapper education course is also offered "Trapper Education, which is made possible through the cooperation between the Wisconsin DNR and the Wisconsin Trappers Association, teaches new trappers to be responsible, ethical trappers," says Geriann Albers, Assistant Furbearer Ecologist and Wisconsin DNR's Trapper Education Coordinator.

Trapper education covers the history of trapping, best management practices, Wisconsin furbearer information, regulations, types of traps and equipment, types of trap sets and more.

Anyone enrolling in either a hunter or trapper education course must first have a Wisconsin DNR ID number. Wisconsin hunter certification is recognized by all states and provinces requiring hunter education.

Get enrolled now and join the ranks of today's hunter education graduates who are ensuring the future of our hunting heritage. To find either a hunter or trapper education course, search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for "education" and click on the button for "Find a safety education course near you."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brenda VonRueden, DNR Hunter Education Program, 608-267-7509; Geriann Albers, trapper education program, 608-261-6452; or Joanne Haas, public affairs, 608-209-8147

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 08, 2014




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