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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published September 9, 2014

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Trees about to turn Wisconsin into one big free scenic color tour

Awww-tumn in Wisconsin parks and forests

MADISON -- Wisconsin's trees are starting to paint hillsides, trails, shorelines, parks and backyards into an autumn kaleidoscope, and state forestry officials say if the weather cooperates it could be a spectacular fall color season.

Unlike last year -- when parts of Wisconsin saw scattered trees turning color prematurely and even drop their leaves in mid-August due to the dry summer -- this year trees have enjoyed adequate rainfall and have grown beautiful and healthy foliage.

"As the days get shorter, and the nights longer and cooler, the fall colors will begin developing. Ideal conditions for a brilliant fall color season include warm sunny days with cool nights," said Bill McNee, a forest health specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

While predicting the arrival of fall color is challenging because the weather is in control, McNee says so far it looks like the season appears to be on target for its usual run of about September 10 to mid-October.

"Last year trees without enough water started to shut down early to reduce further water losses. This means they went through color change earlier than they normally would. When there is a lot of rain and plenty of water for the trees, the colors can be delayed by a little bit - about a week," Mc Nee said.

Some northern area trees are already starting to show some signs of color, says Carmen Hardin, DNR forestry management section chief.

"While the main show for fall leaves is still ahead, these trees with early color are most likely under some stress -- maybe from wet soils with recent rains or damage from bugs, she said.

McNee adds he has spotted trees turning color in west central areas. "And that also is possibly due to stress."

Wisconsin tourism officials at Travel Wisconsin say the foliage colors are nature's free show for residents and the always-welcome tourists. So popular is this annual season that Travel Wisconsin hosts its own fall color report (exit DNR) where in-state travelers and visitors can click on a map of the state to get the latest updates on fall color in that location.

Why do trees turn color?

When you strip away the green and all the gorgeous color appears, you're left with the question 'why?' Why do the trees do this amazing magic trick every year? McNee gives this brief explanation:

In late summer, broadleaved trees respond to lengthening nights and cooling temperatures by reducing levels of a green pigment known as 'chlorophyll' that is used in photosynthesis (the production of sugars in the leaves).

This unmasks orange and yellow 'carotenoid' pigments that are also present in the leaves, giving them time to show off.

Red and purple fall colors have a different origin, and are due to 'anthocyanin' pigments that are actively produced in late summer at the same time as the green 'chlorophyll' deteriorates.

The brightest red and purple colors appear when autumn days are bright and nights are chilly but not freezing, because these conditions increase production of the red and purple pigments. Orange and yellow colors tend to be fairly constant from year to year because the orange and yellow pigments are always present in the leaves.

"And while most focus on the brilliant colors of maple, aspen and oak," Hardin adds, "don't forget about surprising golden needles found on tamarack - a conifer that drops its needles every year."

To learn more about the science, visit the DNR's EEK page: Why Do Leaves Change Color?

Where to go for a view?

Anywhere in the state. It's all a matter of keeping track where the color is traveling.

Keep in mind Wisconsin's State Forests - Black River, Brule, Flambeau, Governor Knowles, Havenwoods, Northern Highland-American Legion, Point Beach, Peshtigo River, and Kettle Moraine's four units. These are great for viewing. And there are parks, trails, nature areas and more. All are found by searching the DNR website for keywords "find a park."

With the state trails and parks, picnics, hiking, boating, cycling and more will be even more enjoyable - if that's possible - with such an incredible sea of color all around. Get out and enjoy Wisconsin in this transition season known for its incredible science show of color choreographed by Nature.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill McNee, forest health specialist, (920) 893-8543;, Carmen Hardin, forest management section chief, (608) 267-3139;; Joanne Haas, public affairs manager, 608-209-8147,



"Fall in love with Wisconsin State Parks" photo contest to begin Sept. 15 on DNR Facebook page

Fall in love with fallFall in love with fall

MADISON -- People who love fall colors and love Wisconsin's state parks, forests, trails and recreation areas can share that love by entering their photos of people enjoying state properties this fall in an upcoming "Fall in Love with Wisconsin State Parks" Facebook photo contest.

At the same time they will be helping to promote the State Park System as the Department of Natural Resources. All photos entered into the contest become the property of the DNR and may be used in publications and brochures, and on the DNR website and social media outlets.

"Wisconsin residents and visitors alike love our state properties and fall colors," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "This is an opportunity to share their enjoyment of Wisconsin in the fall by entering their photos and letting Facebook users vote on their favorites."

The contest will run from September 15 through October 26, 2014. Photographers who submit photos early will to get the chance to receive the most votes. People can check on updates on fall color progress through the Department of Tourism's fall color report.

To enter photos, people should go to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Facebook page and click the "Like" button. Once you are a "Fan" of the Wisconsin DNR's Facebook page, enter photos by clicking the "Photo Contest" box on the left side of the page. Fans can enter up to one photo per day.

Photographers must be at least 13 years of age, and have the permission of anyone pictured in the photos to have their image submitted to the contest with the understanding that the photo may be used in publications, brochures or online. Photographers must also identify the property where the photo was taken. A complete set of Fall in Love With Wisconsin State Parks contest rules [PDF] is available on the DNR website. A list of all Wisconsin state parks, forests, recreation areas and trails is available by searching the DNR website for "find a park."

DNR Facebook fans will then be able to vote once a day for their favorite photos from the contest gallery. Whichever photo has the most votes by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, October 26, 2014 will be deemed the winner, and the photographer will receive a 2015 Wisconsin State Park sticker, a 2015 Wisconsin trails pass, and a two year subscription to Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul Holtan, state parks, forest and trails public affairs manager, 608-267-7517 or Trish Nitschke, DNR social media coordinator, 920-360-3252



EPA confirms state's recommendation on clean air designation

MADISON - Wisconsin's air quality is cleaner than it has been in decades and no county in the state violated the most recent federal air standards for fine particles, confirmed officials with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The federal agency recently reviewed available air monitoring data from all 50 states for fine particles, called PM 2.5, and found 14 areas in six states that did not meet the most recent standard, set in 2012. Wisconsin, however, was not among the six states.

"This is great news for our citizens and an incentive for our growing economy," said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Wisconsin has demonstrated it can control emissions and has successfully met all the particulate matter standards EPA has proposed - in 1997, 2006 and now the 2012 federal standard. Each subsequent standard has been more stringent and better protective of public health."

In November 2013, Gov. Scott Walker recommended to EPA that all Wisconsin counties should be designated as meeting the air quality standard. The federal agency reviewed the information supplied by the state and confirmed the governor's recommendation.

The EPA will seek public comment on the proposed designations before announcing final designations in December of this year.

Bart Sponseller, DNR air management program director, said the proposed designation means "that all our monitors measured compliance for a three year period, and in Wisconsin counties where there are no monitors, EPA finds the counties likely to be meeting the standards."

To view air quality in your county, search the DNR website for keywords "air quality" and click on the button for "view current air quality" for real-time data.




Wisconsin's first early teal hunting season gives hunters new hunting opportunities

Wildlife officials report careful hunting and good participation

MADISON - Wisconsin's first ever early teal hunting season came to a close Sunday, Sept. 7. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources field staff are encouraged that the season was successful based on preliminary observations of cautious hunting and well-educated waterfowl hunters.

"On opening day I was able to talk with some very excited hunters that enjoyed the new hunting opportunity and appreciated the department's efforts to provide the season," said Kent Van Horn, DNR waterfowl biologist. "I spoke with several groups in the parking lot after the hunt, and all had harvested teal or Canada geese. The dogs were muddy, but the hunters were happy."

In 2014, Wisconsin offered its first-ever early teal-only duck hunting season from Sept. 1-7, with a daily bag limit of six teal. Shooting hours for opening day were 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and sunrise to 7 p.m. for the remainder of the season. Hunters were not required to purchase any additional licenses or permits, other than those required for hunting ducks in the regular waterfowl season.

In preparation for the early teal season, DNR staff presented information in public meetings, advisory committee meetings and special breakout sessions at the waterfowl hunter's conference and gathered feedback with a waterfowl hunter survey over the last two years. The department collected public comment regarding the opportunity to offer teal season changes through June 5, 2014.

The department was required to monitor and report hunter performance throughout the experimental three-year period, and preliminary results show that about 80 percent of hunters showed good judgment and restraint and did not shoot at non-teal ducks that flew within range. Roughly 10 percent of hunters appeared to be trying to follow the regulations but have made mistakes in duck identification, while about 10 percent demonstrated carelessness or disregard for the regulations.

"Regardless of season-type, some hunters make the personal decision to not comply with regulations," said Todd Schaller, DNR Chief Warden. "However, a majority of hunters understand the importance of biological and safety regulations and were safe and conscious teal hunters in the early season."

Hunters were offered a number of tools (including a duck identification tool and waterfowl identification guide exit DNR) to help prepare for the early teal season. More than 3,500 people participated in our teal identification quiz prior to the Sept. 1 early teal season opener.

Duck hunting in Wisconsin is now closed until the Sept. 20-21 youth waterfowl hunt - this will provide ducks with a resting period.

The department would like to thank waterfowl hunters and all those involved in the planning stages leading up to Wisconsin's first early teal hunting season. Feedback and support from stakeholders throughout Wisconsin is key in providing new opportunities for hunters.

It is important to remember that this was the first of a three-year experimental early teal season in Wisconsin. The department will continue to monitor, learn and improve over the next two years before deciding what the future holds for early teal hunting opportunities.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kent Van Horn, DNR migratory game bird ecologist, 608-266-8841



Tests confirm first white-nose syndrome occurrence was isolated

Crews continue to work with partners to protect bat populations in Wisconsin

MADISON - Samples that were pending from 19 caves and mines in Wisconsin tested negative for white-nose syndrome, confirming that as of April this year the deadly bat disease was isolated to a single site in Grant County.

The samples were collected as part of a routine follow up during the surveying of 135 mines and caves. Visual surveys of the remaining 116 sites did not find any other signs of white-nose syndrome.

"Results were negative on follow-up surveillance and genetic samples at the caves and mines closest to the disease epicenter," says Paul White, a conservation biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "We will continue to work with science advisory groups, stakeholders and partners to discuss and identify the best management practices in efforts to slow the spread of this disease."

White-nose syndrome was confirmed in Wisconsin earlier this year when results from visual inspection and genetic and tissue tests showed that 2 percent of bats in a single mine had the disease. This infection does not affect people or other animal species but causes hibernating bats to frequently wake, depleting their energy and causing them to starve or dehydrate.

Wisconsin has one of the highest concentrations of hibernating bats in the Midwest, and its population of little brown bats in the largest remaining in the world. Some bats from neighboring states of Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan -- up to 300,000 bats -- spend their winters here so any disease affecting Wisconsin's hibernacula has far reaching impacts on the summer landscape and on the industries that depend on bats for natural pest control.

Bats are voracious insect eaters, helping keep crop and forest pests and mosquitoes in check. A recent national study estimated the insect-eating services that bats provide between $658 million to $1.5 billion alone for Wisconsin's agricultural industry.

Next steps in efforts to save bats

Cave and mine owners were notified by DNR of the winter disease surveillance findings. Efforts to control the human-assisted transmission of the fungus remain in place, including strict decontamination for researchers and DNR personnel as well as screening commercial cave and mine visitors.

The DNR Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation's dedicated team is also exploring effective management strategies and continues to conduct comprehensive statewide projects to address knowledge gaps in bat trends. Through two citizen-based monitoring projects, volunteers are helping to gather crucial data on current threats and population health.

"Our goal remains to prevent extinction and monitor bat health," says White. "Through implementing adaptive management actions, we hope to sustain one of Wisconsin's greatest natural resources for the benefit of future generations."

How citizens can help, including reporting sick or dead bats

Wisconsin citizens can help by continuing to avoid disturbing bats, especially during hibernation; by following all decontamination requirements for those who enter caves or mines and by continuing to volunteer to monitor bat populations in Wisconsin through a variety of different opportunities. Wisconsin's four bat cave species are listed as threatened, a status which makes it illegal to kill them or take action that would result in their death. Learn more about bats and volunteering opportunities on DNR's Bat Program website.

People who see sick or dead bats, especially between October and March, are encouraged to report them to DNR. Citizens can find the reporting form and instructions for how to safely collect carcasses of dead bats on DNR's Bat Program website. People should not touch or handle bats without appropriate protective clothing.

Wisconsin Bat Festival expands to three days; being held in Milwaukee

People can also learn more about bat monitoring and research, as well as how to join the fight against the deadly bat disease white-nose syndrome at the upcoming Wisconsin Bat Festival October 3-5. This year the free festival has been expanded to three days and will be held in Milwaukee at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park and Milwaukee County Zoo's Zoofari Conference Center. Get a full schedule of events on the Wisconsin Bat Festival website.

More information on saving Wisconsin bats is available by searching the DNR website for keyword "bats."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Erin Crain, 608-267-7479,



Calling all hunters, tell us what you see

MADISON - The September 13 archery and crossbow openers mark the beginning of the 2014 deer hunting seasons and the start of the sixth annual Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey, an easy-to-do survey where hunters can record their observations of deer and other wildlife while out hunting.

"The Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey is a fun opportunity for hunters to share their enthusiasm for wildlife while helping our survey efforts," says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp.

At the end of each year, participants who provide their email address will receive a personalized summary of all recorded wildlife from that season. Participants can access the survey webpage by going to the DNR website and searching keyword "Deer Hunter Wildlife." Once there, begin by filling out a tally sheet either electronically or print it from the site.

The DNR asks that hunters record all of their hunting activity throughout the deer season, even if no wildlife sightings were made during a hunt. The survey period ends January 2015. These observations provide the DNR with an index to abundance for many wildlife species. To date, the deer hunters have reported more than 64,000 hunting trips around the state since the Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey began in 2009.

Lastly, don't forget to keep sending in your trail camera photos. The trail camera gallery can be accessed through the Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey webpage. Take a moment to view some of the photos or watch a video. Check back often as the site is updated as soon as new photos are sent in.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jessica Rees at 608-221-6349 or Brian Dhuey at 608-221-6342



Archery deer season means it's time to think tree stand safety and wear harnesses

MADISON - With Wisconsin's archery and crossbow deer season opening this Saturday, Sept. 13, state recreational safety specialists are reminding hunters it's time to think tree stand safety.

Tree stands can greatly enhance a deer hunter's chances of seeing and bagging a deer, especially during the archery season when hunters want a clear shot at a close distance. But tree stand incidents are one of the leading causes of injury to hunters, according to Jon King, hunter education administrator with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

"The good news is such falls are easily preventable," King said. "You can continue to gain the benefits that hunting from a tree stand delivers -- increased field of vision and avoiding detection by your prey -- while reducing your risk of injury if you follow a few simple safety tips."

More information is available by searching the DNR website for "tree stand safety" to view videos and take a "Free" Tree Stand Safety Course.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jon King, hunter education administrator 608-575-2294; Joanne M. Haas, Office of Communication law enforcement public affairs manager, 608-209-8147



Wisconsin deer hunters are encouraged to participate in CWD surveillance

MADISON - In 2014, state wildlife officials will continue to test white-tailed deer harvested by hunters for chronic wasting disease. This testing is part of a continued effort to monitor the status and geographic spread of the disease in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will be testing deer from select areas of the state -- sampling strategies are aimed at monitoring distribution and trends in prevalence of the disease. Surveillance will focus on adult deer, since older deer are more likely to have the disease.

"The testing is provided as a service to hunters, but it is also an important tool for monitoring the disease," said Tami Ryan, DNR wildlife health section chief.

Through implementation of the Deer Trustee Report and recommendations, the former CWD management zone has been eliminated. However, the department will continue to track disease trends within long-term monitoring areas of the former zone.

The department will also be asking hunters to submit test samples from deer harvested in Dane, Jefferson, southern Dodge, Columbia, and eastern Sauk counties. Sampling will also be concentrated in Washburn, Juneau, Adams and Portage counties. In Vernon and Crawford counties, samples will be collected at select taxidermists and DNR staff will be collecting adult deer samples at several registration on opening weekend of the November gun deer season

People can find a CWD sampling station by searching the DNR website for keywords "CWD sampling." Hunters are reminded to contact sampling stations in advance to verify hours of operation.

As part of the Deer Trustee Report rules package, $5 from each bonus antlerless deer permit sale in CWD affected counties will be used for CWD testing and monitoring.

A map of the 2014 CWD sampling area [PDF] is available for viewing on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tami Ryan, DNR wildlife health section chief, 608-266-3143; Tim Marien, DNR wildlife health biologist, 608-264-6046


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 09, 2014

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