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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published September 15, 2015

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Fall color change reflects healthy forest diversity as different species start to turn

MADISON -- Wisconsin's fall color show is just beginning in northern Wisconsin and the changing colors help highlight the state's healthy forest diversity, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources forestry experts say.

Weather during the growing season is critical for the abundant quantity of leaves needed to provide the potential for an excellent fall color display, according to Carmen Hardin, DNR forestry sciences section chief.

Brule River State Forest fall color
Maples are starting to turn in northern Wisconsin, including at the Brule River State Forest in Douglas County.
WDNR Photo

"The 2015 growing season has been excellent across much of Wisconsin and the fall color season is anticipated to be spectacular," Hardin said.

So far this year, color change is starting to occur in certain species - especially the birch, basswood and red maple in spots across northern Wisconsin. With Wisconsin state forests, parks and natural areas conveniently accessible throughout the state, it's possible to follow the progression of fall colors from hundreds of locations.

Hardin said peak fall color varies slightly from year to year depending on the weather conditions, but the shortened day length is the primary trigger for trees to begin changing color.

Kirsten Held, DNR forestry outreach specialist, said peak fall color usually occurs in far northern Wisconsin during the last week of September and first week of October. However, significant color typically appears earlier in isolated, lower lying areas by mid-September.

"Peak color generally occurs in central Wisconsin during mid-October and in southern Wisconsin during the latter half of October," Held said. "While we are beginning to see the showy maple trees turning red and the birch trees taking on a golden hue, it will take the oak trees a bit longer to yield their yellow, red and russet hues. Fall provides a great opportunity to pick out a variety of tree species on a hillside and understand just how diverse our forests are."

Wisconsin's state parks and forests and state natural areas, offer prime locations for enjoying nature's annual fall color show, starting with the forests in northern and central Wisconsin. The Flambeau River State Forest, in Sayer, Price and Rusk counties, can be one of the state's top destinations to check out the fall colors, said Jim Halvorson, forest superintendent.

"You can view the colors from the road, by walking trails or by canoeing down the river," he said. "Historically the peak comes early to the Flambeau River State Forest due to the strong mix of maple that we have. Peak comes during the last week of September to the first week of October. Call ahead to 715-332-5271 ext. 101 prior to your visit to check on how colors are progressing."

Peter Bakken, Superintendent of the Black River State Forest, said red maple is often the first to turn on there, with good color typically evident by mid to later September. Among the best viewing sites are along Campground Road, north of Highway 54 or North Settlement Road, south off of Highway 54. Peak colors typically arrive in the first part of October.

Find other state forests, parks, trails and recreation areas for fall coloring viewing on the DNR website.

"The intensity of the fall color season is really dependent on the weather that Wisconsin receives during September and October," Hardin said. "To have the most brilliant and vibrant fall color display, a series of fall days filled with bright sunshine and cool, but frost free, evenings are required. These weather conditions cause anthocyanins to be produced by certain species of trees (e.g. maples) which protect the leaves of the trees from the light as they are storing nutrients and sugars for the winter. This ultimately leads to the intense red, orange and purple coloration in the leaves."

The duration of the fall color season is related to the intensity of wind and rain during late-September and October. High winds and driving rains cause significant numbers of the leaves to fall from the trees, which can prematurely shorten the fall color season.

Fall color drive
The Wisconsin Department of Tourism has an online Fall Color Report and suggestions for fall color viewing and fall color events.
Wis. Dept. of Tourism Photo

For current information on the current best fall color viewing areas in Wisconsin contact the Department of Tourism's Fall Color Hotline at 1-800-432-TRIP or online at the Fall Color Report (exit DNR) on the Travel Wisconsin website.

What causes trees to turn color?

The timing of fall color in Wisconsin's forests is determined more by the shortening daylight hours than it is by temperature, but temperature and other weather conditions play a big role in the intensity and duration of fall colors, said Held.

There are three types of pigments that are directly involved in producing colorful leaf displays: chlorophyll, carotenoids and anthocyanins. Here's how they work:

Certain tree and shrub species commonly are associated with differing colors during the fall: green ash, white birch and aspen turn golden yellow; red maple a brilliant red; oak and hickory become a reddish-brown color; white ash a deep purple; and sumac a scarlet red. Even tamarack turns a beautiful deep golden yellow and loses its needles in the fall, the only conifer (evergreen) tree in Wisconsin to shed its needles.

Learn more about why state forests change colors throughout the year by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "science of fall leaf colors."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kirsten Held, DNR forestry outreach specialist, 608-264-6036, kirsten.held@wisconsin.gov; Carmen Hardin, DNR forestry sciences section chief, 608-267-3139, Carmen.Hardin@wisconsin.gov; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov

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Sturgeon Fest to celebrate a decade of progress

MILWAUKEE - Efforts to return lake sturgeon to the Milwaukee River will enter a second decade with growing support and new evidence of progress thanks to a partnership involving the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Riveredge Nature Center and Fund for Lake Michigan, among others.

The efforts will be celebrated at the 10th anniversary of Sturgeon Fest - a free, family oriented event on Saturday, Sept. 26 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lakeshore State Park near the Summerfest grounds. This year's event includes a free presentation by Scott Sampson, also known as "Dr. Scott," a dinosaur paleontologist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science who serves as host and science adviser of the Emmy‐nominated PBS KIDS series Dinosaur Train.

"Lake sturgeon are sometimes referred to as living fossils but despite the 150 million year history of the species, they've faced a variety of challenges in modern times," said Jessica Jens, executive director of Riveredge Nature Center. "In partnership with DNR and the Fund for Lake Michigan, our past decade of work to reintroduce a naturally reproducing population of sturgeon to the Milwaukee River has shown tremendous progress and we are excited to welcome everyone to Sturgeon Fest."

The event features the opportunity for youth and adults to sponsor and release young sturgeon into Lake Michigan. The fish, hatched from eggs collected on the Wolf River, have been carefully raised at a streamside rearing facility operated by Riveredge and DNR where they have imprinted on the waters of the Milwaukee River.

lake sturgeon
Lake sturgeon hatched from eggs collected on the Wolf River were raised at a streamside rearing facility operated by Riveredge and DNR so they imprint on the waters of the Milwaukee River.
WDNR Photo

Releasing lake sturgeon
The festival offers an opportunity for youth and adults to sponsor and release young sturgeon into Lake Michigan.
WDNR Photo

If all goes according to plan, the fish will return to the river for spawning - a day that may well come before the 25-year Return of the Sturgeon project officially concludes. Brad Eggold, DNR southern Lake Michigan fisheries team supervisor, said the department's lake sturgeon juvenile assessment work shows many of the more than 7,500 sturgeon released over the past decade appear to be doing well.

In July, fisheries team members caught and released a 5-year-old sturgeon that measured 35 inches and weighed nearly 10 pounds. The fish, which has been growing about 6 inches per year, was the 57th lake sturgeon captured in the Milwaukee River and harbor area and adds to evidence that a number of the stocked fish are staying nearby and using the harbor as a nursery.

Fisheries team members are able to identify the age and origin of the stocked fish thanks to tiny passive integrated transponder - or PIT tags - inserted into the sturgeons before they are released. The pencil-lead sized tags and nets used to conduct the juvenile sturgeon assessments come thanks to additional support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Great Lakes Fishery Trust of Lansing, Mich.

"During the past year, we also picked up a young sturgeon that was reared more than 100 miles away in Kewaunee at the C.D. "Buzz" Besadny Anadromous Fish Facility and released at a sturgeon sponsorship event there," Eggold said. "We're pleased to see that conditions in Lake Michigan appear to support survival of the fish; habitat work on the Milwaukee River will further improve the odds for successful reproduction."

Given current growth rates of the fish, some of the males are likely to reach sexual maturity in the next five to six years and the females within 10 to 15 years. That timeline is not lost on Vicki Elkin, executive director of the Fund for Lake Michigan, which has provided nearly $150,000 in the past three years to restore spawning habitat and support improvements to the streamside rearing facility that should lead to higher survival rates for the fish.

"We're pleased to work in partnership with Riveredge and DNR on projects including construction of a spawning reef in the Milwaukee River that now provides more than an acre of prime habitat for sturgeon as well as walleye," Elkin said. "Healthy populations of lake sturgeon were found in Lake Michigan as recently as the late 1800s and we hope our shared efforts contribute to natural reproduction in the decade ahead. Lake sturgeon serve as an important indicator of ecosystem health, so work to improve habitat for sturgeon benefits many species."

Families and individuals interested in sponsoring a sturgeon for Sturgeon Fest are encouraged to register online before 2 p.m. on Friday, September 25, although it will still be possible to sign up at the event. The sturgeon are typically released between noon and 3 p.m. following a short presentation and a blessing of the fish by a Native American representative.

The free, family oriented presentation by Dr. Scott runs from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Johnson Controls World Stage on the Summerfest Grounds, a short walk from the sturgeon release site. Free parking for Sturgeon Fest is available at designated Summerfest parking lots and a shuttle to Lakeshore Park will be available.

To learn more about sturgeon, visit dnr.wi.gov and search for "lake sturgeon" as well as "lake sturgeon rehabilitation." For more about the festival, visit the Riveredge Nature Center website and search for "Sturgeon Fest" (both links exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Eggold, DNR Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor, Bradley.Eggold@wisconsin.gov, 414-382-7921; Jessica Jens, Riveredge Nature Center executive director, jjens@riveredge.us, 262-375-2715; Vicki Elkin, Fund for Lake Michigan executive director, vicki@fundforlakemichigan.org, 414-418-5008; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084,Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov.

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Excellent breeding conditions mean Wisconsin's Northern zone waterfowl hunters should look forward to another good year in the field

MADISON - Hunters looking to head out into the wetlands for the North Zone duck season should find good numbers of ducks when the season opens Sept. 26, according to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff.

"Although a few areas in the southern half of Wisconsin have begun to dry out, areas in northern Wisconsin have received abundant rainfall recently, and waterfowlers should have potential for a good hunting season," said DNR migratory game bird ecologist Kent Van Horn. "Continental breeding surveys reported a record numbers of ducks this spring - these surveys span 60 years. However, even with excellent continental breeding indications, local water levels and scouting will be the most important factors when pursuing ducks this fall."

New in 2015, opening day shooting hours will now begin one-half hour before sunrise (previously 9 a.m.) - this change is a result of a shift in public desires.

Many of the ducks harvested in Wisconsin are produced from locally nesting ducks breeding in the state's wetlands. According to Van Horn; mallards, wood ducks, green-winged teal and blue-winged teal are the four most abundant ducks in Wisconsin's fall hunting harvest.

The daily bag limit statewide is six ducks, including no more than:

Five mergansers may be harvested daily, of which no more than two may be hooded mergansers; 15 coot may be harvested daily. For 2015, the possession limit has been increased to three times the daily bag limit.

The duck season in the northern zone opens on Sept. 26 and continues through Nov. 24.

"As always, hunters who do the early legwork - scouting for good wetland conditions and observing what areas birds are using -- will have the most success," said Van Horn. "Hunter survey data in Wisconsin show that duck hunters who scouted three or more times harvested an average of 14.7 ducks, while those who did not scout harvested an average of 4.8 ducks per season."

Licenses and stamps required for duck hunting include a Wisconsin small game license, a Wisconsin waterfowl stamp, and a federal migratory bird stamp. The federal duck stamp will now cost $25 (an increase from $15 dollars) - a change suggested and supported by waterfowl hunters nationwide. There has not been an increase in the federal waterfowl stamp since the 1990s - a $10 increase will help protect additional upland and wetland waterfowl habitat. The federal stamp can be purchased at a U.S. Post Office. Hunters will also have the option of purchasing the federal stamp privilege at DNR license vendors for an additional $2.50 surcharge. The purchase will be noted on their license, but the stamp itself will arrive weeks later in the mail.

Waterfowl and other migratory bird hunters must also register each year with the federal Harvest Information Program, which places them on a list of hunters that may receive a mailing asking them to provide a summary of their harvest. HIP registration is free and can be done at the time hunters purchase their licenses, but can always be added later on if a hunter decides they may pursue migratory game birds.

State licenses and stamps, permits, and HIP registration are also available through Wisconsin's Online Licensing Center.

For more information regarding waterfowl hunting in Wisconsin, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "waterfowl."

Avian Influenza in Wild Birds

Several federal agencies are working in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to collect samples related to the research and surveillance of avian influenza in wild birds. This surveillance will help monitor for the virus during fall migration. Wild birds from targeted areas throughout the state will be sampled between now and spring 2016.

Avian influenza is a viral disease common in wild bird populations with many different subtypes - most do not cause obvious signs of disease in wild birds or have the ability to infect animals other than birds. While strains currently detected in the U.S. have caused mortality of domestic birds, they have not resulted in any illness in humans.

Samples will be collected from live-captured birds during DNR banding efforts and from hunter-harvested dabbling ducks, such as blue-winged teal, mallard, wood duck and Northern pintail. Federal staff will also be located at boat landings and other hunter access points this fall to sample ducks from willing hunters.

To learn more, search keywords "bird diseases."

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

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Natural Resources Board to meet September 23 in Bowler

MADISON - Changes to Wisconsin's safe drinking water rules, adoption of a Wisconsin beaver management plan, modifications to the walleye management in the ceded territory of Wisconsin and approval of a 10-year Fish, Wildlife, and Habitat Management Plan and Wildlife Action Plan are among the items that the state Natural Resources Board will consider when it meets Sept. 23 in Bowler.

The board will meet at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, at the North Star Mohican Casino in the Casino Events Center, W12180 County Road A, Bowler, to conduct its regular business meeting.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the board will tour and/or receive presentations on: a streambank initiative; young forest initiative; Stockbridge oak wilt; wetland mitigation and restoration; forestry practices; and aquatic plant management and partnerships. The public must pre-register by 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 18 with board liaison Laurie Ross, at 608-267-7420 to attend scheduled tours.

Topics on the business meeting agenda include:

The board will also consider proposed rules affecting chapter NR 25 related to commercial harvest of chubs from Lake Michigan and hear an update on the DNR's strategic analysis related to the industrial sand mining industry in Wisconsin.

The complete September board agenda is available by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov for keyword "NRB" and clicking on the button for "view agendas."

The public may testify at board meetings on topics open for public comment (listed on the agenda) and during the citizen participation period. The deadline to register to speak at the board meeting or to submit comments is 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. For more information see the board public participation page of the DNR website.

Board meetings are webcast live. People can watch the meeting over the Internet by going to the NRB agenda page of the DNR website and clicking on NRB webcasts in the Related Links column on the right. Then click on this month's meeting. After each meeting, the webcast will be permanently available on demand.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurie Ross, board liaison, 608-267-7420 or laurie.ross@wisconsin.gov.

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Public meetings set for next steps in Lake Superior lake trout recovery efforts

ASHLAND, Wis. -- Two public meetings to discuss next steps in aiding recovery of lake trout populations in Lake Superior will be held by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Sept. 29 at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland and Oct. 1 at Saxon Community Center.

The public meetings will cover regulation options developed by DNR fisheries biologists to help lake trout numbers recover and improve the long-term sustainability of the fishery. Terry Margenau, DNR Lake Superior fisheries supervisor, said population assessments over the last six to eight years indicate that the decline in lake trout abundance is largely due to harvest. The current emergency rule expires Sept. 30 and recent surveys by the fisheries team show lake trout numbers remain well below historical averages.

Lake trout often live more than 40 years and do not reach sexual maturity until they are eight to 10 years old. As a result, the lake trout stock must be carefully managed to address the needs of many stakeholders including commercial fishers, sport anglers and a host of associated businesses that all depend on a strong lake trout fishery in the Wisconsin waters of Lake Superior.

"The upcoming public meetings will provide citizens with the opportunity to discuss the options and provide fisheries managers with information needed to move forward," Margenau said. The options would then be written into another emergency rule covering the recreational lake trout open season that runs from Dec. 1, 2015 through Sept. 30, 2016.

The upcoming meetings will run from 7 to 9 p.m. The Sept. 29 meeting will be at the Northern Great Lakes Visitors Center, 29270 Highway G in Ashland. The Oct. 1 meeting will be at the Saxon Community Center, 2 Church St., Saxon.

In addition to welcoming comments at the meetings, DNR will gather input through an online survey that will be announced with a deadline of Oct. 15. Citizens also may provide feedback by mailing Terry L. Margenau, Lake Superior fisheries supervisor, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 589, 141 S. Third Street Bayfield, WI 54814; or emailing terry.margenau@wisconsin.gov.

For information about lake trout, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search for "Lake Superior fisheries management." For more information about the Lake Superior fishery, search "fishing Lake Superior."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Terry Margenau, (715) 779-4035, Terry.Margenau@wisconsin.gov; Jennifer Sereno, communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 15, 2015




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