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Weekly News Published - April 24, 2018 by the Central Office

 

2018 fishing opener to feature hungry walleye, pike and panfish after a late ice out

Contact(s): Justine Hasz, fisheries director, 715-896-9558; Todd Kalish, deputy fisheries director, 608-266-5285; Steve Hewett, fisheries management section chief, 608-267-7501

Waters in southern two-thirds of Wisconsin are open while northern lakes are in play

MADISON - Opening day of the 2018 regular inland fishing season follows the coldest and snowiest April on record, meaning it's a pretty good bet many of anglers' favorite fish species will be hungry and ready to bite, state fisheries officials say.

"May fifth is approaching fast, although if you live in the north you might still think we are in the middle of winter with all of the ice," says Wisconsin Fisheries Director Justine Hasz. "For those of you in southern Wisconsin the waters have been open for a few weeks and are starting to warm up nicely.

"No matter where you spend your opening day fishing, anglers should find the northern pike and walleye are hungry and if you prefer to set your tackle at panfish focus on shallow waters that warm early."

Fisheries Director Justine Hasz enjoyed some spring fishing, catching a nice walleye. With warmer weather on the way, anglers planning to travel north are encouraged to check in with local bait shops to see what the latest fishing conditions are.  - Photo credit: Contributed
Fisheries Director Justine Hasz invites anglers to enjoy some spring fishing. With warmer weather on the way, anglers planning to travel north are encouraged to check in with local bait shops to see what the latest fishing conditions are. Photo credit: Contributed

The late winter weather means that as of April 23, many lakes are still ice-covered in northern Wisconsin, but waters in the southern two-thirds of Wisconsin are open and northern rivers are open as well, Hasz says. Regardless of whether there is still ice in some parts of northern Wisconsin, the fishing season is open as of May 5, even if anglers need to use ice fishing gear where the ice is safe.

Click on image for larger size. - Photo credit: DNR
Click on image for larger size.Photo credit: DNR

"We're hoping the warmup predicted this week into next will help thaw more lakes up north," says Hasz, who went ice fishing in the Woodruff area over the weekend. "If the northern lakes are still locked up, the rivers are a good option for some good walleye and pike fishing."

Walleye are anglers' number one target, according to surveys, and Wisconsin has hundreds of waters with naturally self-sustaining populations. In addition, more walleye fishing opportunities will be available this year as more than 1.275 million extended growth walleye stocked in 2013 and 2014 under the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative are now at catchable size.

The wintry conditions have delayed stocking of catchable trout in some of the 400 waters where stocking is planned. Heavy snow, road conditions and road weight restrictions combined to push back delivery of fish last week in northern Wisconsin so crews are playing catch up this week and are still not able to reach some site. DNR will provide an update later this week of the waters that won't be stocked in time for opening day.

Season dates and regulations, including new trolling rule

Northern pike will be very active and biting as Wisconsin heads into opening day of the inland fishing season. Fisheries Technician Eric Wegleitner and Fisheries Biologist Adam Nickel display northern pike captured during recent surveys on Lake Winneconne.    - Photo credit: DNR
Northern pike will be very active and biting as Wisconsin heads into opening day of the inland fishing season. Fisheries Technician Eric Wegleitner and Fisheries Biologist Adam Nickel display northern pike captured during recent surveys on Lake Winneconne. Photo credit: DNR

The 2018 hook-and-line game fish season opens May 5 on inland waters for walleye, sauger, and northern pike statewide.

The largemouth and smallmouth bass southern zone opens May 5, while the northern bass zone opens for catch and release only from May 5 through June 15, with the harvest season opening June 16. Statewide, the harvest seasons for bass have a minimum length limit of 14 inches with a daily bag limit of five fish in total.

Musky season opens May 5 in the southern zone and May 26 in the northern zone. The northern zone is the area north of highways 77, 64 and 29, with Highway 10 as the dividing line.

Trolling now allowed statewide, but different rules for different counties

The biggest change in regulations concerns trolling. Rules on motor trolling which were considered temporary over the last few years have been replaced by permanent trolling rules.

Trolling means fishing by trailing any lure, bait or similar device that may be used to attract or catch fish from a boat propelled by a means other than drifting, pedaling, paddling, or rowing. Casting and immediate retrieval of a bait, lure or similar device while the motor is running (or "position fishing") is not considered trolling.

New this year, motor trolling is legal on all inland waters with either:

Early fishing season safety tips

DNR conservation wardens officials warn anglers that while ice cover may look sturdy in parts of Wisconsin, it's likely are weakening fast as spring fights to take hold. "No ice is safe ice, so anyone venturing out should use caution and know before you go," says Chief Warden Todd Schaller.

The slow seasonal transition serves as another reason to wear a life jacket when enjoying fishing from a boat or shore. "The water is still cold, and hypothermia is a painful and dangerous possibility should you fall out of your boat or slip and fall into some water near the shoreline," Schaller says. "You may have up to two minutes in the cold water before the cold water chills your muscles to the point of inability to save yourself."

Anglers are reminded to dress in layers, not fish alone, take a cell phone and make sure someone knows your outing plans - including where you are and your anticipated return. "And fish in an area that is familiar to you or that you have taken the time to learn about the characteristics of the area," Schaller says. A good place to learn more is the local bait shop or local fishing club.

If your fishing plans involves a boat, please hold off enjoying alcoholic beverages or drugs before or during operating your boat. Wear your life jacket and encourage all passengers to wear one, too. At the least, make sure you have a life jacket aboard for each passenger - and do not overload the boat. Keep a radio on board to stay current on weather changes. Know the navigational rules of the water, and check your boat lights should you return after sunset. Check your First Aid kit and if your on-board flares will work, Schaller says.

Keep Wisconsin fish and waters healthy by taking precautions to avoid spreading fish diseases and invasive species

A 2016 study by DNR showed the spread of aquatic invasive species is stable, indicating prevention efforts may be working. Anglers can help prevent the spread of VHS and other fish diseases and aquatic invasive species like Eurasian water-milfoil and zebra mussels by taking a few simple steps.

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Buying a license is quick, convenient, and discounted options make it easy to invite a friend

Contact(s): Karl Scheidegger, fisheries outreach, 608-267-9426

MADISON -- Buying a license is easy and convenient. All licenses are available for purchase through Go Wild, DNR Service Centers or at one of our sales locations unless otherwise noted.

Wisconsin residents and nonresidents 16 years old or older need a fishing license to fish in any waters of the state. Residents born before Jan. 1, 1927, do not need a license and resident members of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty are entitled to obtain a free fishing license when on furlough or leave.

First time buyer's license

Anglers who have never purchased a fishing license -- or who haven't purchased one in 10 years -- can get a discounted "first time buyers" license. [http://dnr.wi.gov/permits/firsttimebuyers.html] The discounts are automatically applied when the license is purchased. Residents' discounted license is $5 and non-residents' is $25.75 for the annual licenses.

With the late ice out in many waters, walleye should be ready to bite. Fisheries Technician Tanya Meives displays a nice walleye captured during a comprehensive survey on Random Lake in Sheboygan County the week of April 16.  - Photo credit: DNR
With the late ice out in many waters, walleye should be ready to bite. Fisheries technician Tanya Meives displays a nice walleye captured during a comprehensive survey on Random Lake in Sheboygan County the week of April 16. Photo credit: DNR

Anglers who recruit new people into the sport can get rewarded for their efforts. Wisconsin residents who have been designated as a recruiter three or more times within one license year are eligible for a discount on the license of their choice the next year.

One-day fishing license

Anglers can buy a one-day fishing license that allows them to take someone out to try fishing, and if they like, the purchase price of that one-day license will be credited toward purchase of an annual license. The one day license is $8 for residents and $10 for nonresidents.

The one-day license is good until midnight on the day it is purchased.

Five online tools to make fishing easier this season

Anglers on the go can find the information they need literally at their fingertips. Try these tools to help find places to fish, know the rules, identify fish species, and more.

  1. Find a Lake information - Search by lake name, location, fish species, boat landings, beaches and more.
  2. Inland waters regulation tool - Our searchable Guide to Wisconsin hook and line fishing regulations (exit DNR) lets you search by inland lakes, by lake name or county and includes an interactive map.
  3. Trout tool - The Trout Regulations & Opportunities User Tool (TROUT) provides anglers with on-the-go mobile access to trout streams and regulations; roads, aerial images, and fishing easements; the ability to find your location, measure distances, and print/save a customized map for a fishing trip.
  4. Fish consumption advice query tool - Search by county and then click on the water you want to fish to get advice on the number and kinds of fish you can safely eat from that water to reduce exposure to environmental contaminants that may be in the fish.
  5. Fish ID -Carry 174 Wisconsin fish in your pocket! Download the mobile app and you can identify Wisconsin fish wherever you go, no internet connection required.

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Application period for Wisconsin elk hunt to open May 1

Contact(s): Kevin Wallenfang, DNR deer and elk ecologist, 608-261-7589

MADISON - As anticipation and excitement build around Wisconsin's first managed elk hunt in state history taking place this fall, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced that the elk hunting license application period will open May 1.


Wisconsin's First Elk Hunt

"The most common question I've been asked is how many people we expect to apply for a tag," said DNR deer and elk ecologist Kevin Wallenfang. "With 600,000 deer hunters and over 120,000 people applying for bear tags each year, a chance to pursue yet another great big game animal in Wisconsin is going to be very appealing for a lot of hunters. We encourage everyone to throw their name in the hat to be one of five lucky people with an opportunity to hunt elk come October."

A total of five once-in-a-lifetime bull tags are being made available to state hunters for the inaugural hunt. Four tags will be awarded through a lottery drawing, with the fifth awarded through a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation raffle. Hunters may enter both, but can only win once. Those interested in entering the RMEF raffle should look for more information on the organization's website at www.rmef.org/Wisconsin (exit DNR).

Elk license applications can be purchased in the DNR Go Wild license system from May 1 - 31, and only Wisconsin residents may apply. Each potential hunter may apply once online at gowild.wi.gov or by visiting a license agent. The application fee is $10. RMEF raffle tickets are also $10 each, and there is no limit on the number of raffle tickets each individual may purchase. The cost of an elk hunting license for the winners of the license drawing is $49.


State drawing winners will be announced in early June and the winner of the RMEF raffle will be announced in August. Prior to obtaining an elk hunting license, all winners will be required to participate in a Wisconsin elk hunter education program offered prior to the hunt. The class will cover tissue collection and health testing, regulations and more.

Sample Caption and Alt Text - Photo credit: DNR
The 2018 hunting season will occur only in the Clam Lake elk range in parts of Sawyer, Bayfield, Ashland, and Price counties.Photo credit: DNR

The 2018 hunting season will occur only in the Clam Lake elk range in parts of Sawyer, Bayfield, Ashland, and Price counties in far north-central Wisconsin, where the original restoration effort was initiated with 25 elk from Michigan in 1995. The herd is projected to comfortably surpass 200 animals this year.

"I've also received a number of questions from folks who are concerned that, if they draw a tag, they won't have a place to hunt," Wallenfang said. "With approximately 70 percent of the elk range under public ownership and open to hunting, finding a place to hunt should not be a concern. Despite the somewhat remoteness of the area, there are campgrounds, hotels and restaurants, so everything you need is within easy reach."

Wisconsin's inaugural elk hunting season will adhere to the following guidelines:

For more information regarding elk in Wisconsin, go to dnr.wi.gov and search the keyword "elk." To receive email updates regarding current translocation efforts, visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled "subscribe for updates for DNR topics," then follow the prompts and select the "elk in Wisconsin" and "wildlife projects" distribution lists.

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CDACs consider prolonged winter when making final recommendations for 2018 deer season

Contact(s): Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist, 608-261-7589

MADISON - As more snow hits northern Wisconsin and local concerns rise about its impact on the deer herd, County Deer Advisory Councils (CDAC) are wrapping up their portion of the annual antlerless harvest quota-setting process for the 2018 deer season.

While winter 2018 will not go down in history as one of the more severe winters on record, it has stubbornly persisted, reminiscent of 2014 when ice still covered northern lakes for the spring fishing opener in May. Councils take winter data into account, and this has led several to recommend reduced antlerless harvest quotas, compared to original recommendations in March.

With more than two feet of snow remaining in some areas, wildlife biologists across the north have been in the field investigating reports of noticeably stressed deer. - Photo credit: DNR
With more than two feet of snow remaining in some areas, wildlife biologists across the north have been in the field investigating reports of noticeably stressed deer.Photo credit: DNR

"We were sailing along nicely in the mild to moderate category, and thought winter was pretty much behind us," said Kevin Wallenfang, deer and elk ecologist for the DNR. "With this recent storm, we are getting more reports of younger deer appearing gaunt and stressed, but adult deer look good in most areas."

With more than two feet of snow remaining in some areas, the anticipated warming weather may not provide relief for another week or two.

Wallenfang said that CDACs went into their March quota setting meetings recognizing what a fourth straight mild winter would do for the deer herd, and set their recommendations accordingly. However, this most recent storm bumped the Winter Severity Index in some areas into the severe category.

"With winter dragging on, several councils, on the recommendation of local department biologists, reduced harvest recommendations in the hardest hit counties during April meetings."

DNR wildlife biologists and volunteers annually monitor the effects of winter weather on the deer herd using several methods, and this information is shared with CDAC members to help inform harvest recommendations and antlerless tag levels.

The Winter Severity Index uses a combination of cold temperatures and deep snows that have previously been shown to negatively affect winter stress levels and ultimately the health of deer. WSI measurements are recorded annually at 42 stations throughout the northern half of the state from Dec. 1 to April 30.

Each day that the temperatures fall below zero degrees Fahrenheit and/or the snow depth is more than 18 inches, conditions are noted for each station. For example, a day with 20 inches of snow and a temperature of -5 would receive two 2 points for the day. Winter conditions are considered mild if the station accumulates less than 50 points, moderate if between 51 and 80 points, severe if between 81-100, and very severe if over 100.

At the end of March, just three stations were in the severe category (all in Iron County), while several were moderate, and the remaining stations were considered mild. However, this latest storm will push a number of locations in the severe category.

"While current conditions are concerning, winter impacts are cumulative, which is exactly what WSI measures over time - hard winters are not something new to Wisconsin's deer herd," said Wallenfang. "Adult deer can handle it well in most years, and even in the very worst years we typically see only about 10 to 15 percent loss of adults - previous year's fawns can be hit considerably harder and we are certainly seeing some rough-looking fawns in some areas."

Wildlife biologists across the north have been in the field investigating reports of noticeably stressed deer, monitoring habitat conditions, and checking car-killed deer for body fat content.

"Throughout much of the north, internal examinations are showing decent fat content on their backs and around major organs of adult deer," said Wallenfang. "Most does that have been examined are carrying at least one fawn, and bone marrow fat content is fair to good on the majority of deer. As you head south into farmland areas, fat content and pregnancy levels are very good. This winter should have little to no impact on farmland fawn production."

Wallenfang urged people to check the rules and recommendations related to winter deer feeding which is illegal in some counties. The department provides helpful information link "helpful information" to Considerations for Feeding Deer brochure to ensure that people who choose to feed wildlife do it properly, so as not to kill the very animals they are attempting to help.

It is important to note that straight corn is an unhealthy food source for deer if they have not consumed it previously. For landowners, cutting trees to provide natural browse is the best option.

Final recommendations for the 2018 deer hunting seasons will be presented to the Natural Resources Board in Madison at their May meeting.

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Admire raccoon kits from afar - mom is near!

Contact(s): Dianne Robinson, DNR wildlife biologist, 262-424-9827

MADISON - Despite the snow on the ground, spring is here and mammals and birds are busy raising inexperienced young.

State wildlife officials remind everyone that the best way to enjoy Wisconsin's wildlife is from a distance. Raccoon young, called kits, are born sightless but are capable of walking, climbing and running when they are 6-8 weeks old. If you see raccoon kits, their mother is likely nearby even though you don't see her.

Raccoon young, called kits, are born sightless but are capable of walking, climbing and running when they are 6-8 weeks old.  - Photo credit: Cheryl Stephenson
Raccoon young, called kits, are born sightless but are capable of walking, climbing and running when they are 6-8 weeks old. Photo credit: Cheryl Stephenson

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Carissa Freeh, member of the multi-agency Keep Wildlife Wild committee, says whether you live in the country, city, or suburbs, it is not uncommon to encounter these adaptable mammals. Well-meaning people may discover raccoon kits during the daytime, and will take unneeded action when they mistakenly believe the kits are in trouble. Even with our late winter storms, raccoons are adapted to handle Wisconsin weather, and a raccoon kit's best chance for survival is with its mother.

"Mother raccoons will leave their kits alone near their den while she is searching for food or a new den site," Freeh said. "It is normal for raccoon kits to be seen playing or heard vocalizing near their den unattended by mom. This is their way of building their strength and learning to survive. Watch and enjoy their antics from afar so their mother feels that it is safe to return."

Freeh says her best advice to spring callers concerned about raccoon kits is simple: "Watch from a distance. If they appear healthy, leave them alone."

What if a raccoon kit is truly in need of help?

"If you find a raccoon kit and it appears to be sick, cold, weak, injured or still has its eyes closed, then it may need help," said Dianne Robinson, DNR wildlife biologist. "If you are truly concerned for the raccoon's well-being, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Do not touch or feed the raccoon. Even young raccoons have sharp teeth and claws."

For more information, visit the Keep Wildlife Wild webpage on the DNR's website, dnr.wi.gov, by searching keyword Keep Wildlife Wild, or check out this helpful document for baby mammals [PDF]. If a raccoon kit is injured or known to be orphaned, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator by visiting the DNR's website, dnr.wi.gov, and searching keyword rehab.

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Volunteers triple the number of rare plant populations checked

Contact(s): Kevin Doyle, DNR Rare Plant Monitoring Program coordinator, 608-267-9788

One rare bloom last reported near Boscobel in 1884

MADISON - A rare, beautiful blue bloom last reported in Boscobel in 1884, a tripling in the number of rare plant populations checked on, and a decline in statewide populations of the delicate lady's slipper orchid are among discoveries made by volunteers and shared in the recently released Rare Plant Monitoring Program annual report for 2017 [PDF] (exit DNR).

The volunteers, trained by Department of Natural Resources Rare Plant Monitoring Program coordinator Kevin Doyle, are deployed to check up on many of the 5,000 reported populations of Wisconsin's rarest plants.

Wisconsin has 2,366 native plant taxa and about 14 percent of the species are endangered, threatened or special concern, meaning their populations are low or declining.

Returning and newly trained volunteers will head into the field soon and will build on the foundation laid down by last year's record-setting crew.

"2017 was a great year for rare plant protection in Wisconsin," says Doyle, a botanist with DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation Program. "More people got trained and volunteers submitted more rare plant surveys than ever before, giving us current information that helps guide our management of State Natural Areas and other public lands where many of these plants are found."

In some cases, volunteers were finding new rare plant populations never recorded before. In most cases, however, volunteers revisited known rare plant locations, Doyle says. "These updates are critical since roughly half our rare plant populations haven't been seen in over 20 years, more than enough time for a habitat to degrade and a population to wink out."

Volunteer Josh Mayer relocated a population of dayflower near Boscobel that had not been seen since 1884.   - Photo credit: Josh Mayer
Volunteer Josh Mayer relocated a population of dayflower near Boscobel that had not been seen since 1884. Photo credit: Josh Mayer

Volunteers' data alert land managers to pressing threats and inform on-the-ground management. Data are also used for statewide, regional, and even international status assessments and conservation planning, Doyle says.

Volunteer Josh Mayer found a population of narrow-leaved dayflower, a plant last reported from the Boscobel area in 1884. It's possible people have seen the plant in intervening years but no one has reported it to DNR, Doyle says. There are fewer than 10 populations of the species in Wisconsin.

White lady's-slipper slips

Volunteers' targeted effort to document white lady's slipper statewide revealed that populations of the rare orchid are declining.  - Photo credit: Roberta Herschleb
Volunteers' targeted effort to document white lady's slipper statewide revealed that populations of the rare orchid are declining. Photo credit: Roberta Herschleb

Not all volunteer finds in 2017 were good news, however. Volunteers took part in a targeted effort to visit as many populations of a single rare plants species - white lady's slipper -- as possible to assess its statewide status. Volunteers reported a statewide decline of roughly 33 percent and few populations in good health. Neighboring states conducting similar searches for the same plant have not seen the same downward trend, Doyle says.

"This year's surveys revealed a concerning trend," he says. "Thanks to the volunteers' efforts, however, we now have good updated information for public land managers so they can plan future management to better protect and sustain these rare plants."

Learn more about the Rare Plant Monitoring Program (exit DNR) and how to join in the search for the 2018 species of the year, goldenseal. To help support rare plant monitoring in Wisconsin, donate to the Endangered Resources Fund.

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Wisconsin celebrates trees and forests this week

Contact(s): Jeff Roe, DNR urban forestry team leader, 608-264-6294, Jeffrey.roe@wisconsin.gov

MADISON - Gov. Scott Walker issued a proclamation recognizing Friday, April 27, 2018 as Arbor Day in Wisconsin and April 22-28, 2018 as Forest Appreciation Week. Arbor Day is an annual observance celebrating the role of trees and forests in our lives and promotes tree planting and care. Wisconsin has celebrated Arbor Day on the last Friday of April since 1883.

Tree planting is fun for forest stewards of all ages - especially on Arbor Day. - Photo credit: DNR
Tree planting is fun for forest stewards of all ages - especially on Arbor Day.Photo credit: DNR

"Wisconsin's urban and rural forests all serve a vital role in the economy, environment and culture of our local communities and the state as a whole," said Jeff Roe, urban forestry team leader at the Department of Natural Resources. "The investments by individual homeowners and forest landowners are key to ensuring Wisconsin continues to have healthy and sustainable urban and rural forests for future generations to enjoy."

This year, the DNR has donated 32,245 tree seedlings to Wisconsin fourth-grade classrooms to commemorate Arbor Day. These seedlings, grown by the Division of Forestry's Reforestation Program, help young people learn about the important role of trees in their everyday lives.

"Urban forests can reduce energy costs, provide health benefits, improve air quality and control erosion," according to Roe. "It is clear our residents recognize the social and environmental benefits trees offer since so many communities across Wisconsin have earned Tree City USA designation."

Wisconsin is second in the nation for Tree City USA communities. Holding an Arbor Day celebration is one of the four standards of urban forest management a community must meet to achieve Tree City USA status. The other requirements are: maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, and spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry.

For ideas on how to celebrate Arbor Day, go to the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search keywords "Arbor Day. "

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Wisconsin Waterfowl Association installs nest boxes for ducks at Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area

Contact(s): Angie Rusch, DNR wildlife technician, 414-303-0111

WEST BEND, Wis. - Local conservationists are making a difference for wildlife at Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area.

Tim Thielke, Jim Freck, Al Klug and Dennis Guttman adopted Jackson Marsh through Adopt-a-Wildlife-Area. - Photo credit: DNR
Tim Thielke, Jim Freck, Al Klug and Dennis Guttman adopted Jackson Marsh through Adopt-a-Wildlife-Area.Photo credit: DNR

On April 7, Tim Thielke, Jim Freck, Al Klug and Dennis Guttmann of the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association held a work day to install six wood duck boxes and six mallard hen houses on the property.

Al Klug and Jim Freck install a wood duck box. - Photo credit: DNR
Al Klug and Jim Freck install a wood duck box.Photo credit: DNR

These will provide a safe nesting area for wood ducks, mallards and other cavity-nesting birds and increase the overall wildlife value of Jackson Marsh.

WWA adopted Jackson Marsh last spring through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Adopt-a-Wildlife-Area program. This program gives citizens the opportunity to assist property managers in improving habitat on public lands. Sponsoring organizations donate volunteer hours or funds for land management activities; over 200 fish or wildlife areas are available for adoption.

Learn more at dnr.wi.gov, keywords "wildlife areas."

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Contact information

For more information about news and media, contact:
James Dick
Director of Communications
608-267-2773