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NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 366 days

Weekly News Published October 22, 2019

 

Ruffed Grouse West Nile Virus Results Now Available

A three-year study is a region-wide effort to help better understand West Nile virus in ruffed grouse in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. - Photo credit: Paul Carson
A three-year study is a region-wide effort to help better understand West Nile virus in ruffed grouse in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.Photo credit: Paul Carson

Contact(s): Wis. Contact: Mark Witecha, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861, mark.witecha@wisconsin.gov Mich. Contact: Al Stewart 517-284-6221, strakak1@michigan.gov Minn. Contact: Charlotte Roy, 218-328-8876, charlotte.roy@state.mn.us

[EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news releases has been updated with a new contact for the Mich. DNR.]

MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has received results from the first year testing from the ruffed grouse West Nile virus surveillance project [PDF].

The three-year study in collaboration with the Minnesota and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources, Ruffed Grouse Society, Wisconsin Conservation Congress and Wisconsin DNR is a region wide effort to help better understand West Nile virus in ruffed grouse in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Ruffed grouse harvested in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin during the 2018 hunting season were sent to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Georgia, to be analyzed.

West Nile virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito, and there is no evidence that it can be spread by handling dead birds or by consuming properly cooked game. West Nile is one of several diseases that may at times affect native bird species. Signs can range from no clinical disease or illness to heart lesions and inflammation of the brain, the lining of the brain and of the spinal cord. Many factors can influence how severely the virus affects an individual bird.

Beginning in fall 2018, Wisconsin hunters assisted in the collection and submission of 235 of the 720 samples submitted by the three participating states. Hunters who submitted samples and provided contact information will be provided test results via email this week regardless of whether results were negative or positive.

"We are grateful to hunters for taking the time to submit samples from the birds they harvest. This work is only possible with their support, and we appreciate their patience in waiting for test results," said Mark Witecha, Wisconsin DNR upland game ecologist.

Hunter-submitted samples underwent two types of testing to help us determine if the birds were exposed to West Nile: A blood test to determine if the grouse had developed an immune response to the virus and a heart test to look for traces of viral genetic material. As in humans, ruffed grouse can build up antibodies in an immune response to viruses they encounter. Even when the body fights off an illness, these antibodies are left behind in the blood.

Results from the blood samples indicate that 68 (29%) of the Wisconsin submitted samples had antibodies to WNV either confirmed (44 or 19%) or likely (24 or 10%). Results showed that two (0.9%) of the 235 grouse had evidence of the virus present in their hearts, but as both of these birds had also developed antibodies to the virus (from the accompanying blood test), the results do not directly indicate that these two birds were sick at the time of harvest.

In Michigan, West Nile exposure was detected in 28 (13%) of the 213 ruffed grouse blood samples with exposure to the virus either confirmed (9 or 4%) or likely (19 or 9%). Viral genetic material was found in four heart samples. In Minnesota, exposure was detected in 34 (12%) of the 273 blood samples submitted with exposure to the virus either confirmed (10 or 3%) or likely (24 or 9%). Viral genetic material was not found in any of the heart samples.

West Nile has been present in Wisconsin since 2002 and was first detected in the state's ruffed grouse population in 2018. Ruffed grouse have likely been exposed to West Nile before 2018; however, previous testing in ruffed grouse was limited.

"Our continued efforts to provide quality young forest habitat for ruffed grouse is our best strategy to maintain a healthy grouse population that can handle impacts from stressors such as disease or weather," Witecha said.

Ruffed grouse are one of the most popular upland game birds to hunt. These birds are most commonly known for their distinctive "drumming" noise produced by males during the spring breeding season. Male grouse will display on drumming logs, rapidly beating their wings with the intention of attracting a female grouse. The study may help identify future research needs in Wisconsin, such as a potential survival study to investigate sources of mortality, with WNV being one of many stressors examined.

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Oct. 31 is the Deadline to Purchase Sturgeon Spearing Licenses

Jonathan Eiden harvested an 85.5-inch-long lake sturgeon that weighed 171 pounds on Lake Winnebago during the 2019 season. The current state record lake sturgeon was harvested in 2010 and measured 84.2 inches and weighed 212.2 pounds. Eiden's fish was 1.3" inches longer than the current state record, but the fish harvested by Eiden did not break any official records because those are tracked by weight. - Photo credit: DNR
Jonathan Eiden harvested an 85.5-inch-long lake sturgeon that weighed 171 pounds on Lake Winnebago during the 2019 season. The current state record lake sturgeon was harvested in 2010 and measured 84.2 inches and weighed 212.2 pounds. Eiden's fish was 1.3" inches longer than the current state record, but the fish harvested by Eiden did not break any official records because those are tracked by weight.Photo credit: DNR

Contact(s): Ryan Koenigs, Fisheries Biologist, 920-303-5450, Ryan.Koenigs@wisconsin.gov

MADISON, Wis. - The deadline to purchase licenses for the 2020 Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season is Oct. 31, with state biologists forecasting great opportunities to land the fish of a lifetime.

"The lake sturgeon population in the Winnebago System is robust, both in terms of abundance and size. The adult population contains more fish than we have had in decades and includes a strong representation of 100+ pound fish," says Ryan Koenigs, Department of Natural Resources Winnebago System sturgeon biologist. "As always, the biggest driver of spearing success will be water clarity, and we will not have an idea what clarity will be like until the weeks leading up to the 2020 season."

The spearing season will open Feb. 8, 2020, with separate but simultaneous seasons for Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes of Butte des Morts, Winneconne and Poygan. Participation in the Upriver Lakes season is determined by a drawing that operates off a preference point system. The seasons run for a maximum of 16 days or until pre-set harvest caps are reached.

How and where to get spearing licenses

License costs are $20 for residents and $65 for non-residents and can be purchased by visiting GoWild.Wi.gov or in person at a license sales location.

The minimum spearing age is 12 years old. Youth who turn 12 between Nov. 1 and the last day of the 2020 spearing season can purchase a spearing license after Oct. 31. Military personnel home on leave can also purchase a license after the Oct. 31 deadline.

There are unlimited license sales for the Lake Winnebago spear fishery, while the Upriver Lakes fishery is managed by a preference point system and limited to 500 permitted spearers per season. Once a person is authorized to purchase an Upriver Lakes license, they are not able to purchase a license for Lake Winnebago.

For more information on harvest trends and management of the Lake Winnebago sturgeon fishery, check the DNR website here.

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Wolf River Water Resources Management Plan Meeting to be Held Nov. 5

The public has an opportunity to review and comment on a draft Wolf River Water Resources Management Plan for the project area running from Keshena Falls to the Shawano Dam - Photo credit: DNR
The public has an opportunity to review and comment on a draft Wolf River Water Resources Management Plan for the project area running from Keshena Falls to the Shawano DamPhoto credit: DNR

Contact(s): David Boyarski, District Fisheries Supervisor, 920-559-2341, David.Boyarski@wisconsin.gov

SHAWANO, Wis. - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources invites those with interest in the management of the Wolf River to attend a public informational meeting about the recently completed draft of the Wolf River Water Resources Management Plan for the project area running from Keshena Falls to the Shawano Dam. The meeting will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 5 in the Large Group Instruction Room at the Shawano High School in Shawano.

At the upcoming meeting, department staff will provide an overview of the significant survey findings and water resource management goals and objectives for the section of the river stretching from Shawano Dam to Keshena Falls. Topics that will be covered include fisheries and fish populations, aquatic plant management, aquatic invasive species (AIS), water quality and freshwater mussel populations.

"We encourage citizens and stakeholders to come and learn more from these meetings and to provide feedback on this draft plan," said Justine Hasz, DNR Bureau of Fisheries Management Director. "This public meeting provides an overview of our planning efforts, and DNR staff will answer any questions our stakeholders may have regarding the management of the aquatic resources in this study section."

The department will be accepting comments until Nov. 20, 2019.

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DNR Launches New Voluntary Environmental Assessment Program for Businesses


Contact(s): Erika Kluetmeier, Sustainability Advisor, 608-267-0865, Erika.Kluetmeier@wisconsin.gov

MADISON, Wis. - The Department of Natural Resources announced the launch of its new Enviro-Check program. Enviro-Check empowers businesses to proactively verify they are meeting environmental requirements through a third-party assessment. This voluntary program also provides limited liability for violations that are reported and corrected.

"The new Enviro-Check program better aligns with the department's approach of providing tools that empower businesses to meet or exceed environmental protection requirements," said DNR Secretary-designee Preston Cole. "This new program speaks to who we are as an organization, and reflects our positive, customer-driven approach to finding ways to improve our state's environment and economy."

Businesses can participate in the Enviro-Check program anytime, but it is especially useful when there are changes at a facility, for example, staff or management turnover, buying or selling a business, new processes or new regulations. An added benefit of Enviro-Check is that it provides a higher level of confidence among lenders, buyers, supply chains and customers that the business is effectively managing their environmental practices.

"We all win when businesses are actively managing their environmental compliance, translating into a safer, healthier environment and more efficient, profitable businesses," Cole said.

Enviro-Check is one of a suite of services the department provides to businesses, assisting them on the path to improving their environmental performance. Small Business Environmental Assistance Program provides free and confidential services to small businesses with questions about environmental requirements and beyond. Green Tier recognizes businesses that are going beyond minimum requirements to continuously improve their environmental footprint while maximizing their productivity and profits.

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DNR Expands Clean Diesel Grant Program

The Clean Diesel Grant Program has helped improve the state's air quality by reducing emissions that contribute to fine particulate, ozone and carbon monoxide levels. - Photo credit: Contributed
The Clean Diesel Grant Program has helped improve the state's air quality by reducing emissions that contribute to fine particulate, ozone and carbon monoxide levels.Photo credit: Contributed

Contact(s): Michael Friedlander, Air Management Program, 608-267-0806, michael.friedlander@wisconsin.gov

MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is now accepting applications for projects that reduce diesel emissions and improve Wisconsin's air quality and human health.

In August, Gov. Tony Evers signed Executive Order #38 [PDF], calling on state agencies to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and foster clean energy innovation. The DNR is expanding eligibility of the Clean Diesel Grant Program to include municipal transit buses, non-road engines and vehicles and equipment used for construction, cargo handling and agriculture.

Approximately $770,000 is available to reduce emissions from eligible diesel engines across the state. Applications are being accepted until Jan. 3, 2020.

EPA began awarding clean diesel grants in 2008 under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA), a grant program created by Congress as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

While older diesel engines remain reliable, they pollute more than newer engines. The DERA program has helped improve the state's air quality by reducing emissions that contribute to fine particulate, ozone and carbon monoxide levels. These engines are also a source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, an important greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Clean diesel grant programs such as DERA have reduced CO2 emissions in Wisconsin by more than 600,000 tons over the lifetime of the programs.

In addition to improving air quality, reducing diesel emissions also helps vehicle owners reduce fuel consumption and operating costs.

"The Air Program is proud to continue participating in this grant program that encourages diesel operators to implement emission reduction strategies to improve our state's air quality, safeguard public health and reduce fuel consumption," said Gail Good, DNR Air Program Director.

Wisconsin benefits substantially from the pollution reduction, health cost savings and local economic incentives of clean diesel grant programs such as DERA. In Wisconsin, these programs have:

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Contact information

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