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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published July 6, 2010

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New rules in place to control feral pigs, wolf-dog hybrids and mute swans

MADISON - Rules going into effect this summer are designed to prevent new introductions of three invasive species. Under the rules effective July 1, 2010,, people must have a license to possess wolf-dog hybrids, feral or wild swine, and mute swans in captivity.

Also as of July 1, it is illegal to release any of these species into the wild and such releases can result in penalties of up to $1,142, as well as restitution costs for any damage caused by these animals.

"All three species have proven their ability to exist in the wild in Wisconsin," says Scott Loomans, wildlife regulations specialist for the Department of Natural Resources. "Wild and feral swine for instance, are opportunistic omnivores that eat an amazing amount and variety of plants and wild animals."

Feral and wild swine disturb habitat for, and compete with, a wide range of native animals, wild plants and agricultural crops. They disturb native ground cover creating avenues for infestation by invasive plants. Through digging and rooting activities, large family groups have caused locally significant damage to crops. They even pose a health threat to domestic animals. Of primary concern are diseases such as pseudorabies, brucellosis and tuberculosis. While these diseases can be eliminated from domestic livestock herds, wild or feral swine that persist on the landscape could be disease reservoirs that continually reintroduce diseases to domestic herds.

In most cases, the possession of feral or wild swine is now prohibited. A limited exemption is available for some people who possessed animals on July 1, 2010 and who apply for a license with the Department of Natural Resources by September 28, 2010. The rules do not apply to owners of domestic hogs and no action is required by traditional pork producers.

Feral or wild swine include wild strains of swine commonly known by the name European, Eurasian, Russian, feral or domestic strains. Feral domestic strains also include animals which are confined but which exhibit characteristics of being in an untamed state, and hybrids of wild or feral with domestic swine. Included in this definition are any swine that is captured in the wild or from an unconfined environment after it has existed in the wild or unconfined environment outside of an enclosure for more than seven days, regardless of its physical characteristics.

Wolf hybrids and mute swans

People who possess wolf-dog hybrids or mute swans will need to apply to the department for a captive wild animal farm license. In most cases, captive wild animal farm licenses cost $50 initially and $25 for annual renewals. For owners who do more than $10,000 of business a year the license costs $200 initially and $100 for renewals.

People who own animals that they consider to be wolf-dog hybrids will only be able to possess animals that have been spayed or neutered. Pen standards are also established by the rules, but owners can be licensed before construction of pens. Owners have until 2014 to construct pens.

If people own dogs that have been reported as being wolf-dog hybrids, but the owners are not sure, wildlife officials recommend that the owner obtains a variety of photos from different angles, and present to the local wildlife biologist, or the DNR wolf specialist to obtain an opinion whether the animal is likely a wolf dog hybrid.

A condition of licensing for mute swans is that they be enclosed in pens that are kept clean and sufficient to contain the animals. There are exceptions from pen standards for animals kept on a persons' own land if they have been pinioned and neutered.

More information and all of the new regulations is available on the captive wildlife page of the DNR website. Licensing standards are designed to assure humane care and to reduce the likelihood of animals escaping where they may pose a threat to human safety, the health of other wild or domestic animals, or of becoming established on the landscape as an invasive species.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Loomans - (608) 267-2452



23 watersheds get health checks, recommendations for improvement

Management plans required under federal clean water laws

MADISON - People who enjoy swimming, fishing and boating in Wisconsin will want to take a look at plans that summarize the health and condition -- and recommendations for improving both -- for lakes and rivers within 23 watersheds in the state, state water quality officials say.

watershed plans
Plans are available to improve the water quality in 23 Wisconsin watersheds. Click on image for larger size.

A July 13 webcast about the plans will allow people to watch a live presentation from home and to comment on the plans electronically or in writing through July 30.

"These watershed plans outline the conditions of waters within a watershed, where we believe resource management actions should occur, and current priorities for improving resource conditions," says Lisa Helmuth, the water resources specialist who coordinated the effort.

"We hope people will read and get involved, including volunteering for a water quality monitoring program or advocating for needed actions to address the water quality problems identified in the report."

Individual watershed plans are one of the state's requirements under the federal Clean Water Act. Other requirements include assessing the condition of waters, creating a list of impaired waters that do not meet state water quality standards, developing cleanup plans for those impaired waters, and publishing a statewide assessment that also describes the states' programs to manage its waters, as Wisconsin has done with its 2010 Water Quality Report to Congress (pdf).

A watershed is all of the land that drains to a lake or river. Wisconsin has 334 watersheds within 23 larger water management areas or "basins." This planning effort focused DNR staff resources on creating a plan for at least one watershed in each of the state's basins.

Such plans will be developed for other watersheds over time, Helmuth says.

The 23 individual plans present data about the condition of lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands within a specific watershed, identify whether any are considered impaired and unable to provide the swimming, fishing and other opportunities they should be able to, and current recommendations for how to improve the waters.

The plans were developed through a collaborative process with local partner groups like county land conservation departments and other stakeholders. DNR contracted with the University of Wisconsin-Extension basin educator program to facilitate development of the plans with DNR watershed managers, biologists and other resource experts.

The 23 individual plans, and the statewide assessment, are available only electronically, saving considerable costs over paper plans from past years, Helmuth says.

She encourages people to look at the statewide map showing the 23 featured watersheds and read through the 6-8 page plans for each watershed. People interested in learning more are encouraged to reserve their space for a July 13 webcast, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., on the topic. Participants will see a presentation about the historical and legal context for the updates, a summary of the results, and directions on how to provide comments and feedback to resource managers during the public review and comment period.

People also can submit comments about the plan electronically to Amanda Lederer at or send written comments by U.S. mail to Lederer at the DNR, WT/3, P.O. Box 7921, 101 S. Webster, Madison, WI 53707.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Lisa Helmuth (608) 266-7768;



Collared bears get the attention of researchers and homeowners

EAU CLAIRE - The young black bear hanging around Eau Claire's southeast side for the past couple weeks has been a bit troublesome, but it has one feature making it especially valuable to wildlife researchers who are asking the public for tolerance and cooperation.

This bear is wearing a sporty black and brown collar worth more than $2,000. But its real value is in the information being stored on a digital memory card inside the collar. Every day, the collar takes a location reading from GPS satellites and records it. At the end of a full year, sometime next March, researchers will recover the collar, if all goes well, and they will be able to precisely chart the young bear's movements through the seasons.

It is part of a years-long study into the dispersal patterns of young black bears. The collared bear in Eau Claire was born in a den near Mead Lake in Clark County, about 50 miles to the east. It is one of 10 yearling bears in central and western Wisconsin that were fitted with collars this past March.

For this reason, researchers are hoping the Eau Claire bear will not need to be trapped and relocated, because if that happens, its value to researchers is lost.

"We are interested in what kinds of habitat they are moving through and what they are not moving through," said Karl Malcolm, a researcher with the University of Wisconsin. "That's why these bears that are showing up in people's back yards are rather interesting."

If wildlife or law enforcement officials determine a bear is a threat to public safety, it will quickly be captured, study or no study. Such situations, fortunately, are rare.

Malcolm, by the way, is willing to come and speak to any group of homeowners, big or small, interested in learning more about the bear study.

Another of these collared bears was hanging around in Chippewa Falls in recent weeks, causing telephones to ring, but that bear has moved on and was last located near Durand. In fact, it has been moving along so quickly that researchers have temporarily lost track of its signal.

"I would appreciate it, if anyone sees a bear wearing a collar, that they call the DNR," said Mike Gappa of Eau Claire, a retired DNR biologist and bear expert who has been assisting Malcolm with the study.

Biologists said conflicts between bears and humans are almost always associated with food or items that smell of food left outdoors. Bears have an extremely powerful sense of smell and they tend to follow their noses. Bowls of pet food, garbage left out overnight and bird feeders are major attractions, so the DNR is asking residents in any area where a bear shows up to remove any food sources. This will make it less likely that the bear will become habituated to humans, and more likely that the bear will move out of the area on its own, allowing the researchers to continue to follow its movements.

Gappa put the collar on the Eau Claire bear this past March when it was denned up with its mother. In addition to the 10 yearling bears with collars, seven sows are wearing less expensive collars that simply emit a radio signal so they can be located late next winter.

A sow bear breeds every two years, generally around June. In the first winter after breeding, the cubs are born in January. They will stay with the mother through the following summer and winter, but when it is time for the sow to breed again the yearling bears are sent off on their own to make a life.

Typically the young females don't wander too far, researchers said, but the young males have been known to travel hundreds of miles in search of territory they can call their own.

The bear in Eau Claire has been troublesome because it seems more habituated to humans than the average bear. It hasn't threatened anyone, nor has it acted aggressively, but it sometimes needs more than the usual encouragement to move along. It can easily shelter in the heavily wooded Otter Creek corridor which runs behind homes, schools and businesses in the area east of U.S. 53 and north of Prill Road (County AA.)

Under a 2007 state law, any homeowner who knows or should know that a bear is coming to an outside feeder is required to remove that food source for a minimum of 30 days. Biologists point out that birds do not benefit from bird feeders once the snow melts in the spring.

For everyone's benefit, researchers and homeowners alike, it would be best if the Eau Claire bear moves along and finds a better place to hang out, preferably not in someone's yard.

"Take down the bird feeders," Gappa pleaded. "Try to get that animal to move on."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kris Belling, DNR regional wildlife supervisor, (715) 839-3736 or Ed Culhane, DNR communications, (715) 839-3715



Wisconsin and Illinois ink cooperative agreement addressing CWD in deer

MADISON - Wisconsin and Illinois have reached agreement on guidelines for cooperative management of chronic wasting disease (CWD), the fatal neurological disease of deer that has been confirmed in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois counties.

"The wildlife in question - whitetail deer - obviously don't recognize state lines," said DNR Secretary Matt Frank. "Science is telling us that we are dealing with a single widespread occurrence of CWD so it makes sense that we cooperate with our neighbors to the south in working to control its spread to healthy deer."

The agreement, referred to as a memorandum of understanding or MOU, identifies mutual goals for managing CWD. Wisconsin and Illinois also will develop a cooperative plan they hope will lead to a more effective and ultimately successful management program.

Wildlife biologists and wildlife health experts from Illinois and Wisconsin DNRs have been talking and sharing experiences for many years. A formal agreement signed by the two agency leaders will benefit both states by making efforts both more efficient and cost effective.

Both states have identified reducing deer densities and limiting geographic spread of the disease through herd reduction strategies as important goals. Cross-border research opportunities will be explored and the states plan to share common public messages relative to outreach and education about CWD. Staff is authorized to assist the other state when needed in CWD control activities when expected results are considered mutually beneficial. Data sharing in particular will be helpful to identifying the most effective management strategies.

"The ultimate goal in this effort is to preserve the health and quality of our white-tailed deer resource and the traditions associated with deer viewing and hunting for now and for generations to come," said Frank.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Davin Lopez - (608) 267-2948


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Last Revised: Tuesday, July 06, 2010

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