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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published October 7, 2014

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Wisconsin's public water systems continue to invest in upgrades

Over past three years, nearly $135 million invested by municipal water systems statewide

MADISON -- More than 95 percent of Wisconsin's water suppliers meet or exceed health standards and the state's public water systems continue to make upgrades through a loan program administered by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, according to a new report.

The DNR 2014 report to the governor, Wisconsin's Capacity Development Program for Public Drinking Water Systems, highlights the performance of municipal community water systems that serve nearly 4 million people. Over the three year period covered by the report, from 2011 to 2013, municipal community water systems invested a total of $134.9 million in upgrades.

"Clean drinking water is fundamental to the health and well-being of our citizens and communities," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "We are pleased to support the continuing reinvestment that contributes to such strong performance."

During the past three years, DNR made loans for 93 improvement projects in communities ranging from Abbotsford to Wrightstown. Among the largest projects: a $20.7 million loan to Marinette; an $11 million loan to Stevens Point; and a $7.8 million loan to Milwaukee.

Wisconsin uses money from its federal Drinking Water State Revolving Fund allotment to make low-interest loans and provide principal forgiveness for infrastructure improvements at eligible municipal community systems. Since the program began in 1998, approximately $488 million has been provided for projects.

Wisconsin's public water systems also continue to build on their ability to meet regulatory requirements. Significant deficiencies (such as those that could cause health risks for people consuming the water) identified during regular inspections need to be corrected by specific deadlines. Over the past four years, the state's public water systems have consistently improved their ability to make corrections before the deadlines and more than 80 percent met the deadlines in 2013.

"With 11,400 public water systems statewide, DNR monitors more systems than any other state and the level of compliance is exemplary," said Russ Rasmussen, DNR water division administrator. "Wisconsin's public water systems have an excellent track record for consistently providing safe drinking water. Our capacity development strategy continues to benefit residents statewide."

By definition, public water systems are those that provide water for human consumption to at least 15 service connections, or regularly serve at least 25 people. Municipal community water systems are owned by cities, villages, towns or sanitary districts and Wisconsin currently has 608 of these suppliers.

Other types of regulated public water systems operate from privately-owned wells and serve residents of mobile home parks, apartment buildings, condominium complexes and long-term care facilities. Public water systems also serve water to people where they work, attend school or gather for food or entertainment.

For more on the 2014 report on Wisconsin's Capacity Development Program for Public Drinking Water Systems, visit dnr.wi.gov and search for "capacity development."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Steven B. Elmore, DNR public water supply section chief, 608-264-9246, Steve.Elmore@wisconsin.gov; Beth Goldowitz, DNR public water supply specialist, 608-266-3484, Beth.Goldowitz@wisconsin.gov; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov.

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DNR, Conservation Congress to convene meeting on next steps for perch in Lake Michigan

Public meeting set for Oct. 23 to discuss possible perch strategies, benefits for near-shore fishery

MILWAUKEE -- To help identify potential options for yellow perch management in Lake Michigan, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Conservation Congress will convene a public meeting on October 23 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences.

The meeting will build on the findings of the Lake Michigan Yellow Perch Summit [PDF] in March and focus on potential management strategies for the important near-shore perch fishery. Featured speakers will include specialists from DNR, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel outdoors editor Paul Smith also will present a brief talk on the history of yellow perch in the city of Milwaukee.

Brad Eggold, DNR Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor, said the meeting aims to bring attendees up to speed on the latest scientific findings related to yellow perch and solicit feedback on viable strategic options in high-priority areas.

"We take very seriously our charge to maintain healthy native fish populations and provide opportunities for near-shore fishing that can be enjoyed by experienced anglers and youth alike," Eggold said. "The yellow perch population in Lake Michigan is at lower levels as a result of changes to the ecosystem including the arrival of invasive mussel species. Through the meeting, we hope to identify relevant, stakeholder supported strategies for high priority areas where the survival of young perch can be improved."

Among the highlights of the October 23 meeting, set to run from 5:30 to 9 p.m., will be discussion of changes in the food web and an overview of yellow perch populations throughout the lake. John Janssen, a professor with UW-Milwaukee's School of Freshwater Sciences, and Fred Binkowski, a senior scientist with the school, will discuss where bottlenecks in perch reproduction are occurring and whether perch sourced from wild broodstock and raised through cutting-edge aquaculture techniques could potentially rebuild near-shore populations.

"Invasive species have compromised perch reproduction by reducing food availability for young perch, but there is hope that juveniles may be able to switch to alternative food sources in near-shore areas, such as native midges, invasive bloody red shrimp and round goby fry," Janssen said.

Eggold said the meeting will include a discussion session in which participants, scientists and fisheries management experts will collectively explore management options for the future including the possibility and feasibility of public-private partnerships for habitat improvement and fish rearing efforts, as well as identification of high-priority near-shore areas.

In Wisconsin, the sport harvest was reduced to five perch per day with a season closure to protect spawning perch. The commercial yellow perch harvest was suspended in the main body of the lake in 1996, but continues in the waters of Green Bay. Although these actions may have helped produce a few strong year-classes of the fish, recent assessments indicate continued low numbers of yellow perch in Wisconsin's waters of Lake Michigan.

"We hope the meeting will provide relevant information that helps stakeholders understand the potential opportunities and limitations for yellow perch in Lake Michigan," Eggold said. "While the changing ecology of the lake means we may not be able to return to the abundant catches of the 1980s and earlier, with support from private and public partners we may be able to improve the near-shore fishery in priority areas."

For more information on the public meeting, set for Oct. 23 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, 600 E. Greenfield Ave, visit dnr.wi.gov and search for "yellow perch meeting."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Eggold, Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor, 414-382-7921, bradley.eggold@wisconsin.gov; Jennifer Sereno, communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov

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Ghouls, goblins and jack-o'-lanterns to haunt state parks this fall

MADISON - From family friendly pumpkin carving and costume contests to hair-raising fright hikes where ghouls and goblins emerge along jack-o'-lantern lit trails, there are more than 20 opportunities to celebrate Halloween at Wisconsin state park properties this fall.

Many of the events are held in the evening with bonfires and there are a half dozen jack-o'-lantern or candlelight hikes. There are three more elaborate Halloween events with costumed players enacting Halloween scenes for which fees are charged.

At Heritage Hill State Park in Green Bay, visitors can experience characters from the Brothers Grimm fairytales, and boys and girls are being encouraged to dress up as characters from the Grimm fairytales. Visitors can also trick-or-treat at the many historic buildings at the park. The park hosts its Halloween event two Saturdays, Oct. 18 and Oct. 25. The fee is $7 per person and free for children 3 and under.

At the Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, local junior high and high school groups volunteer perform the scenes along a dark and 1-mile trail. There is also music performed at the event a concession stand offering grilled hot dog, cookies and popcorn, and a bonfire and of hot chocolate after the event. This is the 15th year the Fright Hike is being held at the park, which this year is Friday and Saturday October 24 and 25. There is a $5 fee for this event for people ages 6 and over.

Also on October 24 and 25, the MacKenzie Center near Poynette will be holding haunted hay rides. Participants can take a fun and spooky hay ride around the MacKenzie Center property, while watching out for zombies, witches, graveyards, ghosts and more! This event is family friendly and fun for all ages. Cost is $5 for individuals over the age of 3.

Other events being held at state park properties are free, though a park admission sticker is required for vehicles entering the parks. For a complete list of all activities at Wisconsin state park, forest and trail properties, search the Department of Natural Resources website for "Get Outdoors." The new event listing is searchable by location and event type and is also mobile friendly.

Here is a list of Halloween activities being held this fall:

October 11

October 17 &18

October 18

October 24

October 24 & 25

October 25

October 29

November 1

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul Holtan, state parks, forests, trails and recreation public affairs manager 608-267-7517 or 608-235-2126

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October shows important progress for early deer hunting seasons and public participation

MADISON - With the archery and crossbow deer hunting seasons in full swing, October marks an important progress point in measuring hunter participation and the success of new deer management initiatives.

"We've really focused on going above and beyond to involve the public this year," said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Your feedback was key as we took a fresh look at managing our state's deer herd."

Informational live chats

The department has offered a number of informational chats open to the public, with DNR wildlife, law enforcement, regulations and communications specialists on hand to answer questions. So far, chats focused on crossbow hunting, antlerless permits, e-registration, and general regulations have drawn over 1,000 live participants, with nearly 200 total questions answered. Stay tuned for more chats this fall leading up to the nine day gun deer hunting season.

To view a chat schedule and check out previous chats, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "expert."

County Deer Advisory Councils

Through new County Deer Advisory Councils, the public has an opportunity to work with a diverse group of stakeholders to help manage the state's deer herd. With a council in each county, these newly formed bodies encourage more public input on deer management issues and give stakeholders a greater responsibility in managing local deer numbers. Each county held their first meeting in September, and they are now gearing up for their second meeting to be held in October.

Councils are currently in the process of developing recommendations regarding deer population objectives that will influence herd management in their county over the next three years. To find out when the council in each county will meet next, visit the CDAC page of the DNR website for the full list of county meeting locations and dates.

Many county councils have vacant seats, and the public is welcome to apply. To complete an application , those interested can view the list of councils [PDF]and see if their county has open seats. An application [PDF]and frequently asked questions [PDF] document can be found on the CDAC page

Electronic Registration

The testing of Wisconsin's electronic registration system began this September, and those hunters who were invited to participate have been putting the system to good use. Close to one thousand deer have been registered with the new system, and users are providing good feedback to help improve the system. Those not selected to use electronic registration will continue to register their deer at in-person stations as in the past. E-registration is expected to be made available to all hunters in 2015.

To make sure you're ready for deer season, visit dnr.wi.gov, search keyword "deer" and click the link for the rule changes FAQ document.

The public has been very proactive in learning new rules and participating in new programs, and the department would like to thank a number of stakeholder groups, partners, and hunters for their cooperation.

For tips and more information regarding deer hunting in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov, search keyword "deer." Also, be sure to check out the departments 2014 Fall Hunting and Trapping Forecast [PDF].

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bob Nack 608-264-6137

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Ring-necked pheasant season opens Oct. 18 at noon

MADISON -- Pheasant hunting in Wisconsin opens statewide Saturday, Oct. 18 at noon. The season will run through Dec. 31.

Several other seasons open Oct. 18, including bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse in Zone B and Hungarian partridge. The bobwhite quail and Hungarian partridge seasons open at noon, while the ruffed grouse season opens with the start of legal shooting hours.

"Pheasant hunting's popularity reflects the fact that it's simply a wonderful outdoor activity, for both experienced and novice hunters alike," said Scott Walter upland wildlife ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources. "With cool fall breezes, leaves changing color and good friends by your side, everyone can expect to reap the ultimate reward from their days afield - good memories and great companionship."

Hunters are encouraged to review the Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations [PDF] booklet for rules and season structures. For an in-depth look at this year's fall bird hunting seasons, check out the department's 2014 Fall Hunting and Trapping Forecast [PDF].

Please note that there is an error in the table listing hen/rooster areas on page 13 of the printed small game hunting regulations. Vernon Wildlife Area in Waukesha County was mistakenly omitted from the list, but remains a hen/rooster area for the 2014 season. This error has been corrected in the electronic version of the regulations found on the DNR website.

Pheasants are one of the most sought-after game birds in North America, and populations tend to fare well in the agricultural landscape of southern Wisconsin, provided there is sufficient habitat to meet their food and cover needs.

According to Walter, hunters should look for areas that contain adequate winter cover, such as cattail marshes and dense brush intermixed with cropland, hay and idle grasslands. These areas provide food and nesting cover, and it will be important for hunters to identify high-quality habitat and concentrate their hunting efforts in those areas.

During the 2013 pheasant hunting season, an estimated 43,725 hunters went out in search of pheasants and reported harvesting 194,397 birds. Fond du Lac, Kenosha and Dane counties were among the top counties for pheasant harvest last year.

Bag Limits

On Oct. 18 and 19, the daily bag limit is one pheasant cock, while the possession limit is two. For the remainder of the season (Oct. 20 through Dec. 31), the daily bag limit is two pheasant cocks, with a possession limit of four.

Some public hunting grounds offer both hen and rooster pheasant hunting, and some properties also have 2 p.m. closure times, which are only in effect on weekdays from Oct. 20 to Nov. 2.

A 2014 Pheasant Stamp is required to hunt pheasants statewide. The free leg tags previously required on hen/rooster areas are no longer required. Within those areas, the daily bag limit is one pheasant daily for the first two days of the season, and two pheasants daily for the remainder of the season with a possession limit of twice the daily bag limit.

Hunters who dress pheasants in the field are reminded that the head, a fully feathered wing, or an entire leg must remain attached to the carcass while in the field and during transport.

Pheasant Stocking Program

This fall, DNR wildlife biologists plan to release approximately 75,000 game farm pheasants on 92 public hunting grounds in Wisconsin. These numbers are similar to last year's stocking efforts, and show a significant increase over previous years.

Pheasants raised by conservation clubs through the Day-old Chick Program will be released this fall on both designated public hunting grounds and private lands open to public pheasant hunting. Hunters are reminded to notify landowners before hunting on private property open to public hunting.

Hunters can view a summary of stocked properties on the 2014 Pheasant Stocking Information Sheet, available at dnr.wi.gov, keyword "pheasant."

FFLIGHT

In addition, an exciting new gamebird mapping application is available to hunters - the Fields & Forest Lands Interactive Gamebird Hunting Tool, or FFLIGHT. This tool allows hunters to locate and explore properties stocked with pheasants (along with ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat and managed dove fields). FFLIGHT also allows hunters to use aerial photos, topographic maps and measuring tools to easily navigate and identify areas of interest and make hunting trips more productive and enjoyable. To learn more about FFLIGHT, search keyword "FFLIGHT."

Pheasant Hunting Opportunities through the Mentored Hunting Program

This year marks the sixth year of the Mentored Hunting Program, which allows hunters age 10 or older, born on or after Jan. 1, 1973, to obtain a hunting license and hunt without Hunter Education certification. Participants must hunt with a mentor and comply with all the requirements of the program.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861; Krista McGinley, DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist, 608-261-8458

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October signals the opening of many furbearer hunting and trapping seasons

MADISON -- The coyote, bobcat, raccoon, fox, and fisher trapping seasons in Wisconsin will open statewide Oct. 18 at 4 a.m., along with hunting seasons for bobcat, raccoon, and fox.

"Wisconsin has a strong trapping heritage and fall is an exciting time to get out in the fields and forests to appreciate Wisconsin's many natural resources," said John Olson, furbearer biologist with the Department of Natural Resources.

Mink and muskrat trapping season will open Oct. 25 at 4 a.m. statewide. Beaver and otter trapping seasons will open Nov. 1 at 4 a.m., except in the Mississippi River Zone, which opens the day after duck season closes.

Bobcat, fisher, and otter require a special zone-specific permit to harvest. Additionally, all three species must be reported within 24 hours of harvest by calling 1-800-994-6673. All other species have no bag limits.

Trappers need to purchase a trapping license and complete Trapper Education, unless exempt. For information regarding Trapper Education, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "Trapper ed."

Trapping in State Parks is allowed Nov. 15 to Dec. 15; however, only water sets and enclosed trigger traps are allowed on State Park properties. For more information, search keywords "hunting state parks."

Special hunting and trapping regulations apply on many federal properties, and special trapping restrictions apply on both federal and state portions of the Horicon Marsh. Please contact the appropriate property manager for more information.

The Southern Zone for cottontail rabbit hunting will open Oct. 18. Squirrel hunting and Northern Zone cottontail rabbit hunting seasons opened Sept. 13. Squirrel season will close statewide Jan. 31, 2015, while cottontail season will remain open until Feb. 28.

For more information regarding regulated trapping and hunting season dates and zones, search keywords "trap" and "hunt," respectively. Hunters and trappers are also reminded to check out the 2014 Trapping Regulations [PDF] and 2014 Fall Hunting and Trapping Forecast [PDF].

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: John Olson, DNR Furbearer Biologist, 715-685-2934, Geriann Albers, Assistant Furbearer Biologist, 608-261-6452

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Two confirmed cougar sightings in Lincoln and Marinette counties

MADISON -- Department of Natural Resources biologists have confirmed two cougar sightings in Lincoln and Marinette counties in Northern Wisconsin.

On Sept. 5, the department received a call from a Minnesota resident who reported he had a photo of a cougar on his trail camera from property he visits in Lincoln County near Merrill, Wis. He did not have internet access at his cabin and was only in town for the weekend, so a local biologist was contacted and made arrangements to view the photo.

"As you can see, there really isn't any doubt in this photo that it is in fact a cougar," said Shelby Hiestand, DNR wildlife biologist.

Lincoln County cougar
This cougar was captured on a trail camera in Lincoln County.
Contributed Photo

Hiestand conducted a site visit and verified the location of the photo. The photo was taken July 30, but scat found at the site was collected for genetic testing. According to Hiestand, it would be extremely unusual for a cougar to stay in the area for that length of time. Results of the genetic analysis are still pending.

On Sept. 13, a DNR warden investigated a hunter's report of a trail camera photo showing a cougar in Marinette County near Middle Inlet, Wis. taken Sept. 1. Warden Tim Werner investigated the site and documented that the trail camera photos of the cougar were taken at the reported site.

The distance between these two sightings is approximately 90 miles, and a cougar could easily cover this distance in the 33 days between the photos. However, without genetic confirmation the department cannot be certain it is the same animal.

There is currently no evidence that cougars are breeding in Wisconsin. Biologists believe the cougars known to have entered Wisconsin are male cougars dispersing from a breeding population in the Western United States.

Cougars are a protected species in Wisconsin and cannot be shot unless attacking a human or a domestic animal. Cougar attacks on humans are very rare, and there have been no confirmed conflicts between cougars and people or domestic animals in Wisconsin.

Cougars are not considered a threat to public safety, and in the extremely unlikely event that a person is confronted by a cougar, face the animal and spread your arms and open your coat or jacket to appear larger. If the cougar approaches, make noise and throw rocks or sticks.

Individuals who observe cougars in Wisconsin, especially if they have obtained photos, are urged to report their findings using the "Rare Mammal Observation form."

For more information, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "cougar."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: David MacFarland, DNR large carnivore specialist, 715-365-8917

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Classes offered to train volunteers to help monitor Wisconsin's wolf population

MADISON -- Wisconsin's wolf monitoring program relies upon volunteers from around the state who help track the animals each winter, and those interested in becoming volunteers are encouraged to sign up for one of a number of clinics offered statewide.

Winter tracking is a great way to experience the outdoors in winter and make a contribution to natural resource management.

Department of Natural Resources biologists and volunteers have partnered to provide informative classes focused on aspects of wolf ecology, population biology and field study techniques.

"Volunteers are the backbone of our wolf population monitoring program," David MacFarland, DNR large carnivore specialist. "These classes provide a great opportunity to learn more about Wisconsin's wildlife and becoming a volunteer tracker is a direct way to contribute to the scientific data the DNR relies on to manage our state's wolf population."

The tracking-focused class will focus on medium to large size carnivores that inhabit Wisconsin, as well as a few other common mammals. It will also provide the required training and prepare participants to conduct formal track surveys as a volunteer tracker.

The ecology-focused class will cover the history of wolves in Wisconsin, their biology and ecology, how DNR monitors the population, and state management and research.

For a list of courses offered, visit the volunteer carnivore tracking page of the DNR website dnr.wi.gov and select the "training courses" option on the right side of the page.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: David MacFarland, DNR large carnivore specialist, 715-365-8917; Jane Wiedenhoeft, DNR wildlife biologist and track program manager, 715-762-1362

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Those interested in discovering (or rediscovering) Wisconsin's outdoors are reminded of discounted prices for first-time license buyers

MADISON - In its third year, the first-time buyer license continues to provide an opportunity to explore Wisconsin's outdoors at an affordable price.

"I really encourage folks who haven't experienced all this state has to offer to spend a day out in nature," said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "With our first-time license program, it's never been more affordable to get an introduction to any number of outdoor activities at a discounted price."

Certain resident hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses are available for as little as $5 for those who have never purchased that same type of license or those who have not purchased a Wisconsin license authorizing that activity in any of the prior ten years. Certain nonresident licenses are also discounted for first-time buyers.

Hunting and fishing licenses can be purchased: through the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, using the key words " Online Licensing Center," at any DNR Service Center; at all authorized license agents; or by calling toll-free 1-877-WI LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).

DNR Customer Service staff is available to assist the public online and via phone from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Spanish and Hmong bilingual customer service representatives are also available. Customers may reach customer service at 1-888-WDNR INFo (1-888-936-7463) or by e-mail at csweb@wisconsin.gov. An online chat link is also available.

For more information regarding the first-time license buyer program, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "first time buyer."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bureau of Customer and Outreach Services, 608-266-2621

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Northern Kettle Moraine Region Wildlife, Fishery and Natural Area open house presentation available online

MADISON -- The public is invited to view and comment on the open house presentation regarding a draft master plan for nine wildlife, fishery and natural area properties in the Northern Kettle Moraine Region Wildlife, Fishery and Natural Area Planning Group. The draft plan contains department recommendations for habitat and recreation goals and objectives for these nine properties.

An open house presentation and question and answer period in West Bend was recorded on Thursday, September 25, and the broadcast is available via the department's Mediasite player.

The draft master plan is available for public review at the following locations:

A copy of the draft master plan has been provided to the following public libraries:

Comments may be submitted by phone, mail, email or online until Oct. 10, 2014. There will be additional opportunities throughout the planning process for public comments.

For more information on the NKMR properties, please visit dnr.wi.gov, search keyword "master planning," and select "Northern Kettle Moraine wildlife, fishery and natural areas."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ed Jepsen, master planner, 608-266-3568 or Sawyer Briel, lands public affairs manager, 608-261-0751

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, October 07, 2014




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