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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published April 19, 2016

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Wisconsin elk reintroduction project highlights strong partnerships

Contact(s): Kevin Wallenfang, 608-261-7589

MADISON - With year two of Wisconsin's elk reintroduction efforts now complete, elk from Kentucky continue to adjust to their new home in Jackson County.

The goal of this multi-year reintroduction project [PDF] is to work closely with partners to establish a second elk herd in central Wisconsin and bolster the existing herd in northern Wisconsin. The 39 elk trapped in Kentucky in 2016 will be released in Jackson County, while the remaining years of this project will focus on adding up to 75 elk to the Clam Lake elk herd that was established in 1995.

Funding for Wisconsin's elk translocation efforts is a result of key partnerships and support from the Ho-Chunk Nation, Jackson County Wildlife Fund, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and many other local partners.

"Seeing all of these partners come together with one goal in mind is really impressive," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Everyone involved with elk reintroduction efforts thus far has been nothing short of spectacular to work alongside as we continue to achieve our goals and move forward on this exciting project."

Wisconsin Elk Release 2016 - Jackson County
Video Credit: WDNR

"Elk reintroduction will affect the local Jackson County economy in a positive way through tourism," said Jay Dee Nichols, a member of the Jackson County Wildlife Fund. "The elk project and this partnership have people excited to come and see these animals."

Prior to arriving safely in Wisconsin March 23, the elk were held in Kentucky for initial disease testing as part of a 120-day quarantine period. The elk currently reside in a quarantine pen in Jackson County, where they will remain until the quarantine period and final disease testing has concluded.

For the duration of their captivity in Wisconsin, the elk will receive expert care. Precautions taken include 24-hour monitoring, veterinary care and oversight, routines to limit exposure to stress, and daily monitoring and observations for any injuries or additional concerns.

In addition to the closed area surrounding the acclimation pen, individuals are asked to voluntarily avoid the general vicinity of the closed area until the elk are released. Minimizing human disturbance near the release site will allow the elk to adjust to their new home and will help maximize the success of reintroduction efforts.

To receive email updates regarding current translocation efforts, visit 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.

For more information regarding elk in Wisconsin, visit and search keyword "elk."



DNR: Keep Wildlife Wild; enjoy view of wildlife from afar

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

MADISON -- There's excitement in Wisconsin's woods as young wildlife begin to emerge, making spring a great time to observe wildlife.

However, a multi-agency Keep Wildlife Wild committee is reminding wildlife observers to watch the fun from afar.

"We need to resist our well-intentioned temptation to interact with a young animal we perceive to be on its own," said Dianne Robinson, Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist, who chairs the committee. "Human interaction often does more harm than good in these situations."

Licensed wildlife rehabilitator and member of the Keep Wildlife Wild committee Cheryl Diehl says never assume an animal is orphaned. "Some wildlife mothers leave their young unattended to gather food or to protect them from predators," she said. "It may seem to the human eye the young are not being cared for because you can't see the mother. Chances are she knows you're there."

Experts suggest watching the animal through binoculars during the day. If the animal is genuinely orphaned or injured, don't touch the animal and contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

DNR Wildlife Biologist Julie Widholm says wildlife species vary on how they care for their young, and that's why this is an interesting time to learn more about Wisconsin's animals.

"Young rabbits are left alone in their nest, concealed by grass or vegetation. The mother returns to feed her young and leaves to reduce detection of the nest site by predators," Widholm said. "Young raccoons are often seen playing in trees or yards without their mother, but she is nearby. Fledgling songbirds leave nests without parental supervision and before they are capable of flight. Fawns are born with spots and very little scent to hide them from predators. A fawn found lying still and by itself should be left alone."

Robinson offers these tips to help prevent orphaned or injured wildlife situations:

More tips and facts about how wildlife care for their young can be found on the DNR website,, search keywords: "keep wildlife wild."



Wood turtle conservation strategy incorporates new Wisconsin findings and proposes status update

Contact(s): Owen Boyle, 414-750-3198

[EDITOR'S ADVISORY: this news release has been updated to correct the number of occurrences of wood turtles historically in Wisconsin.]

MADISON - New efforts to protect turtle nests from predators and enlist citizens' help in identifying and making road crossings safer for turtles are key parts of a recently completed conservation strategy for Wisconsin's wood turtles [PDF].

"Our conservation strategy is designed to ensure that wood turtles remain an integral part of Wisconsin's natural heritage into the foreseeable future by focusing on conservation activities with the greatest benefit to the species," says Owen Boyle, who leads Department of Natural Resources nongame species management staff.

View Slideshow SLIDE SHOW | 8 photos

Wood turtle conservation strategy

Protecting nests from predators and reducing road kills are major strategies for wood turtle conservation. A DNR wood turtle study [PDF] that wrapped up in 2015 in northern Wisconsin tracked turtle movements to understand habitat needs and tested management strategies to improve wood turtle nesting success and to reduce road mortality.

That study revealed that some nest protection methods were very successful in protecting turtles, decreasing predation rates from 52 percent to 17 percent. As well, a new citizen-based monitoring program, the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program, has resulted in hundreds of reports of problematic road crossings and has enabled DNR and partners to work together to help put up signs, build tunnels, and find others ways to make the crossings safer.

Wood turtles, (Glyptemys insculpta), are secretive, long-lived animals found in roughly the northwestern two-thirds of Wisconsin. They are most abundant in forested regions with medium-sized rivers. Wood turtles were listed as an endangered species in 1975 when only 22 documented occurrences, or populations, were known. Their status was upgraded to "threatened" in 1982 as the number of occurrences grew to 75. Today there are 301 documented populations, more than any other Midwestern state. While all of these populations are not regularly monitored, a significant number are believed to be robust, viable populations.

"Through statewide surveys, research, and citizen reports, we've learned there are far more wood turtle populations in Wisconsin than we knew about in the early 1980s," Boyle says. "Our strategy outlines how we will expand population monitoring to closely track population trends into the future."

When DNR updated its endangered and threatened species list in a process ending in January 2014, the department retained the "threatened" status for wood turtles until it could complete the Wisconsin turtle study. The conservation strategy relied on this new research information, existing DNR data, and information submitted by external wood turtle stakeholders during a public information request.

Part of developing the strategy included using that new information to assess the species' legal status. DNR conservation biologists determined wood turtles no longer met the criteria to remain on the state's list of threatened and endangered species. As a result, the department recommends removing the species from the threatened list but legally designating it a Protected Wild Animal, which bans the harvest, collection or purposeful killing of the species, Boyle says.

The strategy details the monitoring methods DNR and partners will use to track population trends and includes criteria by which the species will continue to be assessed.

A status change for listed species is accomplished through the administrative rule process, which includes Natural Resources Board approval and a public input process that can take up to a couple of years to complete.

Until the change in status is finalized, the DNR has drafted a Broad Incidental Take Permit/Authorization for wood turtles. Incidental take refers to the unintentional loss of individuals of endangered or threatened species and is illegal in Wisconsin without a permit. The Broad Incidental Take Permit/Authorization sets forth the specific conservation measures that projects would be required to follow when operating in areas where wood turtles have been found.

DNR staff determined that projects covered under the proposed broad incidental take permit might result in the incidental taking of some turtles but will not jeopardize the continued existence of this species. Copies of the jeopardy assessment and background information on the wood turtle are available by searching the DNR website for incidental take public notice or upon request from Owen Boyle (608-266-5244 or

Public comments on the Broad Incidental Take Permit/Authorization will be accepted through May 19, 2016. Comments on the BITPA or questions regarding the Conservation Strategy should be sent to Owen Boyle, Wisconsin DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921 or



Ultimate Birder Adventure: Horicon Marsh 19th Annual Bird Festival will be held May 6-9

Contact(s): Liz Herzmann, DNR wildlife conservation educator, 920-387-7893

HORICON, Wis. - Bird enthusiasts can experience the sights, sounds and natural beauty of birds in peak spring migration as the Horicon Marsh Bird Club hosts the 19th annual Bird Festival at Horicon Marsh May 6-9.

From the backyard birder to the world traveler, four days of adventure awaits by foot, boat, bus and bicycle at Horicon Marsh, one of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States. The Horicon Marsh Bird Festival is the oldest bird festival in Wisconsin.

This year's Keynote speaker will be Sandy Komito. In 1998, Komito set the American Birding Association record with 745 bird species identified during the year in North America. His book regarding his record year in 1998 inspired the book and movie "The Big Year" by Twentieth Century Fox.

Horicon Bird Fest
This Black-throated Green Warbler was caught in a mist net during a previous Horicon Marsh Bird Festival bird banding demonstration. Measurements were taken and a small band was placed on the leg in hopes that it will be caught again in future years to learn more about this species' biology.
Photo Credit: WDNR

The Birding by Bicycle guided tour invites birders to peddle their way through the Ice Age Scientific Reserve. A Birdy Scavenger Hunt offers a unique way to explore the Marshes scenic views, sounds and enjoyment.

At more than 33,000 acres, Horicon Marsh provides habitat for endangered species and is a critical rest stop for thousands of migrating songbirds and waterfowl. It is recognized as a Wetland of International Importance and as Globally and State Important Bird Areas. More than 300 bird species are on the Horicon Marsh checklist.

The festival begins with a Habitat Birding Bus and Boat Tour. Popular favorites include the Hot Spot Birding Bus Tour & Hike, Beginners Bird Hike, Birding Adventure Boat Tour, and 20+ other tours and activities planned by the Horicon Marsh Bird Club.

For the early morning birder, First Light Birding offers a glimpse of the birds at sunrise. At sunset, a Night Sounds Bus Tour is offered. Throughout the festival, the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Marsh Haven Nature Center and Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center will be buzzing with interactive displays, programs, and opportunities for viewing birds at their observation areas.

To plan your birding adventure, visit (exit DNR) and click on the Bird Festival link for a complete list of events, descriptions and registration information. For additional registration information, contact Liz Herzmann, DNR wildlife conservation educator, at 920-387-7893.

Many tours require advanced registration and fees. Partners for this amazing event include the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marsh Haven Nature Center, Horicon Marsh Boat Tours, Friends of Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, and Friends of Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center.

The Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center is located between Horicon, Wis. and Mayville, Wis. on Hwy. 28. For a detailed list of all Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center special events, please visit the Friends of Horicon Marsh website at (exit DNR). For more information regarding Horicon Marsh education programs, contact Liz Herzmann, DNR educator, at 920-387-7893.



Five "citizen scientists" and Milwaukee County Parks Natural Area program honored for work to benefit wildlife, waters

Contact(s): Eva Lewandowski, 608-264-6057; Lucas Olson, 608-266-0545

STEVENS POINT - A Vilas County woman who launched efforts to measure lake levels, a Kickapoo Valley man who completes dozens of bat surveys a year and recruits others to do the same, and an Oconto County youth who has monitored bluebird and other bird populations in her area are among Wisconsin citizens recognized for their outstanding work to collect information important to managing and conserving Wisconsin's waters and wildlife.

Wisconsin's Citizen-based Monitoring Network presented the awards earlier this month during the 7th Citizen-based Monitoring Conference in Stevens Point. The Department of Natural Resources and more than 150 organizations with monitoring programs formed the network in 2004 to improve their effectiveness by providing communications, resources and recognition.

"These are people who are contributing hands-on, on-the-ground, every day to the land and water around them," says Eva Lewandowski, who coordinates the Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Program for DNR. "They are not only providing important information for managing Wisconsin's resources, but are helping get more people involved as well."

A listing of award winners, their hometown, and a brief description of their work follows.

Milwaukee County Parks Natural Areas Program, Citizen-based Monitoring Program of the Year

This county program is using citizen-based monitoring as a way to engage the public in wildlife research and gain more scientific data to guide restoration decisions on the county's 10,000 acres of natural areas. In 2014, staff engaged citizen monitors to inventory and document 430 seasonal or "ephemeral" ponds and followed up in 2015 with aquatic studies. Program staff developed in-class training opportunities as well as hands-on field days for citizens to hone their monitoring skills. Volunteers confirmed populations of tiger and blue-spotted salamanders, discovered the first spotted salamander documented in their county since 1935, a new population of wood frogs (previously only 1 population was known), and 3 new populations of Wisconsin's rarest native crayfish, the Digger's crayfish.

Ben Johnston of Wilton, Outstanding Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring

Johnston is recognized for his work to conduct wildlife surveys in the 8,600-acre Kickapoo Valley Reserve and build the ranks of citizen scientists in southwestern Wisconsin. He has conducted an average of more than 30 walking surveys a year to detect bats, and has recruiting other volunteers to get involved in the survey as well. Johnston has also recruited volunteers to submit turtle road crossing reports aimed at reducing the number of turtles killed by cars, and has recruited volunteers to participate in frog and toad surveys.

Nancy Carlson of Racine, Outstanding Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring

Carlson created a program that helps more than 3,000 Racine 4th and 7th graders understand through hands-on outdoors activities and investigations how their daily activities impact water quality, fish and other aquatic life in the Root River and Lake Michigan watershed. Carlson also visits classrooms to help reinforce what students have learned in the field, and has helped establish partnerships with area nature centers and governmental institutions.

Anne Kretschmann of Manitowish Waters, Outstanding Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring

Kretschmann was honored for her role in starting the first citizen-based lake level monitoring program in Wisconsin in 2008. To address local concerns about dramatic lake level declines, she recruited a retired surveyor, established permanent water level benchmarks on a subset of local lakes, installed staff gauges and recruited local citizens to make weekly water level readings. Now she volunteers to monitor more than 40 lakes across Vilas County and she has coordinated a companion program with the Lac du Flambeau tribe.

Amber H. Van Den Heuvel of Oconto, Outstanding Achievement in Youth Monitoring

Van Den Heuvel participated in projects to monitor everything from amphibians to botulism levels on Great Lakes shorelines to bluebirds and bats. She served as her county coordinator for the Annual Midwest Crane Count and helped establish half of the nine bluebird trails within the city. She also helps monitor wood duck and purple martin houses for Bird City Oconto.

Kris Stepenuck of Burlington, VT, 2016 David N. Redell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring

Stepenuck, who coordinated the Water Action Volunteers stream monitoring program from 2001-2015, was honored for her work to build citizen-based monitoring in Wisconsin and the country. Stepenuck built the WAV program into a hugely successful, nationally renowned program, co-authored "Exploring Streams," a stream monitoring curriculum for middle and high school students, helped found the national Citizen Science Association and serves on its board, and was a member of the Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Network. Stepenuck is now an assistant professor at the University of Vermont's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.



Lake stewards and stream monitors collect honors and awards for their work

Contact(s): Carroll Schaal, 608-261-6423

STEVENS POINT, Wis. - This year as they've done every year for the past 30, Dale Jalinski, Bob Kirschner, Tom Rulseh and Kay Scharpf will motor out to the middle of their local lakes, ease a black and white disk out of the boat and lower it down into the water on a rope until they can no longer see the disk's harlequin pattern.

They are the longest-serving of thousands of volunteers who over the years have checked their local lakes several times a year for water clarity and for other signs of good health. The information these volunteers have collected as part of Wisconsin's Citizen Lakes Monitoring Network has been important to helping manage, protect and restore their local lakes and understand statewide trends.

The four were among more than a dozen volunteers recognized earlier this spring for their efforts to help protect and restore Wisconsin lakes and streams. The awards were presented during the Wisconsin Lakes Convention and the Water Action Volunteers stream monitoring annual symposium, which were held together March 30-April 2 at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center here to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the lakes monitoring program and the 20th anniversary of the stream monitoring program.

"The amount of quality information and energy they provide is an incredible boost to our efforts. Our beautiful lakes and streams are a big part of what we all love about Wisconsin and we are pleased to honor these outstanding volunteers and their contributions," said Carroll Schaal, who leads lake and river management staff for DNR.

Dale Jalinski was honored for 30 years of monitoring Bear Lake in Oneida County; Bob Kirshner for the same at Crystal Lake in Forest County and Emden Lake in Oneida County; Tom Rulseh was honored for 30 years of monitoring McDonald Lake in Vilas County and Kay Scharpf for monitoring Franklin Lake in Forest County.

Karl and Lucy Klug of Baileys Harbor were honored for their 19 years monitoring streams, and Jim Korb of Richland Center was recognized for 15 years' service as a volunteer stream monitor.

"We were thrilled to be able to recognize long-time volunteers and people making a real difference for the health of lakes, rivers and streams," said Eric Olson, director of UW Extension Lakes, the lead partner in organizing the annual convention.

A listing of Lake Stewardship Award winners from the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership of DNR, UW-Extension and the statewide nonprofit Wisconsin Lakes, and Wisconsin Volunteer Stream Monitoring Awards from the Water Action Volunteers, follows.

Lake Stewardship Awards

Gene Weyer of Manitowoc, citizen category - Through work with the Hartlaub Lake Association and as president of the Manitowoc County Lakes Association from 2010-2014, Weyer recruited and trained volunteers to monitor, helped secure funding for their efforts, and led the search for a solution after a hybrid invasive plant was discovered.

Burnett County Lakes & Rivers Association, group category - For decades, the group has been a leading force in protecting county waterways, from advocating for the county to adopt lakes classification as part of its shoreland zoning ordinance in 1988, to more recent efforts pioneering the research and use of social science principles in lake protection. Their work helped lead the county to become the first in Wisconsin to adopt an ordinance making it illegal to transport aquatic vegetation on boats and trailers, and helped create an incentive program that has encouraged 750 landowners to maintain or restore 50 miles of natural shoreland.

Susan Borman and Dorothy Semple, public service category - Borman, a retired DNR aquatics plant specialist, and Semple, a Stevens Point artist, donated their time, skills and expertise as key participants in updating Through the Looking Glass, the well-regarded book of Wisconsin's aquatic vegetation.

John Skogerboe, lifetime service - A retired U.S. Army Corps of Engineers biologist, Skogerboe was honored for his research with the corps on how to manage aquatic plants and invasive species. In the 10 years since he retired, Skogerboe's work as a consultant to DNR on aquatic plants and invasive aquatic plants has benefitted the agency, lake management professionals, and citizens.

Wisconsin Stream Monitoring Awards

Dave Hackett and Ellen Brooks of Gays Mills, adult volunteer category - Hackett and Brooks are part of the Valley Stewardship Network and have been monitoring their stream station on the Halls Branch in Crawford County since year 2000. Starting in 2014, they added monitoring total phosphorus levels to their duties. Their data contributed to part of a Kickapoo River Watershed Assessment in 2010.

Bill and Lisa Keen of Verona, adult volunteer - The Keens began monitoring sites in the Upper Sugar River Watershed in 2007, including Badger Mill Creek which flows through their backyard. They uncovered extremely high levels of total phosphorus in Badger Mill Creek, information which they shared with the surrounding municipalities and sewerage district.

Laura DeGolier of Fond du Lac, adult volunteer category - For 10 years, she has worked tirelessly to participate in and lead stream-monitoring efforts in the Fond du Lac area. She has also initiated and continued to monitor additional sites with her dedicated team, the Water Warriors.

Camryn Kluetmeier of Madison, student volunteer category - Starting at the ripe old age of 11, Kluetmeier travelled to Jefferson, Wis. for a day of stream monitoring training and soon began a stream monitoring club at Eagle School in Fitchburg with the help of her mom and others. She mentored her schoolmates in the monitoring club and also led first graders from Madison's Franklin Elementary School to do water testing and storm drain stenciling on Lake Monona, and a group of third-graders from her church to test water in Lake Mendota.

Charlie Frisk of Green Bay, outstanding teacher category - Frisk has been integral to the success of the Lower Fox River Watershed Monitoring Program. He instilled in his students at Luxemburg-Casco High School a sense of respect and passion for protecting the water resources and also trained other teachers during the annual summer teacher workshops. Despite his recent retirement, he has continued to monitor Baird Creek in Green Bay and serve as a mentor to new teachers.

The Valley Stewardship Network of southwestern Wisconsin, group category - The group works in the Kickapoo River and neighboring watersheds in southwest Wisconsin to protect the land and water through stewardship outreach and citizen action. For over 15 years VSN has coordinated a group of water quality monitors through the WAV program. Over 200 citizen scientists have been trained to date with over 50 monitoring stations established.

Patricia Cicero of Lake Mills, outstanding employee category - Cicero, who works for the Jefferson County Land & Water Conservation Department, leads volunteer stream monitoring and volunteer invasive species prevention programs for the county. She also advises many water resources groups in Jefferson County and serves on the board of the Rock River Coalition. Cicero has been contributing data to the DNR through various monitoring programs since 2005 and has been a go-to resource for Water Action Volunteers when launching new initiatives by securing volunteers or monitoring herself.



DNR supports water quality improvement efforts through surface water grants

Contact(s): Shelly Thomsen, DNR lakes and rivers team leader, 608-266-0502,; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084,

MADISON -- Forty-one projects to restore wetland and waterfront habitat, control aquatic invasive species and implement lake and river management plans are receiving nearly $2.4 in fiscal 2016 surface water grants from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Surface water management grants are submitted to DNR each year in February and this year the department received 50 grant applications totaling approximately $3 million. The competitive grant funds originate from a tax on fuel used by boats in Wisconsin.

Shelly Thomsen, DNR lakes and rivers team leader with the DNR Bureau of Water Quality, said this year's grants to lake and river groups, nonprofit organizations and governments in 30 counties leveraged an additional $1.5 million in matching funds.

"These grants provide critical funding for projects that make a real difference in water quality in our state," Thomsen said. "We're excited to see the progress that is being made by public and private groups working in partnership to tackle these challenges."

FY16 Surface Water Grants # Grants Awarded Award
Lake Management Plan Implementation 5 $797,575.12
Healthy Lakes 16 $132,542.86
Wetland/Shoreland Habitat Restoration 1 $100,000.00
Lake Land/Easement Acquisition 2 $249,487.50
River Management 5 $159,824.50
AIS Control 12 $938,985.59
Total 41 $2,378,415.57


Highlights of the 2016 grants include projects for:


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 19, 2016

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