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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published October 3, 2017

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2017 Wisconsin ring-necked pheasant season opens Oct. 14

Contact(s): Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist, at (608) 267-7861; Jaqi Christopher, assistant upland wildlife ecologist, at (608) 261-8458

MADISON - The longtime and popular tradition of pheasant hunting in Wisconsin will again take center stage when the fall 2017 pheasant hunting season opens statewide at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14. The season will run through Dec. 31, with the possibility of being extended until Jan. 7, 2018.

The popular tradition of pheasant hunting in Wisconsin will again take center stage when the fall 2017 season opens statewide at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14.
The popular tradition of pheasant hunting in Wisconsin will again take center stage when the fall 2017 season opens statewide at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Photo Credit: DNR

Several other seasons also open that day including bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse in Zone B and Hungarian partridge. Like pheasant, the bobwhite quail and Hungarian partridge seasons open at 9 a.m. The ruffed grouse season opens with the start of legal shooting hours.

Hunters should check the Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations booklet for rules and season structures for the game species they will pursue.

"Pheasant hunting offers a fantastic means to experience the outdoors, and it complements the other upland bird hunting opportunities in Wisconsin very well," says Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist with the Department of Natural Resources. "Pheasant hunting offers the chance to explore landscapes and habitat types you might not otherwise see."

Pheasants are one of the most sought-after gamebirds in North America, and populations do best in the agricultural landscape of southern and western Wisconsin provided there is habitat present in sufficient quantities to meet their food and cover needs throughout the year, according to Witecha.

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

During the 2016 pheasant hunting season, an estimated 43,520 hunters went out in search of pheasants and reported harvesting 307,240 birds. The top counties for harvest included Fond du Lac, Waukesha and Kenosha.


A 2017 Pheasant Stamp is required to hunt pheasants statewide, as well as a valid small game license. Please note that the free leg tags previously required on the hen/rooster areas are no longer required. 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 three times the daily bag limit. More information is available in the 2017 Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations, available online at, keyword "regulations."

Pheasant Stocking Program

This fall, DNR wildlife staff plan to release approximately 75,000 game farm pheasants on 91 public hunting grounds. These numbers are a similar to 2016 stocking efforts. State game farm production goals will remain at 75,000 birds moving forward. In addition, pheasants raised by conservation clubs through the Day-old Chick Program will also be released this fall on both designated public hunting grounds and private lands open to public pheasant hunting. Hunters are reminded to be polite and notify the landowner before hunting on private property open to public hunting as part of this program.

Hunters can view a summary of stocked properties on the 2017 Pheasant Stocking Information Sheet, available at, keyword "pheasant." In addition, hunters can use the DNR's gamebird mapping application, FFLIGHT, 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 maps, topography and measuring tools to easily navigate and identify areas of interest and make their trips more productive and enjoyable. To learn more about FFLIGHT, visit, keyword "FFLIGHT."

Pheasant Hunting Opportunities through the Mentored Hunting Program

2017 marks the ninth 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 first completing Hunter Education, provided they hunt with a mentor and comply with all of the requirements under the program. For additional information and the requirements of the program, visit, keyword "mentored hunting."

"Pheasants are a popular gamebird, and they offer a great hunting experience to both novices and experienced hunters," said Witecha. "I wish hunters safe and successful trips this fall."



Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas Releases Third-Season Findings

Contact(s): Ryan Brady, 715- 685-2933 or Nicholas Anich, 715-685-2930

Volunteers document 220 bird species breeding in Wisconsin, including rare marsh birds

MADISON -- After the third year of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas survey, volunteers have documented 220 bird species breeding in the state, most recently including a family of rare and secretive marsh birds called king rails. With this addition, 12 new species have been observed nesting in Wisconsin that weren't found during the first Breeding Bird Atlas survey two decades ago.

Click on image for larger size. (exit DNR)
Click on image for larger size. (exit DNR)

"A few of these king rails were reported in the first atlas but none were confirmed as nesting here," says Ryan Brady, Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist and science coordinator for the Atlas. "So it's exciting to see wetland management efforts having positive benefits for a species that requires high-quality marshes to successfully raise its young."

Good wetland management by state and federal wildlife management staff have also contributed to another Atlas finding -- that trumpeter swans are undergoing an impressive expansion in range and numbers since the last survey from 1995-2000, Brady says.

Trumpeter swans were decimated by overhunting by the late 1800s, and the species was mostly absent from Wisconsin until DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation Program and partners began reintroducing the species in 1987.

"Even a decade ago, most breeding pairs kept to the more remote northern lakes," Brady says. "Good wetland management and protection have allowed trumpeters to use unoccupied marshes and increase their numbers to over 5,000 birds."

Volunteers have documented them breeding across the north, northwest, and central regions and birds have even colonized the Lower Wisconsin River.

Volunteers Still Needed to Accurately Reveal Trends in Birds

The purpose of the five-year atlas effort is to document all bird species that breed in Wisconsin, from common year-round residents like northern cardinal to species of high conservation interest like Connecticut warbler. Some of these species may be vanishing, while others are holding their own, or even increasing, but only a statewide effort will reveal these trends, says Nicholas Anich, Breeding Bird Atlas coordinator for DNR.

"The project has already amassed records of 4.9 million birds but we still have a ways to go," Anich says. "We need more volunteers to survey priority areas so we get a complete picture of what's going on with our bird populations and how we can help them moving forward."

More than 1,400 volunteers have contributed to the survey so far, but more are needed to survey remaining priority areas, particularly in northern, central, and western regions of the state.

Getting Involved

Volunteers collect data by observing birds, and enter their sightings online, where the information is reviewed by Anich, Brady, and other ornithologists from organizations leading the project: The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, and DNR.

All Wisconsin residents are encouraged to participate, especially those who live or travel to priority areas like northern, central, and western Wisconsin. "It's easy to participate and you don't have to be an expert birder to help," says Bill Mueller, director of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, "We're constantly hearing from people how rewarding atlasing is, and we welcome participants of all ability levels."

To volunteer, visit the project website at Training sessions and field trips will take place throughout Wisconsin in 2018. When the project is completed, the data will be published in a hard-copy book and online for use by researchers, land managers, conservationists, and citizens interested in birds and their habitats.



Record number of piping plovers nest in Wisconsin

Contact(s): Sumner Matteson, 608-266-1571

MADISON - Good news for recovery of the federally and state-endangered piping plover: a record number of eight pairs nested in Wisconsin this summer, including at an island restoration site in lower Green Bay. Piping plovers hadn't nested in Green Bay for 75 years until last year.

"This is the highest known number of nesting pairs in the state in a single year," says Sumner Matteson, a Department of Natural Resources avian ecologist. "It's very exciting because plovers returned again to the Cat Island restoration chain this year, where originally we didn't expect to find them. So now we know their nesting there in 2016 wasn't a fluke." A lone pair turned up to nest in 2016; this year four pairs nested on the island.

Video Credit: DNR

Because the number of piping plovers is so low in the Great Lakes--76 nesting pairs -- "every nesting pair and every nesting site makes a difference," and increases Wisconsin's contribution to the species' recovery in the Great Lakes, Matteson says.

Piping plovers once nested along the shores of all the Great Lakes but habitat loss, recreational pressure and predation, and shoreline development likely contributed to serious declines. Typically, piping plovers need large isolated beach and dune habitats for their nesting and chick rearing.

By 1948, only one pair of plovers was known to nest in Wisconsin and the piping plover was added to the state endangered species list in 1979. Across the Great Lakes region, the loss of habitat caused numbers to drop below 20 nesting pairs region-wide before the small shorebird was listed as federally endangered in 1986, Matteson says.

With help from federal, tribal, state and local partners, the number of breeding pairs in the Great Lakes has climbed to 76, half-way toward the regional recovery goal of 150 breeding pairs, most of them in Michigan. Wisconsin's contribution of eight breeding pairs in 2017, is up from six breeding pairs in 2016 and five breeding pairs in 2015.

The eight breeding pairs that nested in Wisconsin this summer fledged 13 chicks. Six of those chicks fledged from Cat Island in Lower Green Bay, where a partnership of state, federal and local partners has been restoring the island in a dredging project described in this video, Cat Island - Rebirth of an Environment.

"We've been very pleased with progress at Cat Island and were surprised to see how quickly bird species responded to the habitat improvements there," says Steve Galarneau, who directs DNR's Office of Great Waters, which played a major role in the restoration of Cat Island.

"We are especially excited to see the piping plovers return. Restoration work now underway at Wisconsin Point in Superior should provide additional high quality nesting habitat for plovers and other species."

The seven other piping plover chicks fledging from Wisconsin nests came from Long Island in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore along Lake Superior. For many years, that had been the only Wisconsin site contributing chicks, with more than 100 fledged over the last 11 years following concerted restoration and protection efforts by the National Park Service, Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa, DNR, USFWS and The Nature Conservancy are paying off.

Restoration work at Wisconsin Point in Superior, and to a more limited extent at Seagull Bar in Marinette County, by DNR and partners is underway now, and the hope is to expand the number of nesting sites.

Report sightings of banded piping plovers

The public can help piping plover recovery efforts by reporting their sightings of piping plovers with metal and color bands on their legs. Matteson helps lead efforts at the Apostle Islands site and the Cat Island site to band chicks so that they can be tracked in coming years to learn more about their survival, their migration routes, and their habitats.

The color codes used on bands varies according to the location where they were banded. By getting reports of the birds' whereabouts, the recovery partners can better understand the birds' migratory routes, the habitats they use, and their survivorship. For more information on piping plovers and how to report your sightings of banded piping plovers, go to the DNR website,, and search "piping plover."



A reminder to Hunters regarding changes to the tagging of deer and turkey

Contact(s): DNR spokesperson Eric Lobner, 608-235-0860; Todd Schaller, 608-381-8927

MADISON - As the archery and turkey seasons continue and the youth deer hunters will take to the field this weekend, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters about recently implemented changes involving the use of deer and turkey carcass tags.

Newly issued deer tags will now look like these. Already purchased paper carcass tags are still valid.  While not needed in the field, keep the tags you received with your prior license purchase as the tag number is needed for registration. Hunters must still carry proof of a hunting license and deer tags.
Newly issued deer tags will now look like these. Already purchased paper carcass tags are still valid. While not needed in the field, keep the tags you received with your prior license purchase as the tag number is needed for registration. Hunters must still carry proof of a hunting license and deer tags.

To date, nearly one million deer and turkey carcass tags have been issued for the current fall hunting seasons. All previously issued deer and turkey carcass tags are still valid as an authorization to hunt deer or turkey within the assigned or designated location. Customers making additional purchases throughout the remainder of this year's hunting seasons will be issued products that will not include the usual validation and attachment language.

While hunting, customers will still be required to carry proof they are authorized to hunt within the designated location. Hunters will be able to use their paper tag/authorization, DNR issued Conservation Card, a GoWild validated Wisconsin driver's license, a GoWild digital file as proof of compliance.

Harvested turkey and deer must still be registered under current law. Harvest registration is a critical part of deer and turkey population management. Customers will be asked to enter either their deer tag number or their turkey harvest authorization number into the Game Registration system to begin the harvest registration process. Please note, tag or authorization numbers are different than a customer identification number. Hunters will need to know their tag or authorization number to register.


All harvested turkey and deer must be registered electronically by 5 p.m. the day after being recovered. GameReg is simple, fast and convenient for hunters. The system will prompt hunters to answer a series of questions, beginning with the deer tag/harvest authorization number and the hunter's date of birth.

Hunters will have two options for registering:

For more information regarding electronic registration, search "GameReg."

These changes do not affect other species such as bear, bobcat, fisher, otter or sturgeon.

For updated regulations materials, visit and search keyword, "hunt." You'll be able to find key updates and official regulations under the "Know" tab.



How hunters can help reduce spread of chronic wasting disease

Contact(s): Tami Ryan, DNR wildlife health section chief, 608-266-3143

MADISON - Hunters participating in any of the deer hunts this fall are reminded to observe Wisconsin regulations and to consider supplemental, voluntary recommendations when transporting carcasses across county or state lines. The movement of deer carcasses infected with chronic wasting disease is a key pathway in the spread of this disease.

"The infectious nature of the CWD prion contributes to an increased risk of introduction and spread of CWD if carcasses are brought to areas where CWD is not known to exist if not disposed of properly," said Tami Ryan, wildlife health section chief for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Carcass movement restrictions are currently in place to limit the spread of disease. Both whole wild-deer carcasses and certain parts of carcasses from CWD-affected counties can only be moved within CWD-affected counties and an adjacent county. As an added voluntary action, it is recommended that carcasses remain within the county or an adjacent county to which the deer was harvested. Hunters may also consider applying this voluntary action to all areas of the state.

To view exceptions and a complete list of rules, go to and search keyword, "CWD."

Hunters from other states/provinces should be aware of their state's carcass movement restrictions of deer harvested in Wisconsin before heading home.

Whole carcasses and parts of carcasses, other than those listed, from these states and provinces are not allowed into Wisconsin unless taken to a meat processor or taxidermist within 72 hours of entry into Wisconsin.

For more information on deer hunting and search keyword "deer." For more information on CWD and reducing the spread search keyword "CWD."



Help DNR staff monitor Wisconsin's wolf population - become a volunteer carnivore tracker today

Contact(s): Jane Wiedenhoeft, assistant carnivore biologist, 715-762-1362

MADISON - Wisconsin's wolf monitoring program relies upon volunteers from around the state who help track animals each winter, and people interested in playing a key role in wildlife management are encouraged to sign up for one of a number of classes offered statewide.

Carnivore tracking classes focus on learning to identify the tracks of medium- to large-size carnivores that inhabit Wisconsin, as well as a few other common mammals. Wolf ecology and management classes cover the history of wolves in Wisconsin, their biology and ecology, how DNR monitors the population, and state management and research. Completion of both classes is required to participate in the wolf monitoring program as a volunteer carnivore tracker.

Wisconsin's wolf monitoring program relies upon volunteers from around the state who help track animals each winter, and people interested in playing a key role in wildlife management are encouraged to sign up for one of a number of classes offered statewide.
Wisconsin's wolf monitoring program relies upon volunteers from around the state who help track animals each winter, and people interested in playing a key role in wildlife management are encouraged to sign up for one of a number of classes offered statewide.
Photo Credit: Paul Lueders

"DNR staff and volunteers tracked over 14,000 miles last winter searching for wolf, coyote, bobcat, and other medium to large size carnivore tracks in Wisconsin," said DNR assistant carnivore biologist Jane Wiedenhoeft. "It's a great way to get out and enjoy Wisconsin in the winter while helping the department monitor some of the state's most interesting wildlife."

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. Tracking is a great way to experience the outdoors in winter and make a contribution to natural resource management. For a list of courses offered, search the DNR website for volunteer carnivore tracking page and select the "training courses" option on the right side of the page.



October Wisconsin Natural Resources features Sandhill Wildlife Area, antlerless deer hunting

Contact(s): Kathy Kahler, editor, 608-266-2625

MADISON - Sandhill Wildlife Area in central Wisconsin - with marshes and woodlands that are particularly beautiful in fall - is front and center with two stories in the October issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine. "Tracing Sandhill to its roots" recalls how Sandhill was created in the mid-1900s through the work of conservationists Wallace and Hazel Grange, while modern-day care of the area is explained in "A tribute to wetland management."

Deer hunters will want to check out the story on DNR efforts to maintain a balanced population, "Aim for an antlerless state of mind." And a personal story, "First hunt far from ordinary," will reach audiences with its tale of adaptive hunting success featuring teenage twin brothers.

A special fish species is profiled in "Pure beauty of the brook trout." From the plant world, tips are offered on "Bucking a thorny invader," focusing on removal of aggressive buckthorn species.

The DNR's Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program and its many benefits - to landowners and users alike - are explained in "Public access pays big dividends." Urban forests get their due in "From ashes to diversity," which points out the many ways trees enhance communities. Also learn about the DNR's new online Community Tree Map, with a searchable database of nearly 425,000 trees statewide.

In the magazine's regular features, "Back in the Day" takes readers to the austere World War II era, when shortages and rationing sometimes meant a single bullet had to suffice for deer hunting. "Wisconsin Traveler" has information on fall color viewing opportunities. And the goose - and duck - are cooked in this issue's "Keeping it wild: Outdoor food and forays."

Other regular features include "Readers Write" letters and photos, and "Wisconsin naturally," which heads to the Driftless Area of Vernon County to explore Eagle Eye State Natural Area.

For more on Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, check online at



Grants available to help municipalities minimize flood damage

Contact(s): Jeff Soellner, DNR grants manager, 608-267-7152

MADISON - Cities, villages, towns, tribal governments and metropolitan sewerage districts are eligible to apply for grants from the Department of Natural Resources to help minimize flooding and flood-related damages.

The recently adopted 2017-2019 Biennial Budget increased available funding for Municipal Flood Control grants to $1.85 million. Combined with funds from the prior grant cycle that were not used by grantees, a total of $2.13 million is available in this grant cycle.

Eligible projects include property acquisition and removal of structures - which due to zoning restrictions cannot be rebuilt - property acquisition and removal of structures in the 100-year floodplain. Additional eligible projects include acquisition of vacant land for flood water control/storage or flood water flowage easement, flood control detention pond and flood studies and flood mapping projects.

Under Wisconsin statutes, no one project may be awarded more than 20 percent of total available funding. So, for the next MFC grant cycle, the largest grant award is now estimated at $426,000.

For application materials and more information search the DNR website for "grants" and click on the button for "find grants" and link for Municipal Flood Control Grant Program for more information.

"The MFC grant program is always competitive; now is the time to start putting together a great application," said Jeff Soellner, DNR grant program coordinator.

Application must include appraisals for land to be acquired and to remove structures and thorough budgets for a development project.

Applications must be postmarked by March 15, 2018.

For more information contact: Jeffrey Soellner, DNR grants manager 608-267-7152; email:, or by mail to: Jeff Soellner - CF/2, WI DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-79211.


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, October 03, 2017

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