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Weekly News Published - July 3, 2018 by the Central Office


Spring waterfowl survey results show good breeding numbers and quality habitat conditions

Contact(s): Taylor Finger, DNR migratory game bird ecologist, 608-266-8841; Trenton Rohrer, DNR assistant migratory game bird ecologist, 608-261-6458

MADISON - Wisconsin's 2018 spring waterfowl population surveys indicate stable to increased numbers of breeding waterfowl pairs as well as relatively good wetland conditions, which should result in increased waterfowl production this year across most of the state.

"Overall, we saw fewer numbers of birds than the 2017 estimates; however, we did see an increase in the Mallard population estimate and stable estimates for wood ducks and Canada geese," said Taylor Finger, DNR migratory bird ecologist. "We continue to be at or above the long-term average for all but blue-winged teal."

This survey information, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continental duck survey and Ontario Canada goose survey provides information regarding yearly waterfowl breeding conditions and is used to determine the fall season structure for Wisconsin. The full survey report can be found at, keywords "waterfowl surveys."

In 2018, Wisconsin experienced record low temperatures in April, with lakes in northern Wisconsin still frozen on May 5. This stalled migration in most of Wisconsin and breeding activity by mallards and Canada geese. Average and above-average temperatures across most of the state followed in early and mid-May, respectively.

"Weather was less of an issue during the survey compared to last year with only one day of flights being canceled," said Finger. "These changing weather and migration factors make it difficult to schedule the breeding survey to effectively survey all species."

With near average precipitation in May following the survey, wetland conditions remained average to above-average for brood rearing, and Wisconsin is expected to provide good duck production in 2018.

A relatively mild winter in 2017-18 in most parts of the state, combined with average precipitation in April and May, led to average conditions throughout Wisconsin. Counts indicated dryer conditions than in 2017 in all regions of the state but most areas were still above the long-term averages. Finger said considerable rainfall in May following the survey has helped Wisconsin remain at average or above average wetland conditions for the year during the important brood-rearing period.

The Wisconsin breeding duck population estimate of 439,397 represents a decrease of 8 percent compared to 2017, and is right at the long-term (45-year) average. Of the species-specific population estimates for the three top breeding ducks in Wisconsin, (mallard, blue-winged teal and wood duck) mallards, showed the largest increase from 2017.

"Each duck species population estimate normally varies from year to year, so I urge hunters and other conservationists to interpret this information over several years and in the continental context," said Finger. "For example, the blue-winged teal breeding population in Wisconsin is lower than historic levels, but continental estimates the last few years have reached all-time highs, and two-thirds of Wisconsin regular duck season blue-winged teal harvest comes from out of state."

These breeding pair and habitat conditions are important to waterfowl hunters as roughly 70 percent of mallard harvest in Wisconsin is supported by locally hatched ducks. Although higher this year, it is important to note that the average mallard population in the last few years has been lower than the previous decade. This observation suggests that continued efforts aimed at controlling mallard harvest impacts and support for grassland nesting habitat conservation are important to the future of Wisconsin's local mallard population.

Canada goose population estimates similar to 2017

Wisconsin Canada goose harvest is supported by Canada geese breeding in northern Ontario, as well as those breeding locally in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin breeding estimate for Canada geese is similar to 2017 at 157,950 birds and consistent with a stable population of roughly 145,000, which is the 10-year average. Continental breeding waterfowl population estimates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey are expected to arrive in July.

In August, Wisconsin will join Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan as the Mississippi Flyway Council to analyze survey data and provide recommendations to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding waterfowl hunting regulations for 2019 seasons. These recommendations will help determine the framework under which states and provinces set waterfowl hunting seasons.

Under new federal framework, Wisconsin conducted its annual waterfowl season hearings this spring, and the Natural Resources Board approved department proposals for season structure at its April 10 meeting.

"Since this new federal framework is using data based on the prior year's breeding survey estimates, we can now propose and approve the waterfowl season several months before we have in the past," said Finger.

Earlier approval dates lead to early availability for regulations

With earlier approval dates, 2018 migratory bird season regulations [PDF] are currently available online and at many license vendors throughout Wisconsin.

As a reminder there were several significant changes to the 2018 waterfowl hunting season structure. The first of the 2018 migratory game bird seasons will open with the early Canada goose, mourning dove and early teal seasons starting on Sept. 1. Regular waterfowl hunting seasons will include a 60-day duck season which will start with a statewide opener on Sept. 29th and 92-day regular goose season which will have two splits to allow hunting during the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Highlights from the 2018 season structure include:

A reminder to Canada goose hunters, registration of Canada geese and in-field validation of the Canada goose hunting permit is no longer required.

For more information regarding migratory birds in Wisconsin, search keyword "waterfowl."

Check out a Wild Wisconsin: Off the Record podcast with DNR migratory game bird staff

Anyone interested in learning more about Wisconsin's migratory game birds is encouraged to check out a Wild Wisconsin: Off the Record podcast featuring migratory game bird staff. This podcast is available on YouTube, iTunes, and through the social media page of the DNR website.



First case of chronic wasting disease reported for Marinette County

Contact(s): Caroline Ward, wildlife biologist for Marinette County, 715-856-9160

MADISON - Due to the detection of chronic wasting disease in a captive white-tailed deer, Marinette County is now listed as a CWD-affected county and a baiting and feeding prohibition is in effect. This represents Marinette County's first known occurrence of the disease.

Florence County is within a 10-mile radius of the breeding farm on which this positive deer was found. State law requires that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources enact a ban on feeding and baiting of deer in counties or portions of counties within a 10-mile radius of a captive or free-roaming domestic or wild animal that tests positive for CWD or tuberculosis. As of July, baiting and feeding of deer will be prohibited in 43 Wisconsin counties including the additions of Marinette and Florence.

The location of this positive is also within a 10-mile radius of Forest County, thereby renewing the baiting and feeding ban in that county.

Individuals may still feed birds and small mammals, provided the feeding devices are within 50 yards of a human dwelling and at a sufficient height or design to prevent access by deer.

For more information regarding baiting and feeding regulations and CWD in Wisconsin, and how to have adult deer tested during the 2018/2019 hunting seasons, visit the department's website,, and search "baiting and feeding" and "CWD sampling" respectively. To report a sick deer on the landscape, search keywords "sick deer" or contact a local wildlife biologist.



Wisconsin's Great Waters Photo Contest 2018 winners announced

Contact(s): Susan Tesarik, DNR Office of Great Waters water specialist,, 608-267-0555.

MADISON - Nine photographers earned top honors for their entries in the Department of Natural Resources' tenth annual "Wisconsin's Great Waters" photography contest.

"Dawn at Cave Point"  - Photo credit: Michael Knapstein
"Dawn at Cave Point"Photo credit: Michael Knapstein

Their photos will be featured in the 16-month calendar that the DNR Office of Great Waters produces each year. A new video highlights all the winning photos. Details about the contest, along with all of this year's contest entries, can be found on the Office of Great Waters page of the DNR website.

Mark Straub of New Berlin, Michael Knapstein of Middleton, John Sullivan of La Crosse, and Cheryl Bougie of Green Bay won first place honors in the contest's four categories.

Philip Schwarz of Menomonie, Kelly Johnson of Eau Claire, John Cardamone of Bloomington IL, Scott Pearson of Eagle River, and Toben Lafrancois of Cornucopia won second place honors for their photographs.

Photographers from across Wisconsin and beyond submitted more than 200 beautiful photos of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and the Mississippi River. This is the first year that the Office of Great Waters included the Mississippi River in the contest.

Along with the annual photo contest, DNR coordinates a "Wisconsin's Great Waters" writing project and received sixteen submissions this year which can be found on the Office of Great Waters website. They include descriptions of stewardship efforts, poems, short stories, and other creative pieces. This year's writing project entries will be featured in the calendar as well according to Susan Tesarik, the Office of Great Waters water specialist who coordinates the contest.

The 2018-2019 Wisconsin's Great Waters calendar will be available this later this summer at DNR regional offices and state parks.

"The annual photo contest and writing project is a fun way to share the many ways we interact with and value the Great Lakes and Mississippi River," said Office of Great Waters Director, Steve Galarneau. "As these photos and writings clearly show, the Great Lakes and Mississippi River are among Wisconsin's most cherished natural resources."

DNR's Office of Great Waters is currently accepting writings and photos of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and the Mississippi River for next year's contest. "Wisconsin's Great Waters" photo contest and writing project information and submission instructions can be found on the Office of Great Waters website. Visit and search "Great Waters Photo Contest."



Comments sought on proposal to add more electric campsites at Mirror Lake State Park

Contact(s): Phil Rynish, DNR Property Planner, 608-266-5854 or Ryder Will, Mirror Lake State Park Superintendent, 608-254-4055

Public comment period open through July 17

BARABOO, Wis. -- Ensuring all campers can continue to be accommodated at Mirror Lake State Park is the goal of a master plan variance open for public review and input. The proposed variance will allow park managers greater flexibility in deciding where campsites with electricity can be added and keep all land management at Mirror Lake State Park under its current classification.

The park has experienced an increase in visitors who desire sites with electricity but has not always been able to accommodate them. Master plans that specify the number of electrical sites allowed in each campground at the park have limited the ability of park managers to meet these visitor's needs.

The proposed variance will authorize park managers to add electricity to as many sites as is allowable by state statute. Park managers anticipate adding electricity to sites in the Sandstone Ridge and Cliffwood campgrounds, which already have electricity on a portion of their sites.

The public is welcome to comment on the variance from July 3 to July 17. To review the park's current master plan, the proposed variance, and give your feedback online: go to, keyword search "master planning," then click on Mirror Lake State Park Variance.

Comments and questions can be directed to DNR Planner Phil Rynish, by email at, mail at 101 S. Webster Street, LF/6, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921, or phone at 608-266-5854; or to Mirror Lake State Park Superintendent Ryder Will by email at, mail at E10320 Fern Dell Road, Baraboo, WI 53913, or phone at 608-254-4055.


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Contact information

For more information about news and media, contact:
Sarah Hoye
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(608) 267-2773