Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Photo of girl with butterfly © Jim Luxem

"...our granddaughter captured a caterpillar and put it in ajar with a stick."
© Jim Luxem

February 2011

Readers Write

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Backwoods Mysteries

Every issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources is read cover-to-cover as soon as I receive it. Thank you for the varied, educational and informative topics that are offered. I was especially interested when I found the Wild whodunits article in the August 2010 issue. I crave new books by C.J. Box and cannot put them down once I start reading (or listening to) them so I was intrigued to read further. Thank you for the research to put this list together plus the synopses of the authors and their books. I look forward to many enjoyable hours of escaping into these mysteries tied to nature. Congratulations on a well-done magazine and good luck for continued success!

Sue Cowan
Sun Prairie

Badger Research

I want to commend you for an excellent article (Digging up dirt about badgers, October 2010) about an important Wisconsin mammal which we know little about. The two discussed research studies are throwing light on the ecology of this little seen animal. The concluding statement of the article comments: "In the end we'll have a better handle on this amazing mammal for which our state is named." Although the badger is indeed the state animal, according to the Wisconsin Blue Book, the nickname "Badger State" comes from the 1830 lead miners in southwest Wisconsin who dug like badgers. Also, my old research partner's last name is spelled "Petersen," not "Peterson."

Chuck Pils
Retired Director, Bureau of Endangered Resources

I would also like to add that this indeed is an excellent article. Now I just have to locate a badger in my part of the country to make a contribution to the genetics study. They are here and I have seen them. It may be of interest to note how our work on badgers came to be. Chuck [Pils] and I had just finished our predation field studies of red fox, red-tailed hawks and great horned owls near Waterloo in 1975. Since Pittman-Robertson federal funds did not recognize writing a research study as a legitimate job entitled to funding, we had to take on some new studies (the status of the badger, fisher and gray fox) to cover our salaries. We did not view the status reports as idle work, but as significant contributions to wildlife species in need of some sort of recognition. Badgers are fascinating critters and I am certainly pleased that the Department is finding a way to expand our knowledge of them. Keep it going!

LeRoy Petersen
Research Biologist, Retired
Rock Springs

Just read the article on badgers. After 80+ years living in Wisconsin and only a glimpse of two, I was surprised to see one in our back lawn about six weeks ago. We live in a rural area. My husband sets live traps for the raccoons that ruin our bird feeders. An unlucky gray squirrel was in it and the badger was headed right to it but when we went out on the deck it turned and went into the bushes. It reminded me of a dust mop with two bright eyes in a funny little head as it scurried across the lawn – don't know where it came from and don't know where it went.

Mavis M. Davis

Walleye Hyped

I have to take exception to Mr. Reed's letter in the October 2010 Readers Write regarding bass versus walleye. Poor table quality? Give me a break! I have caught and eaten hundreds of bass (skinned and filleted). My extended family enjoys them as much as walleye. I live on Lake Wisconsin and have fished bass for 60 years. Most are caught in spring and fall. I fish basically for fun. Bass will strike surface lures and then jump. Walleyes stay deep and are vulnerable to trolling – I find it boring. Big walleye, like big bass, take on a strong fishy taste. If it would benefit your lake, catch and eat some bass. Walleye are over-rated.

Jim Cox

Bills or Beaks?

Regarding the opening article on ducks (When duck constitution matters, October 2010), Al Cornell says something about the ducks' "beaks" sticking out of the water. My late husband always said (and I checked my bird book) that songbirds have beaks and ducks have bills! Response?

M. L. Brott

Good question! Most of the references we checked both online and in the office say the terms beak and bill (or rostrum) are interchangeable. One source distinguished beaks as "sharp and pointed" while bills were "generally wide and flat." Of course even bills have small notches on the end that aid ducks in dabbling, grabbing and grooming. Two of the books we consult – Birder's Dictionary by Randall T. Cox and National Geographic's Birding Essentials by Jonathan Alderfer and Jon L. Dunn – use the terms bill and beak interchangeably.

Sandhill Flight Patterns

On November 18, I happened to be outside in the morning and heard then saw large flocks of sandhill cranes migrating south. There were three distinct flocks and I watched them cover approximately six miles from north to south. I noticed something odd. Each flock was probably one to one-and-one-half miles high and each had 30 birds or more. They would fly about a mile or so and then go into an unpatterned complete turn-around. Then they would repattern, continue another mile or so and do the same thing. Can someone tell me if this is natural? Are they looking for others to join in or catch up?

Dennis King

Andy Paulios, Coordinator of the Bird Conservation Initiative for DNR responds...

What you saw is very normal. The cranes are more than likely finding a thermal updraft and then riding that elevational gain southwards until they find the next updraft. They behave more like hawks than geese in migration. A very fun observation!

Metamorphosis in a Jar

Regarding the article on insect collecting (Creature Comforts: Kids bugging you? August 2010), our granddaughter captured a caterpillar and put it in a jar with a stick. It made a cocoon and 10 days later it hatched. Jessica proudly showed it off before she let it go.

(Grandpa) Jim Luxem

Thanks for sharing! By the way, this is a great shot of a viceroy butterfly which is distinguished from its look-alike monarch by the horizontal stripe in the lower wings.

Update: Successful Year for Strawberry Creek

Each fall beginning in late September, staff at the Strawberry Creek Salmon Spawning Facility near Sturgeon Bay harvest eggs from Chinook salmon returning there to spawn. The facility is the primary source of Chinook eggs for Lake Michigan stocking. Lake Michigan Fisheries Biologist Scott Hansen reported that about 2.1 million Chinook eggs were harvested last year, with 230,000 harvested on the last harvest day, enough to meet the quota needed for Wisconsin stocking in 2011. Additional Chinook eggs were also collected form the Strawberry Creek and Kewaunkee spawning facilities for transfer to Indiana and Illinois.