Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Photo of a stream © Eric Poggemann

Headwaters of a stream fed by Boulder Lake.
© Eric Poggemann

April 2011

Readers Write

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River Alliance of Wisconsin Annouces Photo Contest Winner

Eric Poggemann from Fredonia, Wis. is the grand prize winner in the River Alliance of Wisconsin photo contest. He captured the winning photograph at the headwaters of a stream fed by Boulder Lake. "It's a little gem of an area," according to Poggemann. "The main subject in the photo is the piece of driftwood caught among the rocks. I used a slow shutter speed to emphasize the movement of water around the boulders and driftwood. The photo was most dramatic converted to black and white."

Erin Courtenay, communications coordinator
River Alliance of Wisconsin

Magazine Renewal Mailing Address in Iowa?

We sometimes hear from astute readers who are paying close attention to their mail and are curious, "Is there a valid purpose for why Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine maintains an Iowa mailbox (37838) for renewals?"

The magazine is a member of a group of natural resources magazines in other states. We band together and work with a subscription service located in Iowa, and are able to receive a volume discount. The firm is one of only a few agencies in the country that can provide magazine subscription services at the volume we require. We welcome your interest in our publication. Thanks for asking!

What's the Story Behind WNR Magazine?

The DNR's magazine started as The Wisconsin Conservationist from 1919-1922. Thereafter conservation updates were mimeographed and stapled to the monthly arrest reports filed by conservation wardens starting in 1929.

It was renamed Wisconsin Conservation Commission Monthly Survey in the mid-1920s. Since 1936, Wisconsin's conservation/ natural resources agency has produced a magazine to keep the agency in touch with the large number of Wisconsin residents and visitors who appreciate the outdoors and outdoor activities.

The Wisconsin Conservation Bulletin, which was produced with state funds and distributed free-of-charge to anyone who requested, was published from 1936-76. In addition to homeowners, many tavern owners, barbershops, hairdressers and school libraries received "The Bulletin" and the topics covered within provided lively conversation. In its first year, the bulletin had 2,600 subscribers and grew to more than 25,000 subscribers by 1945.

The magazine was redesigned in 1977. Adding color pages and many more photos made the presentation more lively and vivid. However, costs of producing a color publication were higher. The Legislature agreed to let the Department of Natural Resources produce a color publication as long as it was self-supporting and was not paid for with tax dollars.

Wisconsin Natural Resources is a self-sustaining publication that covers all its salary, production, printing and mailing costs through subscription sales, insert sales and distribution to Conservation Patrons. No tax dollars are used to support the publication. Wisconsin's natural resource magazine has one of the largest circulations in the nation (currently about 80,000), is among the largest circulations in the state and may be the only state natural resource magazine in the nation that is self-supporting.

Through feature articles, columns and nature features, Wisconsin Natural Resources covers a full spectrum of emerging outdoor and environmental issues in The Badger State. It encourages its readers to participate in outdoor activities, appreciate a healthy outdoor environment and contribute to its welfare. The publication continues to provide examples for educators and outdoor activists showing how humans affect the outdoors, the landscape and wild communities. We discuss the changing nature of outdoor experiences and options for resolving conflicts while protecting resources.

WNR magazine editorial staff

Elk Story Draws Comment

Thank you very much for the elk article in your magazine (A herd in the balance, December 2010) and for mentioning the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in a couple of places regarding some specific RMEF financial contributions. I would like to point out however, that RMEF has been a major partner in this elk reintroduction study/project since its inception! In fact RMEF has contributed almost one million dollars to Wisconsin through 2010, which has been leveraged into over five million dollars of total Wisconsin project value. We believe the citizens of Wisconsin should be made aware of how important private nonprofit wildlife conservation groups such as RMEF are to the success of many of our Wisconsin wildlife programs.

RMEF has over 6,000 members in Wisconsin who take pride in our Wisconsin elk project partnership. We believe many more would consider joining and supporting our conservation efforts if they were aware of how important our contributions are to the success of these projects.

Lou George
Regional Director, RMEF
La Crosse

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has acquired conservation easements on over 1,500 acres of private land in Ashland and Sawyer counties, thus protecting these properties from development and providing habitat for not only elk but black bear, white-tailed deer, wolves, ruffed grouse, fisher, bobcat and songbirds, to name a few. Visit Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to learn more about their efforts in Wisconsin.

I read your article on elk in the Clam Lake area in the December issue. If you want to have more elk, open a season on wolves – it's that simple. The Department of Natural Resources continues to fail us. All the collars and road signs in the world don't compare to the predation by wolves. Sit back in your chair for a moment and close your eyes and picture that newborn elk on page 19 being torn apart while still alive by a pack of wolves. Maybe you should show your readers that image.

Richard Piontek
New Berlin

The ability to control growing wolf populations in areas where predation of livestock and other animals is prevalent may certainly be among the strategies available in the future. We have been working to resolve this with federal agencies and the courts as we proceed with reasonable wolf management.

After reading with great interest "A herd in the balance," I was left mostly appalled. I cannot believe we trap and transport elk to avoid predation by wolves. In addition to that, I can only imagine how much time, money and effort have been put forth by the license buyers and private groups only to feed predators. All this for a viable and huntable herd? How many years will this take with a close to zero production rate? If this is the case, we clearly are not making enough of a case for proper management of "all" our animal species here including the wolf. History is destined to repeat itself since we've forgotten the wolf's past "history" with both man and beast.

Dayne Zastrow

I enjoyed your article in the Wisconsin DNR magazine. I would like to comment on the elk crossing warning system. In the article you state that "despite progress...since the warning system was installed, 10 elk have been killed by vehicles within a quarter-mile of flashing warning lights."

I own property, hunt and fish in the Clam Lake area and drive the stretch of Highway 77 between Clam Lake and Highway S very often. What is frustrating to the locals and anyone who spends significant time up there is the warning lights are flashing at least 90 percent of the time. I have literally been up there on a four-day weekend and have driven that section a dozen or more times and every light was flashing every time I went by. One weekend the only sign that was not flashing had an uncollared cow standing right under the sign. It sort of reinforced the perception the signs are not reliable. I do realize the entire herd is not collared and the un-collared elk do not trip the warning system, but occasional tourists do not usually know that.

What is happening is the sensitivity of the warning system is so high that folks start ignoring them as false positives. Could the sensitivity of the system be reduced from one mile to perhaps one-fourth or one-half mile? If the lights were not constantly flashing, people might pay more attention to them when they do flash and they would be more effective. The reflective collars do work and are very efficient. Even collaring some of the elk with nonradio reflective collars could prevent a collision and save some of the research funds at the same time. Another hazard posed by the elk is the occasional tourist who spots an elk while driving on Highway 77 and stops in the middle of the highway to observe, oblivious to any other traffic (especially coming from behind). I have seen a couple of close calls that could have been avoided if people would just pull off on the generous shoulders available on that stretch of road.

Rob Slotten

Laine Stowell, DNR's lead elk biologist, replies...

Mr. Slotten is correct. The lights do flash most of the time. If one looks at the radio locations of elk, the highest concentration of locations are along STH 77 in the area of these lights. That stretch also happens to be the border between the Ghost Lake and Torch River wolf packs which are responsible for 90 percent of all wolf predation on elk, and the likely reason the elk concentrate in this area. Many wolf researchers have found that large ungulates – like moose, elk, deer or big horn or Dall sheep – focus their activities in the border areas of wolf packs. These are the areas where the wolves spend the least time. So elk, which don't want to be eaten, spend more time in those areas.

Unfortunately, along STH 77 is a risky place for elk to hang out because of motorist travel. Because these lights are constantly being triggered by the presence of collared elk, they have been flashing most of the time. As of mid-December this warning system has been operating for three years.

For the first two years, it reduced the elk-vehicle collision rate in half, but during the last year it has risen again. Since the lights flash all the time because elk are present all the time, we've turned the lights on so they flash constantly to remind motorists that this six-mile stretch of highway is an area where they should increase their caution and reduce their speed. The life you save might be your own!

As for saving money on collaring, the main purpose of the radio collars is to track distribution and survivorship of the elk. Each collar has a mortality trigger, so if an elk dies or is killed the signal changes from one beep per second to two beeps per second, our signal to investigate. The cost of these radio collars and much of the cost to capture elk and fit them with collars is donated by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The recommendation to place blaze orange reflective collars on the elk to make them more visible to motorists has helped reduce vehicle collisions. Also, since we've put them on some 50 cow elk, no cows have been accidently shot by deer hunters.

As for the risks to motorists from other motorists viewing wildlife, this indeed does occur around Clam Lake as it does anywhere where wildlife watching occurs. Local law enforcement normally reacts to those activities but Clam Lake is a long way from county seats and enforcement staff and budget reductions will likely only increase the problem. Highway signage might help, but, as Mr. Slotten mentioned, if people ignore flashing elk crossing signs they're likely to ignore other caution signs. We welcome any creative solutions the public might have for these and other problems.

Thanks for the Sterling North Memory

Thank you SO much for including Johanna Fabke's piece on Sterling North (Sterling North, Wisconsin storyteller, December 2010). I know I read Rascal in school when it first came out. I hadn't given it a thought in years until I read her story in the December issue. Besides bringing a smile to my face, it spurred me to locate a copy of the book and read it again. It truly was like reading it for the first time. However, this time, reading it as an adult, the story had so much more poignancy than I know it did when I read it years ago. Besides initiating my search for the other Sterling North books, Edgerton will be on our list of places to visit this coming year. Many thanks to both you and Ms. Fabke for bringing back a very happy memory for me.

Valerie Stabenow