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Weekly News Published - January 23, 2018 by the Central Office

 

Cougar presence in Wisconsin carries into 2018

MADISON - Department of Natural Resource staff confirmed trail camera photos of a cougar in Fond du Lac County in early January in addition to confirmation of a cougar moving through Lincoln and Langlade counties in mid-December.

View Slideshow SLIDE SHOW | 5 photos

Trailcam photos of cougars

The December photos were captured on one property northeast of Merrill on the same day with two separate trail cameras. Eight days later, two separate photos were captured on a property south of Antigo. Later in January, cougar photo was confirmed near Rosendale.

The properties near Antigo and Merrill are roughly 23 miles apart, and these photos present the possibility that this was the same cougar, moving in an easterly direction. It is unknown whether these photos show the same animal photographed on multiple trail cameras in central Wisconsin between early August and late October 2017, or of the cougar reported in Douglas County in mid-November.

Cougars can travel long distances in a short time period. Without biological material for genetic testing, department staff are unable to confirm whether this is one or multiple cougars. As a reminder, suspected cougar sightings can be reported by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for large mammal observation form.

Confirmed cougar sightings August 2017-January 2018 - Photo credit: DNR
Confirmed cougar sightings August 2017-January 2018Click image for larger size.

There is currently no evidence that cougars are breeding in Wisconsin. Biologists believe the cougars known to have entered Wisconsin are male cougars dispersing from a breeding population in the western United States.

Cougars are a protected species in Wisconsin and hunting is not allowed. Cougars are not considered a threat to public safety, and in the unlikely event that a person is confronted by a cougar, face the animal and spread your arms and open your coat or jacket to appear larger. If a cougar approaches, make noise and throw rocks or sticks.

Confirmed cougar sighting trail camera photos and maps with confirmed sighting locations can be found on the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, by searching keyword "cougar."

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Hunters register 3,971 birds during 2017 fall turkey hunt

MADISON - Hunters registered 3,971 birds during the fall 2017 wild turkey season, a decrease from 4,990 turkeys registered during the 2016 fall season.

The harvest success rate was 6.4 percent, compared to 7.3 percent in 2016. Success rate is calculated based on the number of harvest authorizations (formerly known as a tag or permit) sold and is not corrected for non-participation.

In total, 102,550 harvest authorizations were available within seven Turkey Management Zones in 2017, but only a 62,239 harvest authorizations were issued, down from 67,906 issued in 2016. Harvest authorization levels are determined by recent trends in harvest, hunter success and turkey reproduction, as well as hunter densities and field reports of turkey abundance.

"The fall turkey season provides a much different experience for turkey hunters than does the spring hunt, and we have a dedicated group of hunters that enjoy pursuing turkeys in the fall woods--in particular, those who hunt turkeys with dogs," said Mark Witecha, Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist.

The department first initiated a fall turkey season in 1989 after an increase and expansion of turkeys throughout the state. Since then, hunters have been able to pursue turkeys during both fall and spring seasons.

"Total fall permit sales have declined from the highs of the early 2000s, and fewer turkeys are being harvested during the fall season as a result," said Witecha. "Turkey harvest totals reflect a number of factors, including turkey population size, weather conditions, and hunter participation and effort, and we have seen participation decline as hunters balance fall turkey hunting with many other hunting opportunities available that time of year."

To learn more about Wisconsin's wild turkeys, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "turkey."

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Effort to develop 10-year inland trout management plan gets underway

MADISON - Work on developing a plan to guide inland trout management in Wisconsin over the next decade is getting underway, with an advisory team helping the Department of Natural Resources with that task meeting Jan. 27 for the first time.

The plan will address trout habitat, stocking, and other management issues in Wisconsin. The advisory team will meet at least twice this winter to help DNR staff brainstorm issues, set broad goals and define needs, says Joanna Griffin, DNR trout coordinator.

"We're excited to get this effort underway to sustain our great trout fishing into the future," Griffin says. "We want to thank everyone who is serving on the advisory team and everyone who applied to be an at-large member. We appreciate your time and dedication to inland trout management in Wisconsin."

DNR randomly selected a volunteer from each of four districts, and these at-large members are serving alongside two anglers, landowners, business/tourism officials, people representing non-consumptive interests in trout waters, Wisconsin Conservation Congress members, and tribal representatives selected by DNR biologists to represent diverse interests.

For meeting location details and the first agenda search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for inland trout management. While the meeting is open to the public to attend there is no public comment opportunity scheduled; such opportunities are built-in later in the process.

Griffin says the stakeholder team will meet two to three times this winter. In the spring and summer, DNR's trout team will write a draft plan which will go through DNR's internal approval process.

Public hearings on the draft plan would be held in the fall, with a goal of bringing the finalized plan to DNR's policymaking board for approval next fall or winter, Griffin says.

In recent years, DNR has been creating or updating management plans for different fish species and major waters. Management plans have recently been created for panfish and bass and for the Lake Michigan fishery, Griffin says.

Wisconsin has more than 13,000 miles of trout streams, including more than 5,300 miles, or 40 percent, that are Class 1 streams with naturally self-sustaining populations of wild trout. Another 46 percent, or 6,120 miles, are Class 2 trout streams that have some natural reproduction but require stocking to maintain a desirable sport fishery.

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$2.5 million available for wetland restoration projects; apply through Feb. 28

MADISON - Conservation groups, private landowners and government organizations are encouraged to apply for a share of $2.5 million available to fund wetland restoration and mitigation projects. Proposals for the current round of funding, available from the Wisconsin Wetland Conservation Trust administered by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, are due Feb. 28 and can be used to cover all aspects of restoration including land purchases, site construction and long-term maintenance and monitoring.

"We look forward to working with new partners to restore wetland functions and ecosystem services that will benefit local watersheds and communities, alike," stated Sally Jarosz, DNR program ecologist for the trust.

Created in 2014, the Wisconsin Wetland Conservation Trust program allows for the purchase of wetland mitigation credits specified by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Wisconsin DNR wetland permits. The funds generated from credit sales then help offset the cost of wetland restoration projects. Funds are awarded to applicants through a competitive request for proposal process.

The trust is currently funding wetland restoration projects on over 450 acres statewide with work on these projects continuing this year.

Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Josh Brown at 608-266-1902 or JoshuaA.Brown@wisconsin.gov, to discuss prospective projects. Additional information can be found by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "Wisconsin Wetland Conservation Trust."

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Bird lovers raise record amount for priority bird projects in 2018

MADISON -- Endangered Kirtland's warblers, the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative, and the five-year Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas project to document birds that nest in Wisconsin will get more help in 2018 thanks to 49 teams of bird lovers across the state who raised more than $90,000 through the Great Wisconsin Birdathon in 2017.

"A group of dedicated birders came together, once again, to benefit important conservation efforts in their state," said Drew Feldkirchner, who directs the Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Conservation Program. "We are grateful to everyone who participated, donated, and sponsored, along with our partners at the Natural Resources Foundation who created and led the effort."

DNR is a partner in the birdathon, which is organized and run by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. The event is like a walkathon for birders: participating teams tally as many bird species as possible on a day of their choosing between April and June and collect pledges and donations.

The funds raised through the annual event allow for the continued advancement of priority bird initiatives in Wisconsin including monitoring and protection for the federally and state endangered Kirtland's warbler.

View Slideshow SLIDE SHOW | 8 photos

How Birdathon donations benefit birds

Local birders also benefit: funds raised by the birdathon will go toward the creation of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, a follow-up to the breeding bird survey from 1995-2000 that resulted in a reference book still used routinely today to guide species conservation and land management planning. Organizational teams such as several representing Madison Audubon Society that participated in the birdathon got to keep half the funds they raised for their own conservation efforts.

Diane Packett, foundation birdathon coordinator, described the event as a competition of who can spot the most bird species but also a fun way to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with friends and family. In 2017, a record number of teams participated across the state and saw donations from a total of 796 donors. The total amount raised was $91,000, exceeding the 2017 goal of $75,000.

"We're so impressed with how Wisconsin birders mobilized for the birdathon last year, surpassing our goal by 20 percent," said Packett. "We've set an ambitious goal of $100,000 for the Great Wisconsin Birdathon 2018, and we're really excited to engage even more of the community to protect Wisconsin's birds."

A total of 10 priority local bird conservation projects received funding from the birdathon proceeds, including three new project recipients. These new projects involve bird conservation and monitoring in the Peruvian Amazon where many Wisconsin birds overwinter, colonial water bird monitoring in east-central Wisconsin, and water bird and waterfowl monitoring on Lake Michigan.

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Winter is an excellent time to prune hardwood trees

MADISON - State forestry specialists say trees should be pruned throughout their entire lives to maintain strong structure and remove dead wood. Young trees should be pruned to establish good branch structure and shape, while older trees are pruned to remove dead and/or hazardous limbs.

"The best time to prune hardwood trees in Wisconsin is during winter when a tree is not actively growing," said Paul Cigan, forest health specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Pruning is easier in winter when the leaves are gone, which makes it is easier to see damage on tree branches and limbs."

"Pruning should not remove more than 25 percent of the live top of a tree. The lower third of trunks of hardwood trees, such as oak and maple trees, should be free of limbs," Don Kissinger, a DNR urban forestry specialist, said. The DNR offers a pruning brochure that has more detailed, step-by-step tips for tree pruning. Find it by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords "tree pruning [PDF]."

Another advantage is that many tree pests "hibernate" and cannot spread tree diseases during winter. The fungus that causes oak wilt, a fatal disease of oak trees, is spread in warmer months by tiny sap-feeding beetles, which carry the pathogen between oak trees as they feed where sap is leaking. Since the act of pruning causes some seepage, it is best to prune in winter when it is too cold for the beetles to be out.

"The DNR recommends pruning oak trees between October and March when the risk of spreading oak wilt is the lowest," Cigan said.

Oak wilt is also spread in firewood. Several recent finds of infected trees in northern Wisconsin were likely the result of infected firewood brought from other areas where oak wilt is established. A good practice to prevent the spread of the disease is to keep oak firewood where it is cut for one year or until the bark is naturally loose. Besides oak wilt, Kissinger said firewood can carry many kinds of diseases and pathogens, so it is important people who move firewood in Wisconsin be aware of the risks, obey the law and take recommended precautions.

For additional information on oak wilt, visit dnr.wi.gov, keywords "oak wilt." To view firewood regulations, search for the keyword "firewood."

A list of certified arborists who offer pruning and other tree care services is available on the Wisconsin Arborist Association website at: www.waa-isa.org/arborist-for-hire/ (exit DNR).

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Contact information

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