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West-Central Wisconsin

KINNICKINIC STATE PARK - The high sun angle and warmer spring temperatures have greatly reduced the park's snowpack. Many south facing slopes and open areas are nearly snow free. Other areas with less direct sunlight, such as in the woods or on north facing slopes, have knee deep snow.
Loons, hooded mergansers and wood ducks have been seen on the waters of the park and in surrounding areas. Nesting eagles have been active and can be observed from the St. Croix overlook. Blue birds and tree swallows are staking out their nesting boxes in the prairies and gobbling wild turkeys can be heard by those who visit the park during the early mornings.
The St. Croix's main channel is generally ice fee. Spring snowmelt has impacted river levels. The river is predicted to rise above the 683 foot slow no wake threshold. Boaters should monitor river levels and conditions prior to venturing out on the river.
The hill from the St. Croix parking lot to the beach is closed to vehicle traffic. It is still accessible to foot travel and is the most convenient access to the St. Croix River.
All park trails are open to foot travel. Trail surfaces vary from scattered snow and puddles, to mud and grass. Spring weather causes conditions to change day by day. Waterproof footwear with good traction is encouraged. Mountain bikes and/or fat tire bikes are not allowed on park trails.
Fishing on the Kinnickinnic River is open for Wisconsin's early catch and release trout season. A valid Wisconsin fishing license and trout stamp are required. Anglers have been finding success with a variety of nymphs, midges and dry flies, according to Eric Klumb, ranger.

VERNON COUNTY - Finally! Warm temperatures have created favorable conditions for increased animal activities.
Spring peepers are peeping, chorus frogs are singing, wood frogs are croaking, snipe are winnowing, woodcock are peenting, turkeys are gobbling and turkey vultures are soaring.
Turkey vultures are marvelous birds with several unique characteristics and adaptations. As the mornings brighten, turkey vultures may often be seen sunning themselves by spreading their wings and exposing them to sun's warmth for several minutes before they fly. This sunning behavior helps elevate their body temperature before they try to fly and also supports vitamin D production within their body. They tend to be late risers, waiting for the sun to warm them and to create thermals so they can circle and fly directly to a food source located the previous day.
Turkey vultures use their 6-foot wingspan to glide and soar extensively on thermal updrafts and seldom flap their wings for powered flight. While soaring, turkey vultures use their acutely developed sense smell and sight to locate carrion, their primary food source. As a group, most birds have poorly developed olfactory senses, but it is the complete opposite in turkey vultures. Weak feet and talons for the bird's size preclude turkey vulture from carrying off carrion in their talons. Instead, they gorge themselves at the feeding site and use the lift of their wings to become airborne. If they have consumed too much food to become airborne, they may regurgitate a portion to decrease their weight. Turkey vultures appear to have excellent immune systems, feasting on carcasses without contracting botulism, anthrax, cholera, or salmonella.
Turkey vultures are social birds and often gather and soar in large flocks known as kettles. They do not construct nests, preferring to lay their eggs in the ground in dark recesses among rocky ledges, caves, crevices, or hollow logs. Sometimes they will utilize abandoned stick nest of other large birds, mammal burrows, or abandoned buildings. Fortunately, turkey vulture numbers have increased over the past 50 years and are strong throughout North America, according to Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua.

BLACK RIVER STATE FOREST - Spring temperatures have finally arrived with highs in the 60s and low 70s this week. Snow is melting quickly with only the larger piles of snow remaining.
This is a great time to visit the state forest. Birds are moving through on their spring migration, insects populations are still low, and trees are starting to bud out.
Hiking and biking trails are open, but may be a little muddy in spots. Temperatures this weekend are expected to be in the high 50s to mid 60s.
The East Fork Campground will open on Friday, April 27. The shower/flush toilet building and dump station at Castle Mound will re-open on Tuesday May 1, according to Emily Alf, visitor services associate.

BUCKHRON STATE PARK - People have been fishing from shore at the Buckhorn bridge. The flowage is still in drawdown and piers will not be installed until the lake level is normal (should be around the last week of April to beginning of May).
Cranes, osprey, eagles, woodcock, turkeys, grouse and more are being seen all around the park.
One little brown bat has returned to the office bulletin board. Turkey hunting is open the first two periods in the park and wildlife areas and are Zone 1. (April 18-May 1) Maps are available online or at park office. Periods 3-6 are then allowed only in the Yellow River Wildlife Area.
The new campground is open and non-reservable until May 1, according to Heather Wolf, park manager.

ROCHE-A-CRI STATE PARK - The main gate will open May 5,    for the park's Work & Play Day event.
Turkey hunting is open the first two periods in the park and wildlife areas and are Zone 1. (April 18-May 1), according to Wolf.