Annual fall migration bus tour on tap

The Friends of the Refuge Headwaters will again offer a bus tour to view the fall migration and changing colors of the Upper Mississippi River from 9 a.m.–3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11.
Participants will have the opportunity to view migrating tundra swans and other waterfowl up close on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. The trip will also include a stop at a Refuge Visitor Center on Brice Prairie, WI.
The bus tour will leave from Winona, MN, travel to Brice Prairie, and then travel downriver to the Brownsville Overlook near Brownsville, MN. Interpreters will be on-board to answer questions and binoculars, spotting scopes and brochures will be provided for the day.
There is limited seating and reservations are required. Cost is $25 per person, which includes a box lunch. There will be no refunds issued after  registration deadline.
To make your reservation for the Swan Watch Bus Tour, contact Mary Stefanski by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or at 507-454-7351. Please leave a message if she is unavailable when you call. Registration is due Friday, Nov. 3.

SOURCE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge


Area refuge friends group receives national award

TREMPEALEAU, WI - The Friends of Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge has been named the 2017 Molly Krival Friends Group of the Year.
This national award is named to honor the late Molly Krival, a pioneer in the Refuge Friends Group movement and is sought after by Friends groups across the country.
The Friends of Trempealeau was established a decade ago by local refuge supporters and aimed to help meet the needs of the refuge. Since that time, the group has developed into an organization with a broader awareness and greater appreciation of the National Wildlife Refuge System mission.
Friends of Trempealeau members have proven to be an essential asset to the small staff refuge. With only four full-time personnel, the refuge could not possibly meet the needs of visitors and wildlife without the determination and perseverance of the Friends.
Friends members work side-by-side with visitor services staff to provide for the needs of school children, disabled duck hunters, birders, bicyclists and weekend tourists.
They work with the refuge manager to address neighboring landowner concerns and encourage environment-friendly best practices. This Friends group has consistently gone above and beyond to help their refuge.
In 2016, Friends of Trempealeau worked endlessly to construct an environmental education classroom for the thousands of school children that visit the refuge every year. The Friends Group secured three different grants for the project: a grant from Trempealeau County to completely fund construction, another grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to build an adjacent outdoor classroom, and a third grant from the Town of Trempealeau to deliver teacher orientation and training.
Working with local contractors and suppliers, the Friends group built the facility to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specifications under budget and on schedule. Thanks to the Friends of Trempealeau, the Outdoor Wonders Learning Center has now become an asset not only to the refuge, but to the entire community.
The Friends of Trempealeau strive to make the most of the resources the refuge has to offer by providing more accessibility for everyone. They made a generous contribution to the refuge to purchase an eBird station, the first electronic birding station on the Mississippi River. They have also constructed an accessible photography blind with a grant from North American Nature Photographers Association, who they partner with every year to provide meals for a waterfowl hunt for people with disabilities.
The Friends were also quick to respond to threats posed by invasive plants and continue to work with adjacent landowners and high school students to address the issue.
This Friends group embodies a strong positive influence within the refuge and the surrounding community. They support the refuge in every way that they can and have clearly worked tirelessly to help Trempealeau Refuge grow and prosper.
For more information about this event, contact the refuge at 608-539-2311 or stop in at the refuge office M-F, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 pm. Information may also be found on the Refuge’s webpage at http://www.fws.gov/refuge/trempealeau/.
Connect with our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TrempealeauNWR/
 
SOURCE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Be aware of elk near Clam Lake, Jackson County

MADISON, WI - State wildlife officials are reminding the public, and especially hunters, to be aware of elk in central and far northern Wisconsin as they enjoy the fall season.
Elk were first reintroduced near Clam Lake in 1995. The Clam Lake elk range includes portions of southeast Bayfield, southwest Ashland, eastern Sawyer, northeast Rusk and western Price counties. Although elk use private lands in these areas, they are often found on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, county and industrial forest lands, and the Flambeau River State Forest. Most of the approximately 190 elk live near the towns of Clam Lake, Butternut, Winter, Draper, Tony, Shanagolden and Glidden.
The Black River elk range is located in Jackson County. While the majority of the herd resides in the Black River State Forest to the southeast of Black River Falls, a few of the approximately 60 animals in the herd have wandered into surrounding counties since their reintroduction in 2015.
"After a very active rut in 2016, we believe we've had an excellent calving season with good survivorship in both elk ranges," said Kevin Wallenfang, Department of Natural Resources deer and elk ecologist. "As a result, both elk ranges hold a significant number of calves at 150 to 200 pounds, or about the size of an adult white-tailed deer. Please be careful while hunting in the elk range, not only while afield, but also while you drive to your hunting spots."
Deer hunters in these areas are asked to use caution and are reminded that it is currently illegal to shoot an elk in Wisconsin. A helpful graphic is available for those looking for more information regarding the difference between an elk and a white-tailed deer in the field.
"More and more people are becoming aware and excited about our elk herds in the state, and that excitement will grow as the herds grow," Wallenfang says. "We need everyone to take ownership in them so that both herds continue to increase and provide recreational opportunities in the form of viewing and, eventually, a hunt."
To receive email updates regarding current translocation efforts, visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled "subscribe for updates for DNR topics," then follow the prompts and select the "elk in Wisconsin" and "wildlife projects" distribution lists.
For more information regarding elk in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "elk."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge trap tags available

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will issue special use permits and trap tags for the 2017-2018 furbearer trapping season on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge beginning Oct. 2, at the Savanna District, 7071 Riverview Rd, in Thomson, IL.
Phone: 815-273-2732, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Trap tags also will be issued beginning on Oct. 10, at the following locations:
* Winona District, 51 East 4th Street, Room 203, Winona, MN; Phone 507-454-7351; Monday–Friday, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
* La Crosse District, N5727 County Road Z, Onalaska, WI; Phone 608-779-2399; Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
* McGregor District, 470 Cliffhaven Road, Prairie du Chien, WI; Phone 608-326-0515; Monday–Friday, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
*If traveling from a long distance, please call and confirm that staff will be in the office to issue tags.
Regulations require that trappers possess a refuge permit and trap tags to trap furbearers on the refuge. Trap tags must be obtained in person and trappers must have a valid 2017-2018 state trapping license in their possession when obtaining trap tags. Wisconsin residents must provide printed proof of trapping privileges at time of application. Refuge employees do not have access the WIDNR electronic system to verify privileges via conservation card or driver's license. Each trapper will receive 40 trap tags with their permit. All traps placed on the refuge must have a tag attached. Refuge trapping permits are issued for a fee of $30 for trappers 18 years or older and $5 for trappers under age 18. Only cash and checks can be accepted.  
Trappers who did not return their fur catch report for the 2016-2017 seasons will not be issued a trapping permit for this year.
Additional information can be found in the Refuge’s Furbearer Management Plan available on the web at http://www.fws.gov/refuge/upper_mississippi_river/ or by contacting one of the District offices.

SOURCE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Drive through a Minnesota state forest to view fall color

With 59 state forests that cover 4.2 million acres, Minnesota state forests are a great place to view fall color, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
“Forests with a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees offer a wonderful fall color experience,” said Jennifer Teegarden, DNR forestry outreach specialist. “The dark green needles of conifers accent the yellow, orange and red leaves of deciduous trees.”

Here are a few routes to consider:
Late September
* Bear Island State Forest loop - From Ely head south on state Highway 1 toward Isabella for about 20 miles. Take a right on New Tomahawk Road toward Babbitt for about 17 miles. Turn right on County Road 21 for 15 miles back to Ely.
* Kabetogama State Forest loop - From Orr head north on state Highway 53 for 4 miles. Turn right on County Road 180 to head east for 16 miles. Turn right on Forest Road 203 to head east for about 4.5 miles. Turn right on Vermillion Falls road to head east for 8 miles. Turn right on County Road 24/23 and follow to Orr for 26 miles.
* White Earth State Forest - Starting at Roy Lake head east on state Highway 200 for 1.5 miles. Turn right on Strawberry Mountain Road to head south for 5 miles. At Norris Trail turn left to head east for 3 miles. Turn left on Height of Land Road to head north back to Highway 200. For a longer loop follow Strawberry Mountain road to state Highway 113. Turn right on state Highway 113 to head east. Turn left on Height of Land Road to head north back to Highway 200.

Early to mid-October
* St. Croix and Nemadji state forests loop - From I35, take Hinckley exit #183 and head east on State Highway 48 for 19 miles. Turn left to head north on County Road 24 and follow as it curves east and north for 7 miles. Turn right on County Road 25 to head east for 9.5 miles. At Markville, head north on County Road 31 for about 12 miles. Turn left on Park Forest Road/Park Truck Trail to head west for 13 miles. Turn right on County Road 171 to head north for 2 miles. Turn left onto County Road 154/Kerrick Road to head west for 5 miles. At Kerrick, head south on state Highway 23 for 18 miles to I35 exit #195.
* Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest loop - From downtown Red Wing head south on Highway 61 for 10.5 miles. At Frontenac take a right onto Country 2 to head east for 9 miles. Take a right onto County Road 3 to head east for 4 miles. Take a right onto state Highway 58 to head north for 1.5 miles. Take a left onto Hay Creek Trail to head north for about 4.5 miles. Hey Creek Trail turns into Twin Bluff Road at Pioneer Trail. Continue on Twin Bluff Road for 1.5 miles and turn left on East Ave to return to downtown Red Wing.
Visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_forests/fall-colors.html for additional scenic routes and state forest information. Entrance into a state forest is free. State forest campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis for $14 a night.  
Visit the Minnesota state parks and trails Fall Color Finder at www.mndnr.gov/fall_colors to find areas in Minnesota with peak fall color. The Fall Color Finder is updated every Thursday through the end of October.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Fall festivals scheduled in Badger State

MADISON, WI - From fall color hikes, runs and bicycle rides, to releasing small sturgeon, pumpkin carving and Halloween activities, visitors to Wisconsin State Park System properties have multiple opportunities to enjoy fall in Wisconsin. More than 20 fall festivals and events are planned at properties over the next month.
"Fall is one of the best seasons of the year to get out and enjoy our state parks, forests, trails and recreation areas," said Wisconsin State Parks Director Ben Bergey. "The combination of the heavily forested areas and the great vistas make our parks and forests key destinations for fall color viewing. And thanks to our many friends groups and partnerships with other organizations, our properties are able to offer a wide variety of fall activities."
Festival events kick off Sept. 30, with fall color bike rides at the John Muir Trails in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, SturgeonFest at Milwaukee's Lakeshore State Park - where people have an opportunity to release a live young sturgeon - and Fall Color Weekend at Governor Thompson State Park. Events then run each weekend through the end of October. For a complete list of events, search the Department of Natural Resources website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords "Get Outdoors." To find fall festival events, click on the checkbox for "festivals" under the "Type" button.
Sept. 30 - Fall Color Festival Bike Rides on the John Muir Trails, Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit - a full day of heart pounding, side aching, gear grinding mountain bike excitement for the entire family. The Fall Color Festival is an annual mountain bike fundraiser held at the John Muir trails in Southeastern Wisconsin. 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
Sept. 30 - Art in the Park, Copper Falls State Park- Hike the signature Doughboy's waterfall trail, check out art exhibits from local artists and a wood carving demonstration. Nature activities for kids, T-shirt stamping and pumpkin carving (while supplies last). Refreshments available at the Concession Building. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Followed at 7:30 p.m. by a "Universe in the Park" program.
Sept. 30 - Sturgeon Fest w/RiverEdge Nature Center at Lakeshore State Park - Pre-sponsor a sturgeon at Sturgeonfest.org to release your own sturgeon. The festival is free for all ages; a donation of $10 is appreciated for sponsoring a sturgeon. Pre-register to sponsor a fish; registration closes at 2 p.m. Sept. 29, but if there are still sturgeon left, people can register at the event. The festival continues all day with games and crafts for kids, a scavenger hunt, an Adventure Rock climbing wall, prairie tours, a live performance of "The Great Global Extravaganza" from the Milwaukee County Zoo, educational booths, local food trucks and more. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sept. 30 - Fall Festival, Roche-A-Cri State Park - Celebrate fall and the end of the camping season with the Friends of Roche-A-Cri State Park. Games, hayrides, crafts and fun for the whole family. Free admission day, food and drinks available for purchase from the friends group. 1 to 5 p.m.
Sept. 30-Oct. 1 - Fall Color Weekend, Governor Thompson State Park - hike on the best marked "Color Trail" and when you're done, enjoy snacks and refreshments in the Visitor's Center. 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 - MacKenzie Center Fall Festival - Participate in many activities including archery, compass skills, geocaching, wildlife tours, fire building, hiking, pumpkin painting, a hay bale maze, gunny sack races, face painting, scarecrow making, hayrides, and much more. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Oct. 7 - Changing Colors Ride and Family Game Day, Stower Seven Lakes State Trail - Participants can take a leisurely ride as far as they want to go - up to a 28-mile round-trip - with stops at Wanderoos and seven points of interest along the trail. Family games will be set up at the Soo Line Park in Amery all day. 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Oct. 7 - S'more Fun Trail Run, Mirror Lake State Park- Join the Friends of Mirror Lake State Park and trail running volunteers for the 2nd annual S'more Fun Trail Run. There will be 5K and 10K runs as well as a 1-mile hike that is great for all ages. All proceeds benefit Mirror Lake State Park. 7 a.m.-1 p.m.
Oct. 7 - Run Wild 2017, Potawatomi State Park - The Friends of Potawatomi State Park present Run Wild 2017. Events include a 5K run/walk, quarter marathon run, and Smokey Bear Fun Run for the kids. 7:30 a.m.-noon.
Oct. 7 - Fall Candlelight Hike in the Park, Kohler Andrae State Park - Come enjoy a fall evening at Kohler-Andrae with family and friends. Visitors are asked to park in the picnic lots and walk to the outdoor shelter. The hike will be self-guided on a torch-lit trail starting at the outdoor shelter near parking lot #8. Master Naturalist Chris Lilek will entertain with songs and stories around the campfire. Weather permitting there will be telescope viewing by the UW-Sheboygan Astronomy Dept. Cider and snacks will be provided at the outdoor shelter. All children must be accompanied by an adult. No pets please. 6-8 p.m.
Oct. 7 - Fall Candlelight Hike, Governor Dodge State Park - Stroll down the Lakeview Trail lit with glowing candlelight. Enjoy s'mores around the bonfire after your walk. The Iowa County Astronomers will also have telescopes set up on the Cox Hollow Lake Dam for visitors to view the night sky. Sponsored by the Friends of Governor Dodge. Start at Cox Hollow Beach. 7-9 p.m.
Oct. 13 - Harvest Moon Festival, Capital Springs State Recreation Area - Join our autumnal celebration of the natural world featuring educational exhibits along a torch-lit trail with many live critters, kids' tree climb, and interactive games! Warm up by a roaring bonfire, roast s'mores, and listen to live music from the Poor Hearts. Visitors can also enjoy the silent auction with many locally-sources items and seasonal treats such as homemade pie, chili hot dogs, and cider for sale. Admission is $5 per person (ages 5 and under are free). Military children are free with parent's military identification. Sponsored by the Friends of Capital Springs. 6-9 p.m.
Oct. 14 - Kinnickinnic State Park Fall Festival- Kids up to age 12 can join us in their Halloween Costume as we celebrate all things fall. We will have fun, nature-based activities and crafts for kids of all ages to enjoy - including the parks largest leaf pile to jump in! 2-4 p.m.
Oct. 20-21 - Halloween Nature Hikes Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit - Join us for a fun-filled stroll through the dark autumn woods to meet some fascinating characters including the mighty dragonfly, invading crayfish, wriggly worm, and stealthy preying mantis. This is not a scary hike and is best for those more than five years of age. 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 - Halloween Mystery Candlelight Hike, Mirror Lake State Park - We will have an easy 1-mile torch lit trail to hike. Kids of all ages can help us find clues and discover our mystery guest. There will also be an activity for the kids at the Amphitheater. The Friends will have food and beverages available for purchase, and everyone can enjoy the roaring bonfire. 6-8 p.m.
Oct. 21 - Spooktacular and Food Drive, Mead Wildlife Area - Join us for our 7th annual non-scary, family fun night Halloween event: Play games, make crafts, decorate a pumpkin or cookie, warm-up by the campfire. Admission is free with a non-perishable food item, or $2 per person.6-8 p.m.
Oct. 21 - Halloween Campground Walk, High Cliff State Park - Traditionally campers decorate their campsites for the Halloween Holiday at High Cliff State Park. The Family Campground roads are closed to motor vehicles from 4-8 p.m.
Oct. 21 - "Not So Spooky" Hike, Merrick State Park - Join us for a "Not So Spooky" self-guided night hike on one of our trails lit by jack-o-lanterns and tiki-torches. Try your hand at making fall decorations or just hang out by the bonfire and roast a hot dog or marshmallow! 6-8 p.m.
Oct. 21 - Friends Halloween Hike, Devil's Lake State Park - You can go on a 1-mile torch lit hike; show off your costume by the campfire while roasting a marshmallow or two, and listen to the songs of Campfire Kevin; enjoy some tasty treats sold by the Friends group; and find out about snakes! You can even make a snake to take home with you. 6-8:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 - Eco-Halloween Hike, Richard Bong State Recreation Area- non-scary, family event. Enjoy jack-o-lanterns, Halloween nature skits, campfires, games and crafts. Refreshments for sale. You may arrive anytime between 6:30 and 8 p.m. to sign up for a hike. Hikes take about a half-hour. 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 - Candlelight Hike, Lake Kegonsa State Park - Spend a beautiful fall evening hiking along the 1.2-mile White Oak Nature Trail, which will be lit with hundreds of glowing jack-o-lanterns and luminaries. When you are finished, warm up by the bonfire and enjoy refreshments sold by the Lake Kegonsa State Park Friends Group. There is no fee for this event, but a valid park admission sticker is required. Sorry, pets are not allowed on this trail.: 6-9 p.m.
Oct. 28 - Campers Halloween, Kohler Andrae State Park - There are several campers that return each year and set up very elaborate Halloween decorations on their sites. It has become a popular attraction for the public. The best way to see it is by walking. Due to the large numbers of pedestrians, the North campground will be closed to vehicles from 5-8 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 28. Children are encouraged to "Trick or Treat" While walking through the displays.
Oct. 28 - Willow River Halloween Bash, Willow River State Park - Join Friends of Willow River and Kinnickinnic State Parks at the Nature Center for this fun, even spooky evening. Don't forget to wear your costume! Games, crafts, snacks, storytelling and more for the family to enjoy. 5:30-7:30 p.m.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Wolf population increases with rise in deer density

Results from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ 2016-1017 wolf population survey suggest Minnesota’s wolf population has increased 25 percent since the 2015-2016 survey.  
After remaining stable during the past four years, the survey estimates that within Minnesota’s wolf range there were approximately 500 wolf packs and 2,856 wolves. The survey’s margin of error is about plus or minus 500 wolves. The 2015-2016 survey estimated the number of packs at 439 and the wolf population at 2,278.
Minnesota’s wolf population remains well above the state’s minimum goal of at least 1,600 wolves and also above the federal recovery goal of 1,251 to 1,400. The DNR has consistently managed wolf populations at levels that exceed both state and federal minimums.
Survey results suggest packs were slightly larger (4.8 vs. 4.4) and used smaller territories (54 square miles vs. 62 square miles) than the previous winter. Although neither individually represented a significant change from recent years, collectively they explain the increase in the population estimate and are consistent with a continuing increase in deer numbers observed in many parts of wolf range. From spring 2015 to spring 2016, deer density within the wolf range is estimated to have increased 22 percent.
“From approximately 2005 to 2014, a decline in prey appears to have translated into larger wolf pack territories, fewer or smaller packs and a reduced wolf population, said John Erb, the DNR’s wolf research scientist. “Now, the reverse appears to be happening.”
Although other factors such as pack competition, disease and human-caused mortality can influence wolf population dynamics, prey density typically determines the carrying capacity for wolves.
“Changes in estimated wolf abundance generally have tracked those of deer over the past 5 years,” Erb said.
The wolf population survey is conducted in mid-winter near the low point of the annual population cycle. A winter survey makes counting pack size from a plane more accurate because the forest canopy is reduced and snow makes it easier to spot darker shapes on the ground.
Pack counts during winter are assumed to represent minimum estimates given the challenges with detecting all members of a pack together at the same time. A winter count also excludes the population spike that occurs each spring when the number of wolves typically doubles immediately following the birth of pups, many of which do not survive to the following winter.
The DNR’s goal for wolf management, as outlined in the state’s wolf management plan, is to ensure the long-term survival of wolves in Minnesota while addressing wolf-human conflicts. Minnesota currently has no direct management responsibility for wolves now because a federal district court ruling in December 2014 returned Minnesota’s wolves to the federal list of threatened species. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service manages all animals on that list.
Visit the DNR website at mndnr.gov/wolves to find the full population survey report, reported wolf mortalities and an overview of wolves in Minnesota.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR