Designs open for Minnesota 2018 Trout, Salmon Stamp

Wildlife artists can submit entries for the 2018 Minnesota Trout and Salmon Stamp through 4 p.m. Friday, July 28, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Anglers can purchase the trout and salmon stamp validation with their fishing license for an additional $10. For an extra 75 cents, purchasers can receive the pictorial stamp. It is also sold as a collectible for $10.75. Revenue from stamp sales is dedicated to trout and salmon management and habitat work.
Trout or salmon must be the primary focus of the design, though other fish species may be included in the design if they are used to depict common interaction between species or are common inhabitants of Minnesota’s lakes and rivers. Brook trout designs are not eligible this year.
Artists are prohibited from using any photographic product as part of their finished entries. Winning artists usually issue limited edition prints of the artwork and retain proceeds. Judging will take place Thursday, Aug. 3, at DNR headquarters, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul.
For more information and contest guidelines, visit mndnr.gov/stamps, or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Endangered frogs calling again in Trempealeau County

MADISON, WI - For the first time in half a century, the unique clicking call of the Blanchard's cricket frog has been documented in the marshes of Trempealeau County.
In June 2017, Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist Andrew Badje confirmed that what Wisconsin Frog and Toad Volunteer John Collison heard in Trempealeau County was indeed Blanchard's cricket frogs making their characteristic call. The call sounds like two ball bearings clicking together at increasing speed and was last reported in 1965.
While Blanchard's cricket frogs were historically abundant in southern Wisconsin in the early 1900s, they have always been rare in the northern edge of their range including in Buffalo, La Crosse, and Trempealeau counties. In those counties and statewide, Blanchard's cricket frog populations took a precipitous decline somewhere between the 1950s-1980s, and were found only in a handful of sites in southwest Wisconsin by the early 1990s. Explanations for the dramatic decrease include harsh winters, environmental pollutants, and habitat losses. The frog was added to the state endangered species list in 1982.
The frogs were also confirmed in Buffalo County in June, the first documented occurrence in that county in more than 35 years. And earlier this month, Badje documented a Blanchard's cricket frog population in La Crosse County, nearly 30 years after it was last documented.
"For frog-lovers, these are very welcome discoveries," says Badje, who works for the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation program.
"They also show how important volunteer involvement in the Wisconsin Frog and Toad survey is to helping DNR detect population trends over time for frogs and to document the possible re-occurrence of species like the Blanchard's cricket frog 30-plus years later."
The Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey is the longest running amphibian monitoring project in North America and relies largely on volunteers to collect data on the abundance, distribution and population trends of Wisconsin frogs. The survey marked its 35th anniversary in 2016 and was described in this Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine article along with a summary of frog trends over time.
"We really rely on citizen scientists to not only help monitor our frog populations, but to also provide rare species reports and other natural history observations," says Rori Paloski, a DNR conservation biologist who leads the reptile and amphibian team for DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation program.
Badje says it is still too early to tell if the Trempealeau, La Crosse, and Buffalo County discoveries are signs the Blanchard's frogs are making a comeback in Wisconsin. Their re-discovery, however, suggests the frogs may have expanded into those areas from a nearby Minnesota population.
"Continued surveying on Wisconsin routes nearby will continue to tell if the species is expanding its range here," he said. "They certainly weren't here back when we completed surveys in the region in 2012, and didn't show up on the radar here until 2015 on a Wisconsin Frog and Toad survey."
People interested in helping fund work to monitor Blanchard's cricket frogs over the long-term now have a new option. The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin recently launched the Wisconsin Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Fund, an endowment fund that provides sustainable support to protect Wisconsin's frogs, turtles, snakes, lizards and salamanders. Find more information at WisConservation.org.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Ruffed grouse counts up sharply in Minnesota

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were up 57 percent statewide this year compared to last year, according to a survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“The grouse population is nearing its 10-year peak,” said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse project leader. “Grouse populations tend to rise and fall on a decade-long cycle and counts this year are typical of what we expect as the population nears the peak.”
Drumming is a low sound produced by males as they beat their wings rapidly and in increasing frequency to signal the location of their territory. Drumming displays also attract females that are ready to begin nesting. Ruffed grouse populations are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions.
Drumming counts are an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population. The number of birds present during the fall hunting season also depends upon nesting success and chick survival during the spring and summer. For the past 68 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations.
This year, DNR staff and cooperators from 15 organizations surveyed 122 routes across the state.The 2017 survey results for ruffed grouse were 2.1 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 were 0.9 and 1.1 and 1.1 and 1.3, respectively. Counts vary from about 0.6 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 2.0 during years of high abundance.
Results this year follow an increase from 2015 to 2016. In the northeast survey region, which is the core of Minnesota’s grouse range, counts were 2.5 drums per stop; in the northwest there were 1.6 drums per stop; in the central hardwoods, 0.9 drums per stop; and in the southeast, 0.8 drums per stop. Statewide, drums per stop were as high as during the last peak in drumming in 2009, but have not yet reached previous peak levels in all regions.

Hunting prospects
For grouse hunters, the large increase in drumming counts this year is sure to be a signal of good times ahead during the fall season, said Ted Dick, DNR forest game bird coordinator.
“We’re excited about the way things are looking,” he said. “We have more good grouse habitat than anywhere in the lower 48 states.”
Grouse hunters have a wealth of public land from which to choose. There are 49 ruffed grouse management areas across northern and central Minnesota that provide destinations for hunters in areas with good potential for producing grouse. There are 528 wildlife management areas in the ruffed grouse range that cover nearly 1 million acres and 600 miles of hunter walking trails. State forests, two national forests and county forest lands also offer many additional acres of public land for hunting.
“Grouse hunting need not be complicated and it’s another way to experience the outdoors in the fall,” Dick said. “Combine all that with our grouse numbers nearing peak and this is shaping up to be a great year to try grouse hunting for those who haven’t.”

Sharp-tailed grouse counts similar to last year
To count sharp-tailed grouse, observers look for males displaying on traditional mating areas, which are called leks or dancing grounds.
“The average number of sharp-tailed grouse was similar this year compared to 2016,” Roy said.
The data on sharp-tailed grouse take some interpretation because survey results can be influenced by how many leks are counted or changes in how many birds are at each lek year to year.
Comparisons of the same leks counted in both years indicate that counts per lek were similar to last year in both survey regions and statewide. This year’s statewide average of 9.7 sharp-tailed grouse per lek was similar to the long-term average since 1980.
The 2009 average of 13.6 was as high as during any year since 1980. During the last 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground.
The DNR’s 2017 grouse survey report and grouse hunting information can be found at mndnr.gov/hunting/grouse.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


31 Kentucky elk in northern Wisconsin

WINTER, WI - After another successful winter trapping effort, 31 elk are now roaming their new home in northern Wisconsin after being released from their acclimation and quarantine pen.
This year's class represents the third year of Wisconsin's elk translocation efforts and the first year that elk have been released into the Clam Lake elk range in over 20 years. Following two years of translocation efforts in Jackson County, focus shifted back to the original northern herd that resides primarily in Sawyer County, which originated from 25 Michigan elk released in 1995. Twenty-eight elk arrived at the holding pen in late March, but numbers grew slightly as pregnant cows gave birth this summer.
"Overall it was another great year, with many key partners including the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Flambeau River State Forest, U.S. Forest Service, and others all coming together to make these efforts a success," said Kevin Wallenfang, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources elk ecologist and elk reintroduction coordinator. "We experienced some new challenges this year, but overall things went well and we are excited to release these elk into the wild,"
Project goals include the addition of up to 75 elk to the northern population in an effort to supplement herd growth and add new genetics. Currently, the northern elk population is estimated at approximately 165 animals spread throughout several hundred square miles.
"The northern herd has grown steadily, but slower than desired over the years," said Wallenfang. "This current effort will give the herd a boost in overall numbers and hopefully provide a jump-start for herd growth. An influx of new genetics will also benefit the herd moving forward."
Upon arrival from Kentucky, the elk received 24-hour care and monitoring during the required 120-day quarantine period, which concluded in early June. Final health testing, general animal condition, and calving determined when the elk were released. Each animal, including newborn calves, were fitted with a tracking collar to provide extremely useful movement, habitat preference, and survival data prior to release.
The public is being asked to avoid the general vicinity of the holding pen, and remain watchful when driving in the area to avoid vehicle collisions with the elk.
"It's been a great effort getting them here, and now we want to do everything in our power to ensure the herd's success," says Lou George, northern regional director for Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. "We ask for these first several weeks that folks give them their space until they settle in."
During the first two years of elk translocation efforts in eastern Jackson County, the Department of Natural Resources and a number of key partners released 73 elk.
The central Wisconsin herd is currently estimated at approximately 60 animals, with up to 20 calves expected to have been born this spring. Several have been confirmed and efforts are being made to confirm additional births through field searches, observations and trail cameras.
"You don't expect to see a lot of herd growth during the first couple years, but they are doing quite well and beginning to show their reproductive capabilities," said Wallenfang.
These elk are being observed and enjoyed by locals on a regular basis, and visitors from outside the area are traveling to Jackson County in hopes of viewing them in the wild.
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

DNR to modernize electronic system for licenses

Hunters, anglers and everyone who has a role in selling licenses for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources can anticipate a new electronic license system that will enhance customer service starting in the spring of 2020.
“Over the next two years, we will be modernizing the electronic license system to create a better and more efficient experience for customers – changes that will save the agency as much as $1.5 million,” said Steve Michaels, DNR licensing program director. “Customers will find it easier to purchase licenses and tags online and record their harvests from a mobile device or computer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
The DNR sells licenses through a vendor that administers the electronic license system that allows customers to buy licenses in-person at nearly 1,500 locations around Minnesota, online and by telephone. The contract with the current vendor expires in 2020.
The first step in modernizing the license system happened in late May when the DNR issued a request for proposals for contractors to bid on a project to develop a new system.
“The new system won’t go into effect for more than two years, but we have to begin work now to allow enough time to choose a vendor, design and implement the system, and communicate with customers and license sales agents,” Michaels said. “Across the spectrum of retail, customers are demanding the convenience of modern technology as part of their purchasing experiences, whether it is movie theaters, airlines or retail stores.”
The DNR sells about 1.5 million fishing licenses and 580,000 hunting and trapping licenses.
Use of the current system continues through March of 2020, and the DNR plans to provide regular updates through the development of the new system.
Buy fishing and hunting licenses at any DNR license agent, online with a mobile or desktop device at mndnr.gov/buyalicense, or by phone at 888-665-4236. Mobile buyers receive a text or email that serves as proof of a valid fish or game license to state conservation officers.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Duck numbers vary in Minnesota

Population counts showed variable results for several species of ducks that breed in Minnesota, according to the results of the annual Department of Natural Resources spring waterfowl surveys.
“Mallard and blue-winged teal counts declined some from last year but we saw some increases in other species like ring-necked ducks, wood ducks and hooded mergansers,” said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. "However, there is always considerable variability in the annual estimates. The survey is designed for mallards and our breeding mallard population remains near its long-term average."
This year’s mallard breeding population was estimated at 214,000, which is 15 percent below last year’s estimate of 250,000 breeding mallards and 6 percent below the long-term average measured each year since 1968.
The blue-winged teal population is 159,000 this year, 51 percent below last year’s estimate and 25 percent below the long-term average.
The combined populations of other ducks such as ring-necked ducks, wood ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads is 263,000, which is 23 percent higher than last year and 48 percent above the long-term average.
The estimate of total duck abundance (excluding scaup) is 636,000, which is 19 percent lower than last year and 3 percent above the long-term average.
The estimated number of wetlands was 20 percent higher than last year and 5 percent above the long-term average. Wetland numbers can vary greatly based on annual precipitation.
The survey is used to estimate the number of breeding ducks or breeding geese that nest in the state rather than simply migrate through. In addition to the counts by the DNR, the continental waterfowl population estimates will be released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service later this summer.
DNR survey methodsThe same waterfowl survey has been done each year since 1968 to provide an annual index of breeding duck abundance. The survey covers 40 percent of Minnesota and includes much of the state’s best remaining duck breeding habitat.
A DNR waterfowl biologist and pilot count all waterfowl and wetlands along established survey routes by flying low-level aerial surveys from a fixed-wing plane. The survey is timed to begin in early May to coincide with peak nesting activity of mallards. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides ground crews who also count waterfowl along some of the same survey routes. These data are then used to correct for birds not seen by the aerial crew.

Canada geese
This year’s Canada goose population was estimated at 322,000 geese, higher than last year’s estimate of 202,000 geese and 9 percent above the long-term average.
“With the early spring and favorable habitat, Canada geese had a very good nesting year and there are lots of young goslings present across the state,” Cordts said.
The number of breeding Canada geese in the state is estimated via a helicopter survey of nesting Canada geese in April. The survey counts Canada geese on randomly selected plots located in prairie, transition and forested areas of the state and includes most of the state except for the Twin Cities area metro area.
The 2017 Minnesota waterfowl report is available at mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Most fireworks illegal in state forests, parks

MADISON, WI - People planning on camping in a Wisconsin state park or forest for the Fourth of July should enjoy fireworks displays in nearby communities - not at picnic areas, campsites or other areas within state parks, forests and trails.
Fireworks are illegal in Wisconsin state parks and forests, according to Robert "Chris" Madison, chief ranger for the Wisconsin Bureau of Parks and Recreation.
"For the safety of our guests and our natural resources, our rangers strictly enforce Wisconsin no fireworks laws," Madison said. "Fourth of July favorites, the sparkler and the snake, are not defined as "fireworks" per state law, but most park and forest rangers and superintendents discourage their use because they are a fire hazard."
A citation for illegal fireworks in a state park or forest can cost up to $200 and parents could be liable for the full costs of putting out a fire started by their children playing with or setting off fireworks.
In fact, anyone responsible for starting a wildfire in Wisconsin is liable not only for the cost of putting the fire out, but also for any damages, said Catherine Koele, forest fire prevention specialist with the Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry.
As of the last week of June, fire dangers levels throughout Wisconsin were low across the state, but even in low fire danger times, fireworks can start wildfires. So far in 2017, 515 fires have burned just over 500 acres burned in DNR fire protection areas of Wisconsin. Wildfires caused by fireworks only amount to 5 percent of the annual total; however, these fires typically occur in a condensed timeframe around the Fourth of July holiday.
More information on fireworks and fire danger is available in a "Fireworks cause forest fires and more..." brochure available for download from the DNR website.
For more information on fireworks, including air quality and health issues, search the DNR website for "fireworks."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR