Tiny transmitters help track survival of rare turtle hatchlings

RHINELANDER - It's wood turtle hatching time and up to 20 of these state-threatened species are being outfitted with tiny transmitters to allow state conservation biologists to track their survival and learn if the state's successful nest protection efforts pay off over the long-term.
Protecting nests from predators is one major part of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' statewide conservation strategy for wood turtles. Since a DNR study of wood turtles in 2014 and 2015 found placing cages over turtle nests increased the survival of eggs and hatchling production significantly, DNR conservation biologists have continued and expanded those protection efforts as well as relocated some nests to larger sites protected by electric fencing.
"We are tracking hatchlings for a full year to see what happens to them. We suspect there's a lot of mortality but we don't know because no one has tracked them for a full year," says Tiffany Bougie, a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student leading the joint project between the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program and the UW-Madison Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology.
"We also want to learn if the nest protection is worth the effort in terms of increasing turtle populations or at least preventing population declines."
If it's not, the DNR can focus time and resources on investigating other potential strategies. Right now, nest restoration, nest protection and efforts aimed at reducing the number of adult turtles killed on roadways are major conservation strategies that the DNR has been investigating and improving upon since 2014.
That was the first year of funding for a multi-state partnership with Michigan, Minnesota, and Iowa to improve riverine turtle conservation strategies and overall population numbers. Multiple facets of this larger project have been funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, American Transmission Company, and the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation program, according to Carly Lapin, a DNR district ecologist stationed in Rhinelander.
Wood turtles are currently listed as a threatened species in Wisconsin and USFWS is assessing their status in the Midwest. Females do not lay eggs until they are 14- to 18-years old; their late maturity makes it harder for declining populations to come back because the loss of even one adult female can have a large effect on future population numbers, Lapin says.
Bougie and DNR conservation biologists glue the transmitters on hatchlings emerging from nests DNR has protected along the Wisconsin and Tomahawk rivers. The transmitter and glue together weigh about 0.7 to 0.8 gram, about one-tenth as much as the weight of the hatchlings, so biologists are careful to place the transmitters only on the larger hatchlings.
The batteries in the transmitters will be replaced after 90 days and in the winter, the turtles will be placed in overwinter enclosures in the rivers. Wood turtles hibernate in the winter; the turtles with the transmitters will be tracked again in the spring, Bougie says.
Help turtles by reporting turtle crossings this fall
Wisconsin residents can help add to that information base and wood turtle survival this fall by reporting roadways where turtles cross, whether hatchlings or adult turtles crossing roads to reach upland nests. Turtles getting run over by cars is considered a leading cause of decline in turtle numbers in Wisconsin, especially in highly fragmented areas and areas with high traffic volumes. Report turtle crossings to the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


'Wear it, Wisconsin!'

MADISON - With more crashes involving all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicles this late summer, state conservation wardens are urging all operators and riders to remember safety steps.
Wisconsin has seen 16 fatal crashes involving all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicles this year.
Gary Eddy, off-highway administrative warden with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says wardens statewide are encouraging all operators and riders to "Wear it Wisconsin!"
"That means wearing helmets for ATVs and UTVs, and your seat belts on an UTV," Eddy said.
Anyone under the age of 18 must wear a helmet, and that helmet must meet U.S. Department of Transportation standards.
Eddy says a common factor in fatalities is the lack of wearing helmets and not wearing the UTV seatbelt.
"These machines are popular for work and for play, and their use continues to grow in Wisconsin," Eddy said. "Since you can't predict when an incident will occur, it is best to protect yourself and your passengers for that possibility. Simply put on the helmet, fasten the safety straps and click the seatbelt.
"It is always important to remember safety while operating these vehicles for work or recreational purposes," Eddy said. "These machines are often operated on paved surfaces and across rough terrain. These conditions bring their own set of hazards. That's why the use of safety equipment is so important. Many of these tragedies may have been prevented had seat belts and helmets been used."
Eddy urges all ATV and UTV owners to spread the "Wear it Wisconsin" message by setting a personal rule that helmets and seat belts are always used on their machines. Also, educate others you know on the importance of using helmets and seat belts.
"A little positive peer pressure on your family and friends can help," Eddy said. "We want everyone to stay safe and have fun while using these versatile vehicles.
Here are more of Warden Eddy's safety tips for all ATV-UTV riders:
* Never drink and ride. ATVs and UTVs are challenging enough to operate sober; adding alcohol endangers everyone around you. * Practice "Zero Alcohol" and wait until you're done operating all vehicles before consuming alcohol.
* "Seize the keys:" Control who and when your machine is being operated.
* Complete an ATV safety course. All ATV riders at least age 12 (and UTV operators at least age 16) and born after January 1, 1988 must complete a course prior to operating an ATV or UTV. This course may be completed either in a classroom or over the internet. Search the Wisconsin DNR website for ATV Safety" to learn more.
* Use extreme caution while operating on paved surfaces. ATVs and UTVs highly unstable on paved surfaces and cannot be operated in the same manner as a car. All maneuvers must be made in a slow, controlled manner. Corners cannot be taken at the same speed as other motor vehicles.
* Never ride alone. If a mishap happens, you may need immediate help.
* Slow down, be responsible and expect to meet other people while on trails.
* Stay on the right side of the trail. Rough terrain and puddles are part of the experience; don't endanger others by riding on the wrong side of the trail. Cross obstacles in a controlled and safe manner.
* Don't operate your machine outside the limits or capabilities of you, the machine or the environment (trail condition, terrain, hours of darkness, etc.)
* Headlights and tail lights are required at all times while on public roads. All turns must be indicated by use of turn signals or hand signals.
* ATV/UTV is among our state's favorite recreational activities in the summer months. Stay safe and stay responsible.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Gov. Dayton proclaims Aug. 31 Public Lands Day in Minnesota

In recognition of public lands as a resource belonging to all Minnesotans, Gov. Mark Dayton has proclaimed Friday, Aug. 31, Public Lands Day.
The governor’s proclamation affirms these lands, “contribute to the state economy and are the backbone of outdoor recreation and tourism in Minnesota.”To kick off the Labor Day weekend, a special tribute to the importance of Minnesota’s public lands will take place at the DNR building at the Minnesota State Fair at noon, Friday, Aug. 31. The public is encouraged to attend the celebration. Winners of the DNR’s recent Public Lands Photo Contest will be recognized at the event, along with their photos.
Minnesota’s 5.6 million acres of state lands provide space and access to a wide variety of outdoor experiences. This network includes trails for snowmobiling, hiking, biking, skiing and off-road motorized use. Hunters and anglers have access to millions of acres of state hunting lands and waters. For others, state lands offer solitude and beautiful spaces for camping, wildlife watching and photography.
The DNR manages not only state parks and trails lands on behalf of the residents of the state, but also scientific and natural areas, state forests, wildlife management areas and aquatic management areas. These public lands and how they are managed ensure biodiversity on the landscape, hold space for rare and imperiled species, and maintain native plant communities that filter water and help provide clean air and water.
“The state’s public land base contributes significantly to local economies by supporting timber and mineral production while providing wild places for recreation and tourism, habitat for hundreds of species of fish and wildlife, and important ecological services like clean air and water,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.
Every Minnesota county has public land. Counties receive a form of local government aid called payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (or PILT) annually in place of property taxes on 5.6 million acres of state-managed lands and 2.8 million acres of county-managed tax-forfeited lands.
More information about Minnesota’s state-managed public lands and the DNR’s strategic land asset management approach can be found at mndnr.gov/publiclands.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Minnesota Twins, DNR offer free hats

Anyone with a 2018 Minnesota fishing or hunting license can receive a free camouflage and blaze orange Twins logo cap thanks to a special ticket offer online at mndnr.gov/twins.
The Minnesota DNR Days partnership with the Twins has one more game left this year. License holders can purchase a reserved game ticket online and receive a special Twins cap at the game on Saturday, Sept. 8, against the Kansas City Royals at 6:10 p.m.
Ticket prices vary by game and seat locations are either in the Field Box or Home Run Porch sections. All ticket holders under this partnership will pick up their cap at the game. Instructions for purchasing tickets are at mndnr.gov/twins.
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

Invasive algae confirmed in Wolf Lake in Hubbard County

More than 225 trained volunteers searched 187 Minnesota lakes recently for the invasive algae starry stonewort during the University of Minnesota Extension’s annual “Starry Trek” event.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has confirmed a volunteer report of starry stonewort in Wolf Lake in Hubbard County in north-central Minnesota.
During a follow-up survey in the lake, DNR invasive species specialists found a one-third-acre bed of starry stonewort at an undeveloped access off a township road.
Boat inspections have been expanded and treatment options are being considered, along with more follow-up surveys to watch for the invasive algae in other parts of the lake.
Starry stonewort has never been eradicated from any U.S. lake, but treatment can help reduce the risk of spread and provide nuisance relief for water-related recreational activities.
Dr. Ken Karol with the New York Botanical Garden provided scientific verification of the starry stonewort sample from Wolf Lake. Volunteers submitted samples from several other lakes during the search event that turned out to be chara (KAIR-uh), a native alga that looks similar to starry stonewort.
This year’s search results mirror the 2017 inaugural event. Last year, 200 volunteers searched 178 lakes and found starry stonewort in one. There are now 14 lakes in Minnesota where starry stonewort has been confirmed.
Since starry stonewort was first confirmed in Minnesota in 2015, most new populations have been reported in the month of August, when the telltale star-shaped bulbils are most abundant and visible. Now is the best time of year to look for it. Information on how to identify starry stonewort can be found on the DNR’s website. If people think they’ve found starry stonewort, they should report it to the DNR.
Starry stonewort is an alga that looks similar to other native plants and can form dense mats, which can interfere with use of a lake and compete with native plants. It is most likely spread when fragments have not been properly cleaned from trailered boats, personal watercraft, docks, boat lifts, anchors or other water-related equipment.  
The DNR reminds boaters and anglers to follow Minnesota laws to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species:
* Clean aquatic plants and animals from watercraft.
* Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keep drain plugs out while transporting watercraft.
* Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.
Some invasive species are small and difficult to see at the access. To remove or kill them, take one or more of the following precautions before moving to another waterbody, especially after leaving infested waters:     
* Spray with high-pressure water.
* Rinse with very hot water (120 degrees for at least two minutes or 140 degrees for at least 10 seconds).
* Dry for at least five days.
Details about starry stonewort and other aquatic invasive species are available at mndnr.gov/ais.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Enjoy summer through its Labor Day end

Bring the summer of 2018 to a happy close with a long weekend of fun at a Minnesota state park, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Visitors should make camping reservations now. Forty percent of reservations are made within three weeks of arrival. Lots of sites could still be available and cancellations occur all the time. Go to mndnr.gov/reservations for a campground reservation.
Consider northwestern Minnesota where sites are easier to come by. Consider these destinations:
* Zippel Bay State Park is located on south shore of vast Lake of the Woods, with an ocean-like white sand beach.
* Lake Bronson State Park has an observation tower that visitors can climb for a bird’s-eye view of woods and wildlife.
* Plan a route to include visits to other state parks along the way, such as a stop to see (and wade across) the Headwaters of the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park.
* Want to try something altogether new? Pitch a tent at a state forest, where no reservations are needed (or taken). Campsites at state forest campgrounds are all first-come, first-served.
In addition to camping, more than 100 naturalist-led programs are scheduled at Minnesota state parks and trails over Labor Day Weekend. For example:
* Guided tours will take place throughout the weekend at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park in southeastern Minnesota and at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park near Ely in the northeast. Because the cave and mine tours are underground, it won’t matter if it rains. Reservations are recommended. Go to mndnr.gov/reservations for more information, including times and prices.
* Free guided tours over, under and through the fascinating rock formations known as glacial potholes will be offered Saturday, Sunday and Monday from noon to 1 p.m. at Interstate State Park. No reservations required.
* Plus, tagging monarch butterflies, a scavenger hunt, voyageur canoe rides, night sky programs, and more. For complete listings, check mndnr.gov/ptcalendar.
There’s lots more. Consider these, for example:
* Discovery hike. Consider the Women in the Parks: Wildflower Walk at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul or along one of the many other scenic trails at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. For a challenge, join the Hiking Club (kits are on sale at park offices), look for “secret passwords” on signs along specially marked trails and earn rewards.
* Two-wheel tour. Bike one of Minnesota’s many paved state trails. They’re free and mostly flat, because many of them are former railroad routes, and many of them now have trailside tune-up stations to tighten brakes or pump up tires. Find a trailhead at mndnr.gov/biking.
* Paddling. There are 35 state water trails, the newest of which is the 20-mile Shell Rock River. Many of the campsites along Minnesota’s rivers are first-come, first-served and free.
* Bison. Travel into the prairie and possibly within viewing range of the Blue Mounds State Park bison herd in southwestern Minnesota. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time. Or drive through the bison range and see a second herd at Minneopa State Park in Mankato.
* Fishing. Minnesota residents don’t need a license and can fish for free at most Minnesota state parks. Many park offices loan free fishing equipment for visitors to use. Or, with a license, wet a line at one of more than 1,600 fishing piers throughout the state. To find a nearby fishing pier, search by lake or county in the A-Z list at mndnr.gov/fishing_piers.
* Geocaching. Try this popular high-tech treasure hunt. Many parks loan GPS units and offer programs to help visitors get started, such as Geocaching 101: A High Tech Treasure Hunt from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 1 at Lake Shetek State Park.
For more information, contact the DNR Information Center at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 888-646-6367 (8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday).

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DNR seeks input on Minnesota River Valley State Recreation Area

Anyone who would like to provide input regarding a possible state recreation area in the Minnesota River Valley will be able to do so through an online survey, which will be available soon, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR is seeking ideas for that possible SRA, which would be located in Redwood or Renville county, and within 2 miles of the Minnesota River in southwestern Minnesota.
“A state recreation area can bring a lot of value to a community,” said DNR regional director Scott Roemhildt. “It brings so many recreational opportunities, and we’re happy to help Redwood and Renville counties find the solution that works best for their citizens.”
A survey to help clarify preferences and interests for types of outdoor recreation and interpretive themes in the proposed SRA is available on the DNR webpage. Additional public input opportunities will occur in late October and November.
Seeking special state and county designations is one of the top three strategies identified in the Minnesota River Valley Recreation and Conservation Master Plan. An SRA designation will provide the flexibility for a wide variety of recreation and a higher level of resource conservation or protection.
The public input options during September through November will help DNR planners determine what are the desired types of recreation at the proposed SRA. Current state lands in the valley project area provide a heavy emphasis on conservation and protection of natural resources and a few recreation opportunities that are associated with them. These include hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife watching, walking and wild edible collecting.
“This is an opportunity for our citizens to tell the DNR what new outdoor recreation assets they would like to see in the river valley,” said Redwood County Environmental Director Scott Wold. “A new SRA could add to the quality of life for local residents and be a unique experience for visitors to the area.”
To provide more balance between conservation and nonmotorized recreation, a new type of unit is required. Land for an SRA would need to be acquired from willing landowners, and could include existing types of recreation as well as being able to accommodate more of the traditional activities in the valley such as horseback riding and shore fishing. An SRA might also include areas for mountain biking and interpretation activities. An SRA could be used to protect scenic views or important cultural or historical sites.
People in the area have previously provided information about their perception of the valley and their personal recreation activities overall. Now, the DNR is asking specifically for public input regarding a potential new state recreation area. The valley is a narrow corridor where many interests including agriculture, conservation, recreation, business and homesteads must be carefully woven together in order to have peaceful co-existence and optimize benefits for local and regional residents, as well as visitors.
The master plan collaboration between Redwood and Renville and the DNR continues as planners begin to implement strategies that citizens brought forward during the initial public input opportunities during 2016 and 2017. A county advisory committee will provide guidance to the DNR from the local government perspective.
The completed master plan, maps, results from master plan public input opportunities, photos and various other types of project information can be reviewed on the Minnesota River Valley Recreation and Conservation project website or the DNR website’s project page.
More information available at mnrivervalleymasterplan.org.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR