Life jackets worth your life every week

MADISON, WI - Just in time for the Memorial Day Weekend, National Safe Boating Week is May 19-25 and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources joins boating safety advocates who have teamed up to promote safe and responsible boating, including voluntary, consistent life jacket wear each time boaters are on the water.
"What looks like a perfect day for boating can quickly become hazardous if you end up in the water," DNR Chief Warden Todd Schaller said. "Always wear a life jacket, it is the best decision you can make for your safety while enjoying a day out on the water."
U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in four out of every five recreational boating fatalities in 2016, and that 83 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets. And the Wisconsin stats mirror this tragic loss of life.
DNR officials say this is the week to start the habit of donning that life jacket for every boat ride. And if you already are a dedicated life jacket wearer, encourage your friends and family members to follow your lead. Wearing a life jacket is one of the simplest ways to save lives while boating. Having a life jacket with you, but not wearing it is like not wearing your seatbelt in a car. By the time you realize you need it, it's too late to put it on.
Schaller says it's the preventable death that haunts survivors. That's what National Safe Boating Week is all about - making the life-saving habit of putting on a life jacket every time you board a boat.
"Safe boating means making it a habit to put on your life jacket - and making sure everyone in your boat has one on, too - before you turn the key and pull your boat from the dock," Schaller said. "The belief you will be able to get the jacket on as you fall over the boat's side for whatever reason is unrealistic."
National Safe Boating Week is the last full week before the Memorial Day weekend. This weekend typically kicks off the summer recreational and boating. Wisconsin is well known to the boating community, thanks to its 15,000 lakes and 84,000 river miles enjoyed by nearly one million state boaters and thousands of visiting tourists.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Wisconsin laws require vessels under 16 feet in length to be equipped with one Type I, Type II, Type III or Type V personal flotation device, more popularly known as a life jacket, for each person on board.
"This also covers canoeists and kayakers," Capt. April Dombrowski of the DNR Recreational Safety and Outdoor Skills Section said. "Each must carry a wearable life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board."
Vessels 16 foot or more in length must be similarly equipped and there also must also be at least one Type IV - or throw-able - PFD for the boat.
In order to be an acceptable, each PFD must meet these recommendations:
* Be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
* Be in good condition with no tears, rips, broken straps or snaps. * Use a squeeze test on kapok PFDs to check for punctures in the inner plastic liner.
* Be the right size for the intended wearer.
* Be readily accessible, which means it may not be stowed in plastic bags, in locked or closed compartments or under other equipment.
PFDs come in a variety of shapes, colors and materials. Some are made to be more rugged and last longer while others are made to also protect the wearer from cold water.
"No matter which PFD you choose, make sure you get the one that's right for what you plan to do, what type of vessel you are going to use and the anticipated weather conditions," Schaller says. "Always look for the United States Coast Guard approval number on any PFD you buy."
National Safe Boating Week also is a good time to review other important safety items for boaters. These include:
* Complete a Safe Boating Course.
* Equip and inspect your boat before hitting the water.
* Make sure you travel at the safe speed for your water conditions and surroundings - and that includes other vessels on the water around you.
* Help other boaters in distress.
* Stay sober and wait until safely back at home to have any alcoholic beverages.
"Mixing alcohol with a high-speed motor on a watery track is a recipe for disaster," Schaller said.
Find more information about boat safety classes, search the DNR website,, for "boat," and to view the different types of U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, search "PFD."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Refuge finalizes Compatibility Determinations

Four Compatibility Determinations addressing various economic and/or commercial uses of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been finalized.
The four compatible uses are:
* Commercial Fishing Floats.
* Commercially Guided Wildlife/Wildlands Observation.
* Guided Sport Fishing.
* Guided Waterfowl Hunting.
In addition to finalizing these CDs, the refuge has also finalized regulations for permitting these uses.
The final program requirements and stipulations include:
* Commercial Fishing Float Permit Conditions and Standards (2018 through 2023).
* Commercial Wildlife/Wildlands Observation Guide Services on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge – Program Requirements and Stipulations (2018 through 2023).
* Fishing Guide Services on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge – Program Requirements and Stipulations (2018 through 2023).
* Waterfowl Hunting Guide Services on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge – Program Requirements and Stipulations (2018 through 2023).
Implementation of these programs will be phased over the next year. The Waterfowl Hunting Guide Services program will be implemented immediately because a new application cycle was originally scheduled to begin this year. The due date for submission of permit applications is June 15, 2018.
Currently permitted commercial fishing float operators will continue to operate under their existing permits with new program implementation beginning in 2019. Similarly, commercial wildlife/wildlands observation guides will continue to operate under their existing permits until 2019. Any new applications for wildlife observation guides will fall under the newly established guidelines.
Due to the fact fishing guides have not previously been under a permit system by Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the Fishing Guide Services Program will be implemented in 2019. More information about implementation will follow in the form of mailings to currently operating guides and outreach throughout the year.
All of the above listed documents are available at the Refuge Headquarters, 51 East 4th Street, Winona, MN; on the refuge webpage at or can be mailed or emailed to interested parties by contacting 507-494-6219.
The final CDs can be found directly using this link
For more information, contact Mary Stefanski at 507-494-6229.         

SOURCE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Wisconsin homeowners can avoid potential conflicts with bears

MADISON, WI - Black bears have begun to emerge from their dens throughout Wisconsin and homeowners are encouraged to take precautions to avoid potential conflicts.
Black bears normally avoid contact with people, but when food sources are available bears can quickly learn to associate humans with food.
"Bear are opportunistic feeders and will take advantage of available food sources," said Brad Koele, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife damage specialist. "Bird feeders, garbage cans, grills, and uncontained compost or pet food left outside can be targets for hungry bears. It's important to make these attractants inaccessible to bear at all times of the year, but particularly in the spring time when natural food sources are limited."
Intentionally feeding bears is illegal in Wisconsin, but it is also important for homeowners to ensure that they do not unintentionally feed bears via an accessible food source near their home. Black bears normally avoid contact with people, but when food sources are available, bears can quickly learn to associate humans with food.
If a bear finds food such as bird feed or garbage near your home it will likely return, but visits are more likely to stop when food is no longer available. Bears will periodically check sites where food was once available, so it may take several days to weeks before a bear will stop visiting a site once the food source has been removed.
The "Living with Bears in Wisconsin document, found at, keywords "wildlife damage" will help landowners learn more about co-existing with bears in Wisconsin.
Homeowners can follow these steps to avoid attracting black bears:
* Do not knowingly feed a bear.
* Completely remove bird feeders, even during daytime hours - bears are active during the day and may cause problems even if the feeders are out only during that time.
* Clean areas where bird feeders were located so that accumulated deposits of spilled seed are removed.
* Reduce garbage odors by rinsing food cans before putting them in covered recycling containers or garbage cans.
* Keep meat scraps in the freezer until garbage day, and if possible, keep garbage cans in a closed building until the morning of pick-up.
* Be sure to lock commercial dumpsters.
* Keep pet food inside or inaccessible to bears even during daytime hours.
* Keep barbeque grills and picnic tables clean.
"If a bear is near your home, wave your arms and make noise to scare it away. Back away slowly and seek a safe location where you can wait for the bear to leave," said Koele. "Make sure it has a clear escape route. Never corner a bear. If you encounter a bear while in the woods, stay calm and do not approach the bear. Never approach a sow with cubs, and do not attempt to break up a fight between your pet and a bear."
The Wisconsin DNR partners with U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services to respond to approximately 800 bear-related complaints each year. Homeowners, who are unable to resolve a conflict with a bear, should contact the USDA Wildlife Services toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for properties in Southern Wisconsin, and 1-800-228-1368 for properties Northern Wisconsin.
For more information regarding bears in Wisconsin, visit and search keywords "bear."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Flood damage may delay opening of Columbia County shooting range

POYNETTE, WI - The planned June opening of the nearly complete Columbia County Public Target Range is now likely to be delayed due to flood damage at the site. Recent heavy rains caused damage to shooting areas and newly constructed berms.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and contractors are working on repairs, with the goal of opening the range as close to the targeted date as possible.
"We need to ensure that the structures are sound and that the range will be safe for use," said Keith Warnke, who oversees the state-owned shooting ranges for DNR. "We'll keep the public up to date on this work. Thank you for your patience."
Once opened, the Columbia County range will provide Madison area hunters and recreational shooting sports enthusiasts a safe and accessible area to shoot within an hour of the city. For more information, search the DNR website,, for keywords "shooting ranges," and click on the button for "Columbia Co. Range."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Universe in the Park returns for 22nd season in Wisconsin

MADISON, WI - Visitors to Wisconsin State Park System properties have more opportunities than ever to view and learn about the night sky by participating in the "Universe in the Park" outreach program conducted by students and staff of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
This year students will be putting on 54 programs at 25 different properties starting May 26, and running through Oct. 13
"Universe in the Park," which began in 1996, is predicated on the idea that the best environment in which to enjoy astronomy is outside under dark skies, according to Eric M. Wilcots, who coordinates the program.
The programs also offer another incentive for people to bring their families out to visit park system properties to enjoy many of the other recreational opportunities. The state park system is encouraging people to stay active in parks through a new OutWiGo initiative to promote good health through the great outdoors
A typical session begins just after sunset, usually about 9 p.m., with a 20- to 30-minute talk and slide show about astronomy. Topics are left up to the speaker, and present a broad overview of astronomy and recent astronomical news such as the discovery of new solar systems and the latest results from the Hubble Space Telescope. Afterwards, if nights are clear, participants can gather around telescopes to view astronomical objects with the guidance of UW-Madison astronomy students.
Most of the question-and-answer period takes place around the telescopes. During the height of the summer, the sessions can attract audiences of 70 to 80 people.
Visitors can show up for the slide show and question-and-answer period even if it is cloudy and the sky cannot be viewed through the telescope. If it is raining, the sessions are held only if there is a shelter available.
Universe in the Park events are free, but visitors to most Wisconsin State Parks System properties must have a daily or annual vehicle admission sticker.
Anyone interested in attending a session should always contact the park to make sure the program is being held as scheduled, because the schedule occasionally changes. A "UitP Schedule" is available on the Universe in the Park website and these and other astronomy events at Wisconsin state park properties can be found by searching the DNR website for "Get Outdoors" and selecting "astronomy" under the activity "type" button.

2018 Universe in the Park Schedule
* May 26: Blue Mound State Park, Kohler-Andrae State Park.
* June 9: Devil's Lake State Park.
* June 15: Willow River State Park.
* June 16: Governor Thompson State Park, Interstate State Park.
* June 23: Governor Dodge State Park, Mirror Lake State Park.
* June 29: Flambeau River State Forest.
* June 30: Northern Highland/American Legion State Forest, Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit, Wildcat Mountain State Park.
* July 7: Mirror Lake State Park, Yellowstone Lake State Park.
* July 12: Rock Island State Park.
* July 13: Devil's Lake State Park, Newport State Park.
* July 14: Buckhorn State Park, Peninsula State Park.
* July 15: Potawatomi State Park.
* July 21: Governor Dodge State Park, Kohler-Andrae State Park.
* July 27: Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit.
* July 28: Lake Wissota State Park.
* Aug. 3: Pattison State Park.
* Aug. 4: Amnicon Falls State Park, Blue Mound State Park.
* Aug. 10: Potawatomi State Park, Willow River State Park.
Aug. 11: Governor Dodge State Park, Interstate State Park, Peninsula State Park.
* Aug. 12: Newport State Park.
* Aug. 13: Rock Island State Park.
* Aug. 17: Flambeau River State Forest, Buckhorn State Park.
* Aug. 17: Copper Falls State Park.
* Aug. 18: Northern Highland/American Legion State Forest, Big Bay State Park, Devil's Lake State Park.
* Aug. 25: Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit, Mirror Lake State Park.
* Sept. 1: Lake Wissota State Park, Yellowstone Lake State Park.
* Sept. 8: Devil's Lake State Park.
* Sept. 14: Newport State Park.
* Sept. 15: Governor Dodge State Park, Peninsula State Park.
* Sept. 22: Kohler-Andrae State Park, Mirror Lake State Park.
* Sept. 29: Copper Falls State Park, Wildcat Mountain State Park.
* Oct. 12: Newport State Park.
* Oct. 13: Peninsula State Park.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Tagged bighead carp leads DNR to 2 others in St. Croix River

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources captured two bighead carp May 11, during a search on the St. Croix River to recapture a tagged bighead carp they have been tracking as part of an invasive carp pilot project.
The carp were captured in Anderson Bay on the St. Croix River. One was a 46-inch, 39-pound mature male, and the second was a 43-inch, 46-pound mature female. Neither fish showed indications that they had spawned this year. They were removed from the water and euthanized, and further lab analyses will provide more detailed and useful information about the fish.
“We may not have immediately captured these two if the tagged carp hadn’t, in effect, led us to them,” DNR invasive fish coordinator Nick Frohnauer said. “Tagging is another proactive step Minnesota is taking to prevent the spread of invasive species.”
The capture of the two bighead carp, an invasive species, is the result of the pilot project to track tagged invasive carp to learn more about their range, habitat preferences and other behaviors.
Because of the signal from a small implanted transmitter, DNR fisheries staff know the location of the tagged carp. While high water can complicate a capture operation, fisheries staff, along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff and commercial anglers, are resuming efforts to recapture the tagged carp this week.
The DNR is permitted to track up to two invasive carp in the St. Croix or Mississippi River at any given time. Anyone who catches a bighead, grass or silver carp must report it to the DNR immediately. Call 651-587-2781 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Take a photo and transport the carp to the nearest fisheries office or make arrangements for it to be picked up by a DNR official.
Individual bighead carp were first captured in Minnesota in 1996 and 2003, with more frequent reports in recent years as the DNR’s response and public awareness have grown. Invasive carp initially escaped into the Mississippi River from southern fish farms where they were used to control algae. These large fish compete with native species and pose a threat to rivers and lakes.
No breeding populations have been detected in Minnesota waters. Individual bighead and silver carp have been caught in the Mississippi, St. Croix and Minnesota rivers.
More information about invasive carp is available at

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

New firewood rules aim to protect Minnesota forests

Campers and other visitors planning to have campfires at state parks, state forests and other public lands managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources need to be aware of new firewood rules beginning this year.  
New rules were needed, because quarantine boundaries instituted for gypsy moth and emerald ash borer made the former rules problematic.  
Under the new rules, firewood approved for use on DNR-managed lands includes:
* Firewood sold at the specific Minnesota state park or recreation area where it will be used.
* Non-ash firewood that was (1) purchased from a vendor and (2) harvested in the same Minnesota county as the DNR unit where it will be used.
* Firewood that was (1) purchased from a vendor, (2) harvested in Minnesota and (3) certified to be pest free by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture or the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
* Additional types of acceptable firewood listed at
“One of our biggest challenges has been communicating that firewood sold at a Minnesota state park or recreation area is approved for use at that specific unit, but it may not be approved for use at other Minnesota state parks and recreations areas,” said Ed Quinn, natural resource program supervisor for the Parks and Trails Division at the DNR. “If you have leftover firewood, be sure to check with park staff to determine whether it can be taken to any other campgrounds.”
When purchasing firewood, be sure the bundle label includes the county of harvest. If the wood is certified, the bundle label will also feature the logo of either the Minnesota Department of Agriculture or the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Save the receipt, because it will be needed to show proof of purchase and labeled bundles to DNR staff upon request.  
Individuals bringing non-approved firewood onto DNR lands are subject to confiscation of their firewood and a $100 penalty.
“Invasive species negatively impact forest ecosystems, scenic views and visitor experiences,” said Quinn. “That’s why it’s so important for everyone to do their part and bring only firewood approved for each specific campground or picnic area they visit.”
For more information, visit or contact the DNR Information Center by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 888-646-6367 (8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday).

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR