Minnesota DNR hosts second area open houses for deer management

Local wildlife managers across Minnesota are again inviting the public to come to open house meetings to ask their deer-related questions and offer thoughts on deer issues.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is dedicating time from mid-August to early September to discuss deer-related topics including upcoming hunting regulation changes that will be released in early August. Specific time and location details are available on the deer plan webpage at mndnr.gov/deerplan.
These local, open house meetings are a way to encourage conversations about deer and deer management, enhance local relationships and foster two-way communication between the DNR and the public.
The DNR began the meetings last year with the release of its statewide deer management plan. This is the second dedicated opportunity for conversation about deer-related topics this year. The first meetings were held in March and April.
“After the productive discussions we had in spring, we’re really looking forward to the additional conversation at these open houses,” said Barbara Keller, the DNR’s big game program leader. “These events are great opportunities for people to learn more about specific regulations changes this year and get their questions answered as we approach hunting season. They also provide an opportunity for us to receive public input that will help us plan for the coming year.”
In addition to discussing general concerns about deer, individuals can ask DNR staff about last year’s harvest data, provide topics that the DNR’s deer advisory committee should be aware of, and discuss upcoming hunting season changes. Regulations for the 2019 season will be released in early August and reflect disease management needs, as well as feedback that was gathered from surveys and open house meetings in the spring.
The open houses do not include formal presentations. People can arrive any time during the scheduled meeting times.
The DNR encourages people who can’t attend a scheduled meeting, but who have questions about deer management, to contact a local wildlife manager. A list of area wildlife offices is available online at mndnr.gov/areas/wildlife.
The DNR released the Minnesota White-Tailed Deer Management Plan in July 2018, setting new goals and priorities, increasing formal opportunities for people to influence deer decisions, and aiming for a disease-free deer population. The plan was a result of two years of planning that involved statewide meetings and hundreds of in-depth conversations with the public and interest groups. The full plan is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/deerplan.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Photo contest winners capture natural beauty of state's Great Waters

MADISON - In Wisconsin, where four seasons are better than one, photo opportunities abound no matter where you are in the state or what time of year you visit.
Nine photographers earned top honors for capturing Wisconsin's beauty with entries in the Department of Natural Resources' 11th annual Wisconsin's Great Waters Photography Contest.
Michael DeWitt of Ashland, Kristine Hinrichs of Milwaukee, Brent Hussin of Kewaunee and Julie Kinzelman of Racine grabbed first-place honors in the contest's four categories, which include people enjoying Wisconsin's Great Waters, natural features and wildlife, historical and cultural features, and Great Waters stewardship.
DeWitt's photo, entitled the "Arch of the Apostles," was taken in February 2018 on Stockton Island in Lake Superior when the lake began to freeze. Strong winds and waves created an incredible arch measuring 12 feet high. Hinrichs' photo, "Capture the Moment," depicts the Milwaukee Pier Head Lighthouse at dusk framed by shades of blue, pink and orange reflecting off the calm waters. Hussin's "Super Moon over Kewaunee Harbor" photo (pictured) depicts a brightly lit lighthouse in winter shining out over Lake Michigan where a bright orange super moon rises from the darkness. Kinzelman took first place with her colorful photo of a Monarch butterfly perched on a Bergamot bloom in Samuel Myers Park in Racine.
Karen Gersonde of Milwaukee, William A. Pohlmann of Cottage Grove MN, Emil Toney of Oshkosh, Michael DeWitt of Ashland, and Matt Jenson of Harris, MN, earned second-place honors for their photographs.
All photos are found in the 16-month calendar published each year by the DNR's Office of Great Waters, and a new video highlights the winning photos. Details about the contest, along with all of this year's contest entries, can be found by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords "Great Waters photo contest."
The 2019-2020 Wisconsin's Great Waters calendars will be available at the Wisconsin State Fair's Exploratory Park starting Aug. 1, and also at DNR regional offices and state parks visitors' centers.
"The annual photo contest and writing project is a fun way to highlight the many ways people connect with and value the Great Lakes and Mississippi River," said Steve Galarneau, director of the DNR Office of Great Waters. "As these photos and writings clearly show, the Great Lakes and Mississippi River are among Wisconsin's most cherished natural resources."
The Office of Great Waters is currently accepting writings and photos of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and the Mississippi River for next year's contest. Wisconsin's Great Waters Photo Contest and Writing Project information and submission instructions can be found on the Office of Great Waters website. Visit dnr.wi.gov and search "Great Waters Photo Contest."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Itasca State Park to dedicate new amphitheater

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Friends of Itasca will host a dedication event on Saturday, July 27, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., for the new Lake Itasca Amphitheater at Itasca State Park.
The dedication is at the amphitheater. Visitors should bring a blanket or lawn chair and come prepared for a day of music, a visit from Courier-de-Bois, who will take visitors back in time to explore the life of a voyageur, and an ice cream social.
Erika Rivers, DNR Parks and Trails Division director, will dedicate the amphitheater and speak about its value and funding.
The new amphitheater is located in the picnic grounds adjacent to the swim beach and playground. It is situated along the shore of Lake Itasca and seats more than 300 people with its bench seating and open grassy areas for lawn chairs and blankets. The shape of the amphitheater, along with the sloping landscape, provide outstanding acoustics for any event. It offers lighting for night programs and a directional sound system.
“Thanks to Legacy Amendment funding and the hard work of DNR staff, architects and engineers, we now have an amazing outdoor venue for music, entertainment and events,” Rivers said. “The setting for the amphitheater is breathtaking. Every seat offers a view of Lake Itasca and a cool breeze to go with it. What better place to be entertained and enjoy the outdoors?”

* 11 a.m.-1 p.m.: (or while ice cream lasts) Ice Cream Social. Enjoy a sweet treat and music concert at the ice cream social. The Friends of Itasca will be making chocolate or strawberry sundaes with proceeds going toward projects in Itasca State Park. Fee.
* 11 a.m.-2 p.m.: Nature stations.Discover information and activity stations about Itasca’s natural and cultural history.
* 11-11:45 a.m.: The music of Bill & Julie Kaiser - From the north woods of Minnesota, Bill and Julie’s music has been described as acoustic “folkgrass” with a mix of bluegrass, folk and original.
* 12-12:15 p.m.: Dedication of the amphitheater.Erika Rivers, DNR Parks and Trails Division director, will talk about the value of the amphitheater and its funding, and thank those who worked to make it a reality.
* 12:15-1 p.m.: The Voyageur. Travel back in time with a visit from a Courier-de-Bois (ranger of the woods) and learn the life of a voyageur. Discover how it might have been living many years ago by river and paddle.
* 1:15-2 p.m.: The music of Unpolished.The musical group “Unpolished” performs an eclectic mix of roots, Americana and bluegrass music on bass, guitar, mandolin and banjo, complete with rich three-part harmonies. The group covers many styles of folk music including music from the 1800s - Civil War, old cowboy music, railroad songs, bluegrass music and traditional gospel music.
Funding for the amphitheater is from the Parks and Trails Legacy fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the three-eighths percent sales tax revenue that may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.
Beginning in 2020, the amphitheater will be available to rent hourly. For more information on the amphitheater or Itasca State Park, visit mndnr.gov/state_parks/itasca/.
SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DNR issues 'incidental take' notice for Lafayette County

MADISON - The replacement of a bridge on State Highway 78 in Lafayette County may result in the "incidental taking" of a rare frog under an authorization the Department of Natural Resources proposes to issue for the project.
Incidental take refers to the unintentional loss of individual endangered or threatened animals or plants that does not put the overall population of the species at risk.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is proposing to replace the State Highway 78 bridge crossing the Pecatonica River. Proposed improvements include removing and replacing the bridge deck. Guardrail at all corners of the bridge will be removed and replaced, which requires grading on the existing slopes. Fifty feet of existing asphalt on both approaches of the structure will be milled and overlaid with new hot mix asphalt to blend into the new bridge deck. Existing asphalt shoulders will be removed and replaced to accommodate the new guardrail installations.
The presence of the state endangered Blanchard's cricket frog (Acris blanchardi) (pictured) has been confirmed in the vicinity of the project site. DNR staff determined that the proposed project may result in the incidental taking of some frogs.
Department staff concluded that the proposed project will minimize the impacts to the species by adhering to conservation measures; is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence and recovery of the state population of the species or the whole plant-animal community of which it is a part; and has benefit to the public health, safety or welfare that justifies the action.
The conservation measures to minimize the adverse effects on the endangered species will be incorporated into the proposed Incidental Take Authorization. Copies of the jeopardy assessment and background information on the Blanchard's cricket frog are available by searching the DNR website for incidental take public notice or upon request from Stacy Rowe (608-266-7012 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).
The DNR is requesting comments from the public through Aug. 8, regarding project-related impacts to the Blanchard's cricket frog. Public comments should be sent to Stacy Rowe, Wisconsin DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

New self-registration stations at Cuyuna Country SRA add convenience

Visitors to Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area in Ironton now have more convenient options to buy their state park vehicle permits.
Five new self-registration stations have been installed throughout the complex.
New stations are now available at:
* The parking lot at the end of Yawkey Road.
* The entrance to the Rally Center on North Road.
* Portsmouth Mine Lake public water access off County Road 30.
* County Road 128 trailhead.
* Sagamore Mine Lake public water access.
These are in addition to the existing self-registration station at the Portsmouth Campground.
Using the self-registration station is easy and fast. Visitors should follow the instructions on the envelope. They should put cash, check, or credit card information for the correct amount in the envelope, and deposit it into the payment slot. The "user copy" section of the form should be placed on the dash of the vehicle as proof of compliance.
Daily permits are $7 and year-round permits are $35. The Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area is part of the Minnesota state park system and permits are required on all vehicles entering the recreation area. A year-round permit buys access to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for one year from the date of purchase.
Park permits can also be purchased online, in person at individual park offices when staffed, and at the Minnesota DNR License Center at 500 Lafayette Road, St Paul. More information about state park permits, discounts for military and disabled individuals, and the state park license plate can be found at mndnr.gov/state_parks/permit.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Final reintroduction effort provides more than 60 Kentucky elk

WINTER, WI - After the Department of Natural Resources' successful winter capture effort in Kentucky, more than 60 elk await release from their acclimation and quarantine pen into their new home in northern Wisconsin.
The release of these elk later this summer will conclude the fourth and final year of Wisconsin's elk translocation efforts. This is also the second year that elk have been released into the Clam Lake elk range since their initial reintroduction in 1995. Following two years of translocation efforts in Jackson County, focus shifted back to the original northern herd that resides in Ashland, Bayfield, Price, Rusk and Sawyer County and originated from 25 Michigan elk. In 2017, 31 elk were added to the area from Kentucky.
"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 the effort possible and successful," said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR elk ecologist and elk reintroduction coordinator. "Adding more than 60 elk this year means we are approaching 300 elk in the northern herd."
In March, DNR translocated 48 adult elk from Kentucky to a pen in northern Wisconsin where they receive 24-hour monitoring during the required quarantine period. During the spring, pregnant cows gave birth to calves, growing the number of elk in the pen to more than 60 animals. As in the project's first year, this year's quarantine period has been extended a few weeks to allow calves recently born to grow and to allow for further health testing.
"As occurred in 2015, we had one elk test as a "suspect" positive for bovine tuberculosis, which requires us to extend the quarantine period while definitive testing of this elk is completed," Wallenfang said. "All the elk tested negative prior to coming to Wisconsin, and we've seen this before. As was the case in 2015, the most likely result is that this elk is negative for bovine TB. The results on this animal should be back in August. Pending clearance, the herd will be released into the wild."
Each animal, including newborn calves, have already been fitted with a tracking collar to provide useful movement, habitat preference and survival data after release.
The public is asked to avoid the general vicinity of the holding pen and to remain watchful when driving in the area to avoid vehicle collision with elk.

Black River elk herd increasing in numbers
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.
After a few years of adjustment, the central Wisconsin herd is now seeing increased survival and annual growth. Current projections put the herd at approximately 75-80 animals with up to 20 calves expected to have been born this spring. To date, 13 calves have been confirmed and efforts are being made to confirm additional births through field searches, observations and trail cameras.
"The last couple years we've seen incredible survival of calves," Wallenfang said. "In 2018, we confirmed 17 births, and all 17 are alive and well.
The Black River elk herd is being observed and enjoyed by locals on a regular basis, and visitors are traveling from outside the area in hopes of viewing the elk.
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."

Want to get really absorbed in Wisconsin elk?
Sign up today to monitor Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras in Flambeau River State Forest, Clam Lake or Black River elk range. Your efforts will help collect valuable data on the reintroduced elk herds and provide you with an up-close look at Wisconsin elk! No experience necessary and all training and equipment is provided. Sign up today at SnapshotWIElkSignup.org (exit DNR).

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

First statewide native mussel survey in 40 years reveals mixed trends

MADISON - The first statewide survey for native mussels in 40 years in Wisconsin shows these water-cleaning clams are facing mixed fortunes.
Mussel populations and diversity were highest in the St. Croix River, with 24 different species found at one site and high species diversity also on the Manitowish, Chippewa and Peshtigo rivers.
"On the St. Croix River, the abundance and species richness was very impressive," says Jesse Weinzinger, a conservation biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources coordinating the surveys. "There were times you'd be pulling up 200 to 300 mussels and 12 or so species in our 15-minute timed surveys."
Other good news is that mussel populations are rebounding in the Wisconsin River as gains from clean water regulations over the last half-century pay off, and native mussels are even starting to be found in the lower Fox River and Green Bay where a massive cleanup project is underway and improved water quality is making it possible to consider reintroducing more species.
At some other sites, however, the surveys revealed declining mussel populations, and 10 sites had no mussels. On major waters in southern Wisconsin, including the Pecatonica River and Rock River, "We're seeing very large declines," Weinzinger says.
Stretches of the Pecatonica River where DNR surveys 15 years ago found four species listed as either threatened or endangered now held none of those rare mussels and Weinzinger found scores of dead mussel shells, he says.
While the mussel surveys didn't dig into potential causes of the declines, water quality trends tracked through other DNR programs are showing that levels of nitrates and ammonia in the river are above the threshold mussels can tolerate.
Freshwater mussels are one of the most imperiled groups of animals on the planet, with 70% of the world's mussel species declining. In Wisconsin, 24 of the 50 native mussel species are endangered, threatened or listed as species of concern, says Lisie Kitchel, another DNR conservation biologist who works with native mussels.
"Native mussels are important for healthy lakes and rivers," she says. Each native freshwater mussel can filter gallons of water a day, removing pollutants like mercury and other contaminants. They are food for raccoon, muskrats, otters, herons and other wildlife. They are even food for fish when the mussels are young, and dead shells can provide safe places for fish to lay their eggs.
Mussels declined in the 20th century due to factors including water pollution, dams that blocked the flowing water mussels need, and overharvesting. From the 1880s to the 1940s, mussels in Wisconsin were used to make buttons until plastic buttons replaced them. After that era, mussels came from the Upper Mississippi River because a mainstay of Japan's cultured pearl industry. Mussel shells collected from the river were shipped to Japan where they were cut up and turned into the seed from which pearls were cultured until overharvest of mussels on the Upper Mississippi River led to closing the commercial harvest of mussels, Kitchel says.
Now, mussel populations are increasing in some of these waters again, thanks to protections afforded by the state and federal endangered species acts, to improved water quality since the 1972 Clean Water Act started controlling wastewater discharges to streams and rivers, and to efforts by DNR, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, dam owners and other partners to save mussels stranded from reservoir drawdowns and to propagate mussels at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Genoa Fish Hatchery for release back into state waters.
Before the DNR surveyors ever hit the water to look for mussels, they reviewed historical mussel surveys dating between 1928 and 2015. While DNR, university and other researchers had conducted surveys on specific waters in recent years, the statewide survey was the first such effort since the 1970s.
The DNR statewide surveys started in 2016 and conservation biologists donned waders, and in many cases SCUBA gear, to collect, identify and record more than 21,000 living individuals representing 39 species before returning the mussels to the water. Spikes were the most commonly observed species by number with 25% of the total catch, followed by mucket at 20% of all observations. Fatmucket, spikes, plain pocketbooks and giant floaters were the most widespread.
Biologists have used the survey information to identify and map 16 areas where they will conduct long-term monitoring and focus conservation efforts.
"The survey has been very important in helping us gather information on the distribution, population demographics and habitats of native mussels, all important information to help us focus our monitoring and other conservation efforts," Weinzinger says.
More information about the statewide survey, and DNR efforts with partners to help bolster endangered mussel populations on some waters and reintroduce them on others, are found in The Clam Chronicle, the bi-annual newsletter of DNR's Wisconsin Mussel Monitoring Program.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR