A white-tailed deer was slip-sliding on a road during a heavy, nighttime snowstorm. First thought might have been, “What is a deer doing out on a night like this?”
Owls routinely do nighttime activities, too. Bald eagles were caught on video catching fish at night in Decorah, Iowa, where cameras have been watching eagles’ live for many years.
Raccoon and coyote hunters, candlelight skiers and snowshoers, moon gazers and other enthusiasts have found venturing out at night rewarding. Daybreak and sunset also provide great and varied opportunities.
With a flick of a switch, at 2:30 a.m., a very small and very fast nocturnal flying or gliding squirrel (pictured) made its way up a pear tree, then stopped seeming to say, “This is my time. How dare you turn the lights on. I don’t need them.”
Most wildlife manuals devote disproportional space to describe southern flying squirrels. This tiny, ounces-heavy, mammal has night vision eyes, folds of skin between its fore and hind legs, which help in gliding and acts as sails. Its flattened tail becomes a rudder when landing on tree trunks from as much as a football field away.
Weighing 1-2 ounces, flying squirrels need not be big eaters. Before bird feeders became common, more of this mammal’s foods consisted of lichens and underground fungi. Like birds spreading plant seeds, this glider, when eating, spreads nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which help trees obtain nutrients and water from the soil.
In a way, these squirrels are farming the forest trees. And they love when some die creating hollow trees.
Fox squirrels top the scale up to 38 ounces, more than 12 times that of the only nocturnal tree squirrel in North America.
Owls, another nocturnal animal, are a primary predator of southern flying squirrels.
While not a hibernator, gliders, as well as opossums, will hole-up during really cold spells. Torpor it’s called. Unlike opossums, who often get frostbitten ears and tails, flying squirrels do just fine venturing out during cold, dark nights.
Interestingly three long-time outdoors enthusiasts answered similarly, but separately, when saying the last time they saw a jackrabbit in southern Wisconsin was about 40 years ago. Most of those big bunnies created nighttime occurrences.
Most animal captures for the five-year, Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer, and Predator Project were at night. Data continues to show up in landowners’ email files when results from collared deer were taken by hunters during the seasons. One collared buck moved about 25 miles in six months from its collaring site. Watch for more information, available publically and written specifically for the layperson.
The 2020 statewide Wisconsin DNR hunter ethics award winner will be recognized and presented with gifts from Vortex Optics in Barneveld this coming May. Public nominations will continue to be accepted through Feb. 19. Check with the selection committee, including Jerry Davis, for more details on submitting a short email nomination.
Now, nearing the end of 2020 deer seasons (Jan. 31), registration has topped 331,127 animals, 190,619 being taken during the nine-day, gun deer season.
The 2021 sturgeon spearing season, on the Winnebago system, opens Feb. 13, and runs for a maximum of 16 days.
Big-fish registration will be by drive-thru only. Spearers will be required to remain in their vehicles throughout the process, although the DNR is committed to returning to a system more open to the public in 2022.
Angling for smaller fish has been mediocre on most waters. A few tucked away lakes have been pleasant surprises.
“Fishing is good, but the catching is spotty and the fish are not big ones either,” said Doug Williams, at D W Sports Center in Portage. “The ice is still not the best in places. There are a lot of guys out chasing rabbits and squirrels, too, if they can find cartridges.”
“I have very few .22 caliber shells,” said Don Martin, in Monroe. “Interestingly, there was a new .410 shotgun shell I had last year for turkey hunting. A three-inch shell with 13/16-ounce of No. 9 shot, to be used with a turkey choke.”
With shell shortages experiences during deer season, locating ammunition should be a top priority now for turkey hunters.