Celebrate the return of migratory birds and the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial

MADISON, Wis. — The month of May marks the return of many migratory birds to Wisconsin, and events throughout Wisconsin will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about conservation, bird-related recreation, and 100 years of Migratory Bird Treaty protection.

Common throughout much of the United States in the early 1800s, extensive market and sport hunting, along with habitat loss, led to a steep decline in populations of the upland sandpiper by the middle of the 20th century. While implementation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act eventually curbed hunting pressure, loss and degradation of breeding habitat continues to adversely impact this grassland specialist.
Common throughout much of the United States in the early 1800s, extensive market and sport hunting, along with habitat loss, led to a steep decline in populations of the upland sandpiper. While implementation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act eventually curbed hunting pressure, loss and degradation of breeding habitat continues to adversely impact this grassland specialist.
Photo Credit: Ryan Brady

In 1916, the United States and Canada signed the Migratory Bird Treaty to protect birds across state and international borders. Through this treaty, states, nations and other partners work together to help conserve birds and encourage people to get involved in the outdoors through volunteering, recreation and education.

Several bird-themed festivals will occur in May – these free events will offer birding trips, guest speakers and hands-on activities for the entire family:

  • Horicon Marsh Bird Festival (exit DNR), May6-9 – this festival will feature guided tours, bird walks, scavengerhunts, banding demonstrations, interactive displays and more to get toknow some of the 300+ birds that spend time in the marsh.
  • Oshkosh BirdFest (exit DNR), May 7 -head to Oshkosh in May and see live birds of prey up close, purchasenative plants to create bird habitat, build a bluebird house, tour agallery of bird-themed art, and more.
  • Chequamegon Bay Birding and Nature Festival (exit DNR), May 19-21 – this festival willshowcase over 100 nature-themed activities to help attendees learn moreabout northern Wisconsin.

Great Wisconsin Birdathon

Birders of all ages and skills can search for species while supporting bird conservation during the Great Wisconsin Birdathon (exit DNR), organized by the Natural Resources Foundation and Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative. The Birdathon is active through June 15. This fundraiser supports local environmental initiatives and key bird conservation projects around the state.

Bird City Wisconsin and International Migratory Bird Days

Bird City Wisconsin (exit DNR), encourages communities to make urban habitats more bird-friendly, become involved in conservation, and educate people about birds. Many Bird Cities also celebrate www.birdcitywisconsin.org/Calendar (exit DNR).

Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II and other volunteer opportunities

The second year of Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II (exit DNR) is in full swing, and anyone can sign up to count birds, observe breeding bird behavior, and submit data online to the Atlas. More experienced birders can sign up and intensively survey one of many open blocks.

The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative offers youth art contest to commemorate the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial. Youth in grades K-12 are encouraged to submit original, hand-drawn artwork of a favorite Midwest migratory bird species by May 31.

Celebrating the centennial is as easy as spending time outside in search of birds, attending one of Wisconsin’s bird-related events or teaching someone new about birds, birding or bird hunting. To learn more about Treaty impacts and how you can participate in the centennial, visit dnr.wi.gov, keyword “bird treaty.”

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Head to the MacKenzie Center May 18-19 for the third annual Midwest Outdoor Heritage Education Expo

POYNETTE, Wis. – School groups are encouraged to join Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff at the MacKenzie Center May 18-19 for the third annual Midwest Outdoor Heritage Education Expo.

Students practice their casting skills at the 2015 MacKenzie Outdoors Skills
Students practice their casting skills at the 2015 Midwest Outdoors Heritage Education Expo
Photo Credit: DNR

The Midwest Outdoor Heritage Education Expo gives fifth and sixth grade students an opportunity to view a number of interesting wildlife species and learn more about the outdoors. This event features hands-on learning experiences – students will have the opportunity to participate in the following activities:

  • archery;
  • forestryeducation;
  • wildlifetracking and game calling;
  • fisheriesand angler education;
  • hound andbird dog demonstrations;
  • historicfur trade and trapping education;
  • parks,trails and camping education;
  • outdoor safety,shooting sports and enforcement education; and
  • “SensorySafari” wildlife exhibits.

Visit the Midwest Outdoor Heritage website (exit DNR) to register or contact Mark LaBarbera at 608-854-2196 or via email at mark@outdoorheritageeducationcenter.com.

Advance registration is required – admission is free of charge. Transportation grants are available for interested attendees. Plan to bring a lunch, beverages, closed-toe footwear, and weather appropriate clothing.

The MacKenzie Center is located at W7303 County Highway CS in Poynette. To view a detailed list of all MacKenzie Center special events, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “MacKenzie.”

For more information regarding MacKenzie Center programs and registration information, contact DNRMacKenzieCenter@wisconsin.gov or call 608-635-8105.

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DNR spring fisheries surveys signal great opportunities on waters statewide

Editors’ Note: The following fisheries team members are available to talk about regional fishing opportunities for the general inland season opener May 7 in various regions of the state.

Inland fishing season opens May 7

MADISON, Wis. – Warming temperatures throughout Wisconsin this week should make for a great bite when the general inland fishing season gets underway on Saturday, May 7.

DNR southern fisheries supervisor David Rowe holds a northern pike netted during a musky survey on Lake Monona in Dane County.
DNR southern fisheries supervisor David Rowe holds a northern pike netted during a musky survey on Lake Monona in Dane County.
Photo Credit: DNR

Justine Hasz, fisheries director for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said spring survey work on lakes and rivers around Wisconsin indicates healthy fish populations and great opportunities for anglers based on the walleye, bass, northern pike, panfish, trout, muskies and even catfish netted and promptly released by fisheries crew members in recent days.

Lake Wissota, a 6,300 acre impoundment of the Chippewa River, is well known for its trophy musky. However, the catfish fishery has been gaining popularity and during the spring 2016 fisheries survey, flathead catfish over 20 pounds were a frequent occurrence with flatheads over 40 pounds not uncommon - including this one held by fisheries technician Matt Andre.
Lake Wissota, a 6,300 acre impoundment of the Chippewa River, is well known for its trophy musky. However, the catfish fishery has been gaining popularity and during the spring 2016 fisheries survey, flathead catfish over 20 pounds were a frequent occurrence with flatheads over 40 pounds not uncommon – including this one held by fisheries technician Matt Andre.
Photo Credit: DNR

“Wisconsin remains among the top three angling destinations in the nation and for good reason,” Hasz said. “Whether you prefer fly fishing, casting live bait, trolling or simply watching your bobber dip, our fisheries offer something for everyone.”

While fishing is a passion for many, it is also an economic driver for the state, with an estimated 1.2 million anglers producing a $2.3 billion economic impact, according to the American Sportfishing Association. That impact becomes clear as tens of thousands of anglers take to Wisconsin’s 15,000 lakes, rivers and 13,000 miles of trout streams for opening day.

Walleye continue to be an important target for anglers and since 2013, the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative has worked to rebuild and enhance walleye populations throughout the state. The fish that have been stocked should reach legal size over the next two to three years although some anglers have reported increased catch and release activity from the young fish.

DNR fisheries biologist Joseph Gerbyshak holds two 7-plus pound walleyes from Long Lake in northern Chippewa County. The lake's walleye population is rebounding according to recent fisheries survey data and now totals 3.6 adult walleye per acre, up from 2.9 adult walleye per acre four years ago.
DNR fisheries biologist Joseph Gerbyshak holds two 7-plus pound walleyes from Long Lake in northern Chippewa County. The lake’s walleye population is rebounding according to recent fisheries survey data and now totals 3.6 adult walleye per acre, up from 2.9 adult walleye per acre four years ago.
Photo Credit: DNR

In 2015, Wisconsin stocked 760,000 extended growth walleyes, eclipsing the 2014 record of 720,000. For 2016, DNR intends to stock some 827,000 of the six to eight inch fingerlings, including some 229,000 fish from private and tribal fish farms and 598,000 from DNR hatcheries.

The trout population continues to make gains throughout the state and this year anglers will find 14 streams with upgraded classifications as well as 27 that for the first time have been documented as sustaining trout populations. Six of the newly classified streams have earned the coveted Class 1 designation.

Also new for anglers in 2016 will be simplified trout regulations designed to create more uniformity for anglers who fish on different trout streams and within small geographic areas. Under the new system, maps online and in the regulation pamphlet will indicate one of three regulations:

  • Green means go fish, with no length limit, a bag limit of five fish and no bait restrictions;
  • Yellow means caution, with an 8 inch length limit, a bag limit of three fish and no bait restrictions; and
  • Red means special regulations are in place. Anglers are advised to stop and understand the regulations before fishing.

Anglers targeting panfish also will find new, experimental bag limits to optimize panfish size on high potential lakes capable of producing large panfish. On these lakes, identified in the fishing regulations book, daily bag limits reflect efforts to limit harvest during spawning season or prevent overharvest of any one species.

New Go Wild licensing system makes it easier than ever for anglers to buy, display licenses

Buying a license is easy and convenient through the new Go Wild licensing system, with online access available 24-7. Visit GoWild.wi.gov, one of more than 1,000 vendor locations or a DNR service center to purchase licenses.

While the GoWild licensing system allows several new ways to display proof of your license purchase including use of a personal conservation card, authenticated driver’s license and pdf display on mobile devices, anglers fishing in boundary waters must use the paper printouts as law enforcement officials in the surrounding states do not have access to the Wisconsin database.

Wisconsin residents and nonresidents 16 years old or older need a fishing license to fish in any waters of the state. Residents born before Jan. 1, 1927, do not need a license and resident members of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty are entitled to obtain a free fishing license when on furlough or leave.

Anglers can buy a one-day fishing license that allows them to take someone out to try fishing, and if they like it, the purchase price of that one-day license will be credited toward purchase of an annual license. The one day license is $8 for residents and $10 for nonresidents.

Information about how to provide proof of your purchase may be found at dnr.wi.gov by searching “Go Wild.”

The general Wisconsin fishing season runs from May 7, 2016 to March 5, 2017. To learn more about statewide fishing regulations and rules that apply on specific lakes, visit dnr.wi.gov and search “fishing regulations.” For a complete calendar, search “fishing season dates.”

Anglers can find fish species information, boat access sites, shore fishing areas, lake information and regulations by downloading the free Wisconsin Fish & Wildlife mobile app, which includes a full array of fishing information. DNR has tackle loaner sites in 50 locations, including many state parks, making it easy for people to enjoy fishing if they don’t have their own equipment or if they left it at home.

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Three northern Wisconsin communities receive state brownfields awards

MADISON – Communities in Clark, Lincoln and Rusk counties will make good use of three Department of Natural Resources brownfields awards to help assess contamination at two former wood-processing plants and a former creamery.

The awards consist of contractor services for the projects, and are valued up to $18,000 each. The services will be used to determine soil and groundwater conditions at the former Owen Manufacturing wood processing plant in Clark County; the former Hurd Manufacturing facility in Merrill (Lincoln County); and at the former Sheldon Creamery in Rusk County.

“Years of manufacturing and production have come to an end at these once-thriving businesses,” said Christine Haag, chief of the DNR Brownfields Section. “Now it’s time to clean up these properties and find another use for them. These awards will help get that redevelopment process started.”

The DNR Remediation and Redevelopment Program administers the Wisconsin Assessment Monies (WAM) grants, and work is conducted by environmental consultants. The grants provide communities with professional environmental assessments of contaminated or potentially contaminated properties and help prepare sites for redevelopment.

For nearly a century, Owen Manufacturing was one of the area’s largest employers, turning out a variety of wood products such as drafting tables and custom kitchen furniture from the 24-acre property. The plant closed in 2004 and has been vacant since that time.

The Merrill property has been a manufacturing site since the late 1800s, and DNR is assisting with the assessment of a one-acre portion of the site used to treat lumber.

The former Sheldon Creamery, on the banks of the Jump River, is a 3-acre site with petroleum contamination.

Department WAM applications require minimal effort by local governments because there is no financial match or project administration involved, making it an attractive opportunity for small communities. In many instances, WAM awards are also leveraged against other sources of funding to kick-start repurposing efforts on sites that may have been community eyesores for many years.

Applications can be submitted for a WAM award at any time, although funds are limited. Eligible sites for funding include closed or closing manufacturing plants, or vacant land with a history of manufacturing. Gas stations, dry cleaners, salvage yards and agricultural co-ops are not eligible.

For more information, visit the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search for WAM or “brownfield.”

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October deer hunt for hunters with disabilities provides invaluable opportunity for hunters and landowners

MADISON — Wisconsin landowners are reminded of an excellent opportunity to help other hunters enjoy Wisconsin’s outdoors and sponsor a deer hunt for hunters with disabilities. The deadline for sponsor applications is June 1.

Spending time with family and friends in the outdoors is an important pastime in Wisconsin, but pursuing a deer may seem difficult or unrealistic for some hunters. Each year, this special hunt gives hundreds of hunters an opportunity to take part in this time-honored tradition.

Potential sponsors must have at least 60 acres of land available, and are required to allow access for at least three hunters if they are contacted. In 2016, the disabled hunt will be held Oct. 1-9.

In 2015, nearly 90 sponsors made roughly 100,000 acres available, and close to 400 disabled hunters were given an opportunity to experience the October hunt. Special hunts for disabled hunters began in 1990, with six properties enrolled.

“The disabled deer hunt is an amazing opportunity for those with disabilities to participate in a fall deer hunt,” said Mary Annala, DNR assistant big game ecologist. “Department staff are grateful for the sponsors and volunteers who help make this hunt happen each year.”

A complete list of sponsors will be available on the DNR website at disabled deer hunt after the June 1 deadline. Sponsors are required to submit a list of participants online or via mail no later than Sept. 1.

To complete an online application and learn more about this hunt, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords “disabled deer hunt .” Interested landowners without access to the online application can contact Mary Annala, DNR assistant big game ecologist, at 608-261-7588 or via email at Mary.Annala@Wisconsin.gov.

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Gypsy moth aerial spraying to begin in May

MADISON — Residents of 21 central and western Wisconsin counties can expect to hear and see loud, low-flying planes as early as sunrise, depending on weather conditions, starting in May. Small, yellow planes will be spraying for gypsy moth caterpillars. These invasive pests defoliate trees during their caterpillar stage, causing stress and potentially tree death.

Arial spraying for gypsy moth caterpillars.
Arial spraying for gypsy moth caterpillars.
Photo Credit: DNR

“These aerial treatments are the most efficient and effective method to reduce the spread of gypsy moth,” says Chris Foelker, gypsy moth control program manager. “Where this insect is well established in eastern North America, it has been a periodic public nuisance and damaging forest pest.”

The gypsy moth has a wide range of negative effects on local communities. The cost of removing dead trees around a house can range from several hundred to over one thousand dollars and the loss of mature trees will decrease property values. During the spring and summer, caterpillars shed bristly skin as they grow. Bristles from the cast skins can become airborne and irritate eyes, skin and the respiratory system. People may develop a rash if they come in contact with the bristles.

Gypsy moth caterpillar.
Gypsy moth caterpillar.
Photo Credit: DNR
About the Gypsy Moth Programs

Stay updated

Spray dates and times are weather dependent. People can sign up to receive email notifications about spray plans at gypsymoth.wi.gov (exit DNR). They can listen to a recorded message about spray plans by calling the toll-free Gypsy Moth Information Line at 1-800-642-6684. Press menu option 1 for updates.

Spraying is expected to begin in southern Wisconsin in early May and end in northern Wisconsin during August. Maps of the specific spray areas are available online at gypsymoth.wi.gov (exit DNR).

Spraying will be completed by two programs:

  • The Slow the Spread Program — conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, focuses its efforts in western Wisconsin where gypsy moth populations are low or just starting to build for the first time. The objective is to slow the westward spread of gypsy moth. This year’s Slow the Spread treatments are planned in the following 19 counties: Barron, Bayfield, Buffalo, Chippewa, Crawford, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Grant, Green, La Crosse, Lafayette, Pepin, Richland, Rusk, Saint Croix, Sawyer, Trempealeau and Vernon.
  • The Suppression Program-conducted by the Department of Natural Resources, serves mainly eastern and central Wisconsin where gypsy moth is well established. In these counties, spraying is done to reduce the number of caterpillars and prevent damage from very high populations. This is a voluntary program that works with landowners and local governments. Two Suppression Program treatments are planned this year in Rock and Sauk counties.
Know what to expect


  • Spraying depends on calm winds, no precipitation and high humidity. Planes may start spraying as early as 5 a.m. The planes fly very low and loudly over treatment sites and surrounding areas. Planes will continue spraying until the completion of the day’s spray plans and as long as weather conditions remain favorable. Spraying may last into the late morning or afternoon. Spraying could occur any day of the week, including weekends.

    Spray Treatments

  • Most sites will be sprayed with Foray, which contains Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk). Btk is a naturally-occurring soil bacteria that kills gypsy moth caterpillars when they ingest it.
  • Btk is not toxic to people, bees, pets or other animals. However, some people with severe allergies may wish to stay indoors during nearby spray activities or avoid areas to be sprayed on the day that spraying occurs.
  • The formulation of this bacterial insecticide used by the state’s cooperative gypsy moth program is listed with the Organic Materials Review Institute as acceptable for use in certified organic food production.
  • The Slow the Spread program will also spray a mating disruptor to additional sites between mid-June and mid-August. The pheromone in the mating disruptor makes it difficult for male moths to find female moths in low, isolated populations, preventing reproduction.

For more information about the programs or gypsy moths, visit http://gypsymoth.wi.gov. Or, call the toll-free Gypsy Moth Line at 1-800-642-MOTH (1-800-642-6684) to hear a recording of current spray plans or talk to staff.

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Wisconsin celebrates Arbor Day Friday, April 29

MADISON — Communities across Wisconsin this week are celebrating Forest Appreciation Week and Arbor Day, as declared by Gov. Scott Walker.

In the proclamation, Walker said that “the demands on our forest resources necessitate an increased awareness of their economic, social, cultural, and ecological values.”

“In addition to their well-known ecological benefits, trees in our communities provide economic benefits as well,” according to Jeff Roe, urban forestry team leader for the Department of Natural Resources. “Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and save energy used for heating by 20 to 50 percent.”

Volunteers participate in an Arbor Day Tree Planting at High Cliff State Park.
Volunteers participate in an Arbor Day Tree Planting at High Cliff State Park.
Photo Credit: DNR

Roe also noted the social and human health benefits of the trees where we live. “Spending time near trees improves physical and mental health by increasing energy level and speed of recovery, while decreasing blood pressure and stress,” Roe said.

To promote the “individual commitment to the study and appreciation of trees and forests” as called for in the Arbor Day proclamation, the DNR Division of Forestry donated 38,000 tree seedlings to Wisconsin fourth grade classrooms for their Arbor Day celebrations this week.

“Not only is learning about the value and benefits of trees important,” Roe said, “but planting trees today is also essential for future generations.”

Wisconsin celebrates Arbor Day on the last Friday of April and April 29, 2016 is the 133rd year of this annual tree celebration in Wisconsin. Visit the DNR website at dnr.wi.gov and search keywords “Arbor Day” for resources to help your community celebrate trees and forests.

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Lake Michigan stocking efforts contribute to diverse angling opportunities

MILWAUKEE – After stocking more than 2.6 million fish into the Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan in 2015, the Department of Natural Resources is relying on recent harvest data and survey research to implement its Lake Michigan stocking plans for the coming year.

At the same time, the department is employing a variety of techniques and monitoring efforts to ensure that stocked fish have the greatest chance for survival given the challenging predator to prey ratio in Lake Michigan. Brad Eggold, DNR southern Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor, said the department’s stocking efforts are part of a strategy that complements natural reproduction in the lake and its tributaries to provide diverse angling opportunities.

“We are committed to sustaining and improving the world-class fishery in Lake Michigan while recognizing that the makeup of the fishery may change over time,” Eggold said. “Based on the best available science and our own management experience, we stock strategically to optimize returns while taking advantage of natural reproduction to maximize efficiency. We also work closely with partners in our neighboring states and the federal government to manage the resource in a coordinated way. “

Overall, 2016 Wisconsin stocking numbers are expected to total 2.3 million chinook and coho salmon as well as brown and rainbow trout. Chinook salmon will again represent the greatest number of fish stocked into the Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan as plans call for the release of approximately 808,254 chinook, down from 823,496 for 2015.

In 2013, chinook salmon stocking was reduced by 30 percent because of concerns over declining alewife populations. This year’s stocking plan continues to reflect those concerns as recent survey data indicates record low levels of alewives and other forage fish due to predation and invasive quagga mussels removing nutrients from the water.

Estimates by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicate that natural reproduction currently accounts for more than 60 percent of all chinook in Lake Michigan and the stocking plans by Wisconsin and other states attempt to factor in the impact of these wild fish.

Eggold said the above-average survival rate of chinook stocked by Wisconsin means anglers here benefit both from stocked and naturally produced fish that spend a significant amount of time feeding along the lake’s western shore during the summer and from the stocked fish that return to spawn in the fall. DNR continues to review its chinook stocking distribution and is working with stakeholder groups using net pens in five locations and a subset of those to study whether this rearing and release technique improves fish growth and returns.

While chinook account for the single largest number of fish introduced each year, DNR’s efforts to stock hundreds of thousands of coho salmon, brown trout and rainbow trout at more than 40 locations along the Lake Michigan coast support diverse angling opportunities, said Dave Giehtbrock, DNR fisheries culture section chief.

“Rearing and stocking salmon and trout are among our most important management activities,” Giehtbrock said. “We appreciate stakeholder interest in our propagation efforts as well as the public and private support we’ve received to improve our hatchery facilities.”

For 2016, the department intends to stock 676,637 brown trout (820,954 in 2015), 460,094 coho (539,129 in 2015) and 390,004 rainbow trout (432,665 in 2015). Additionally, some 12,500 Great Lakes spotted musky are being produced and 3,500 lake sturgeon are being reared as part of a reintroduction project in the Milwaukee and Kewaunee Rivers.

In 2016, the Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan should also receive about 800,000 lake trout produced by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

To learn more about Lake Michigan fisheries management including historic stocking trends visit the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search “Fishing Lake Michigan.”

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