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Archive | Outdoors

DNR celebrates herpetofauna during Michigan Wildlife Weekend 

 

This gray tree frog is just one of the many species of Michigan amphibians and reptiles to be celebrated during Michigan Wildlife Weekend. Photo by Jim Harding.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will highlight herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians) during Michigan Wildlife Weekend (June 23-25), with three days of outdoor education programming in a handful of Michigan state parks. The family-friendly programs are free for campers and visitors.

This year’s program will feature pond and wetland hikes, animal identification programs and other interactive activities. Participants will learn about frogs, turtles, snakes, salamanders and other interesting creatures. The annual program features a different group of animals each year, while providing a fun and educational experience for the whole family.

Michigan Wildlife Weekend and many other programs are led by state park Explorer Guides and park interpreters who work in the park and present a variety of outdoor education opportunities in nearly 30 Michigan state parks. These enthusiastic, nature-minded folks lead hikes, activities and programming that shine a spotlight on each park’s unique resources.

To find nearby Michigan Wildlife Weekend programs, visit www.michigan.gov/natureprograms and look for Wildlife Weekend under Special Programs. To see all available Explorer programming throughout the summer, view the interactive map or alphabetical list of parks.

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Butterflies and citizen science

photos from West Michigan Butterfly Association’s website, http://www.graud.org/wmba.html

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Join on one or more fun citizen science outdoor field studies. Discover butterflies in a variety of local habitats with people knowledgeable in butterfly identification. It is a great way to learn some of the 170 species known to Michigan. Join with the West Michigan Butterfly Association for fun discovery.

Counts are sponsored by the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) and cost $3 for each participant. The money is sent to NABA to create a publication documenting butterfly abundance, distribution, and trends throughout North America. Scientists make use of citizen science data. Between 17 and 22 different counts are held in Michigan annually and you can contact Ranger Steve about other Michigan counts. Your help spotting butterflies is desired. Knowledge of butterflies is not required.

To find species and count numbers, we carpool to various sites in the designated count circle with a 15-mile diameter. Have a good time discovering in the outdoors, learn species identification, habitat associations, behavior, and nature niche needs. Participate for part of the day or stay all day.

Bring a bag lunch, plenty to drink, snacks, camera, and dress with lightweight long sleeves and pants to protect from biting insects or raspberry thorns. Some optional exploration is off trail.

Dates and meeting locations:

July 1, 2017 (Sat) 9:00 a.m. Allegan Butterfly Count – Allegan Co. 

Leader: Ranger Steve (Mueller) Meet at the Fennville Allegan State Game Area headquarters, 6013 118th Ave, Fennville. odybrook@chartermi.net

July 5, 2017 (Wed) 9:00 a.m. Newaygo County Butterfly Count – Newaygo Co. 

Leader: Ranger Steve (Mueller) Meeting at the Leppink’s grocery parking lot at the corner of M-82 & M-37 in Newaygo. odybrook@chartermi.net

July 8, 2017 (Sat) 9:00 a.m. Rogue River Butterfly Count – Kent Co.

Leader: Ranger Steve (Mueller) (Kent, Newaygo, Montcalm Counties) Meet at Howard Christensen Nature Center Welcome Center 16160 Red Pine Dr. Kent City. odybrook@chartermi.net

July 22, 2017 (Sat) 9:00 a.m. Greater Muskegon Butterfly Ct – Muskegon Co.

Leader: Dennis Dunlap Meet on Mill Iron Road north from M-46 (Apple Ave.) east of Muskegon.  Travel to the second set of power lines that cross the road north of MacArthur Road. dunlapmd@charter.net

Rain day alternates will be the next day. It is suggested to sign up with Ranger Steve so unexpected changes can be shared.

Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Help keep Michigan black bears at a distance

 

Bear bird feeder: Bears commonly are attracted to bird feeders for their access to easy protein and fat calories. Food can erode the natural fear of humans that bears have.

The Department of Natural Resources asks Michigan residents to help keep the state’s up-north icon a wild animal by keeping bears at a distance. With many people (whether they’re seasonal visitors or year-round residents) outdoors and enjoying northern Michigan in the summer months, removing bird feeders is an easy answer to bear problems.

“When situations occur concerning a bear, some form of food has usually attracted the bear into the area,” said DNR wildlife communications coordinator Katie Keen. “The common element is usually a bird feeder—seed, suet and even hummingbird feeders. The good news is a homeowner can choose to take control of the situation.”

Michigan’s bear range: Much of Michigan’s bear population can be found in the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula.

Michigan’s estimated black bear population is over 12,000 adult bears—2,000 in the northern Lower Peninsula and 10,000 across the Upper Peninsula. Typically, black bears are shy animals, but they have a great sense of smell and can remember a food source. As a result, a black bear will go places it normally wouldn’t if a food reward is available.

In addition to bird feeders, pet food, garbage, barbeque grills and beehives also can attract bears. Pet food should be stored indoors, as should garbage, until the time of pickup. Garbage that is set out the night before can attract bears and can have more of an impact than just an overturned garbage can.

“Bears are smart, so we have to be smarter,” said Keen. “They are wild animals that are unpredictable and can travel many miles. Your habits can affect those around you, and a bear that loses its natural fear of humans because food has been introduced can end up being bold or dangerous and may need to be put down.”

Michigan’s bear population generally is found in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula and across the Upper Peninsula. Bears eat most items found in the forest, including plants, berries, nuts, acorns, insects and, occasionally, small mammals. Because bears will eat most anything, their behavior and normal travel patterns will change if an easy food source is discovered.

“Don’t wait for the first time a bear knocks down your bird feeder or garbage can; be proactive and don’t let a habit form,” said Keen.

Learn more about living with bears and ways to avoid attracting bears to your property with the DNR’s “The Bear Essentials” video on Michigan.gov/wildlife.

Bear population and distribution are managed through regulated bear hunting. Michigan’s bear hunting seasons vary by bear management unit, with the first 2017 season starting Sept. 8. A total of 7,140 bear hunting licenses will be available this fall. Bear hunting licenses are distributed through a preference point system.

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Deer chasing coyote

 

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

A coyote suddenly dashed from the woods, in front of Karen and me, with a deer in close pursuit. The deer was about 15 feet behind the coyote that was running for safety. The coyote looked healthy but was anxious for escape.

The deer was determined to nail the coyote with some serious blows. After passing in front us, the coyote dodged around us and turned again to enter the woods. Karen and I were traveling in a clearing on pavement.

The deer held true to its pursuit, passing in front of us as if we were not there with focus on the canine. She banked on the pavement and made a second turn toward the woods. The pavement was too smooth for her hooves and her legs went out from under her. She fell hard on her left side, jumped up and continued.

Karen was concerned that she might have received a serious injury. She did not appear to have broken a limb and hopefully the worst would be bruising.

Both coyote and deer disappeared into the woods in seconds. We hardly had time to process what was occurring. We were dumbfounded a coyote was running for its life from a deer in hot pursuit.

If a deer is healthy, a coyote’s chance of killing it are reduced. A heavy coyote weighs about 35 pounds and an adult doe averages 125 to 150 pounds. The deer has the advantage of weight, height, speed, and sharp hooves. It is not the best use of time and energy for a coyote to attempt to take a healthy deer.

I personally possess a scar on my right arm from 58 years ago when a deer casually sliced me open with one swipe of its hoof. That wild deer did not intentionally try to injure me. Back in the day, people fed wild animals in national parks. My mother put some salt on my hand and I held it out for the deer. It licked the salt and when the salt was gone, the deer pawed for more like a dog might. Its hoof gashed my arm.

Laws have since been established to prevent feeding or getting too close to wild animals in parks to protect both animals and people.

When an adult deer is weak, injured, or sick, a coyote has a better chance to kill it. That would shorten a prolonged demise and would likely help prevent the spread of disease among deer. Coyotes find and eat dead deer but occasionally adults are killed. In one study, 10 percent of coyote scat has been found to contain deer hair. Because of scavenging, the presence of hair in scat does not mean the coyote killed a deer.

So why was this deer chasing a coyote? The deer would not eat the coyote. What would cause it to endanger itself with high pursuit of an animal clearly wanting to get away? A fawn! Taking fawns is common.

The drama we witnessed the first week of June will never have a complete answer. The coyote was probably intent on killing a fawn so she could feed her own young. Does regularly leave fawns for extended periods when they are very small but by June fawns can travel with mom. If mom was nearby when the coyote arrived, the doe would let the coyote know you don’t mess with momma or her fawn.

The coyote likely had hungry pups to feed. Coyotes help keep deer numbers from being excessive and denuding the forest of many plants. Many forests have lost wildflowers and vegetation from deer over browsing. Fortunately, Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary still has healthy plant populations. That could in part be due to the presence of coyotes that take fawns. Mice and other small rodents along with insects are a staple in the coyote’s diet. Coyotes know you don’t mess with mamma deer.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Michigan Boating Week 

 

June 10-16 highlights the freshwater state

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources invites residents and visitors to celebrate the state’s unparalleled boating opportunities and one of the best freshwater destinations in the world during Michigan Boating Week June 10-16.

“Water is one of Michigan’s greatest natural resources,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “This weeklong campaign encourages residents and visitors to celebrate Michigan’s vast freshwater resources and get out and explore all of the on-the-water opportunities the Great Lakes State affords. Michigan is truly a boater’s paradise.”

Michigan is home to an estimated 4 million boating enthusiasts and approximately 1 million registered boats and 300,000 nonregistered canoes and kayaks. In addition, recreational boating has an annual $7.4 billion impact and the boating industry provides nearly 59,000 jobs across the state.

“Michigan Boating Week is a great opportunity to highlight the importance of the boating industry to our state’s economy as well as its importance to the quality of life,” said Nicki Polan, executive director of the Michigan Boating Industries Association. “Michigan’s access to freshwater resources helps build lakeside communities and boating-related industries such as tourism, commercial fishing and boat manufacturing and sales.”

The weeklong celebration also includes a handful of events taking place in harbors across the state and live radio broadcasts that will feature DNR staff and other industry professionals.

Since residents and visitors are never more than 6 miles from a body of water or 85 miles from a Great Lake, there are plenty of reasons to take pride in Michigan’s vast freshwater resources. The following freshwater facts help define why Michigan is the Great Lakes State:

  • 3,288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline.
  • 11,000-plus inland lakes.
  • 36,350 miles of rivers and streams.
  • 1,300 boat launches and 82 public harbors administered by state, county and local units of government.
  • More lighthouses than any other state.
  • Access to 154 species of fish.

A portion of revenue collected from Michigan’s gas tax and watercraft registrations helps fund state facilities, including 19 harbors and approximately 1,000 boating access sites. Another portion of that revenue funds grants to local units of government that oversee 63 harbors and roughly 200 boating access sites. These resources help fund waterways projects and the ongoing maintenance at public recreational boating facilities, benefiting local and regional economies and contributing to statewide tourism.

Visit www.michigan.gov/boating to learn more about Michigan boating, Michigan Boating Week, water safety and much more. In addition, the Michigan Harbors Guide is available for download and is designed to offer essential boating information and a list of locations and amenities offered at state harbors.

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Experience #MiFreeFishingWeekend June 10-11 and enjoy the outdoors

Grab a fishing rod and enjoy some of the finest fishing Michigan has to offer during the 2017 Summer Free Fishing Weekend, June 10-11. That Saturday and Sunday, everyone—residents and non-residents alike—can fish without a license, though all other fishing regulations still apply.

Additionally, during #MiFreeFishingWeekend the DNR will waive the regular Recreation Passport entry fee for vehicle access to Michigan’s 103 state parks and recreation areas. Several of these locations will host official 2017 Summer Free Fishing Weekend events perfect for the whole family.

Michigan celebrated summer’s #MiFreeFishingWeekend every year since 1986 as a way to promote awareness of the state’s vast aquatic resources. With more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams and 11,000 inland lakes—Michigan and fishing are a perfect match.

“Being outdoors and enjoying Michigan’s world-class fisheries never gets old,” said Jim Dexter, DNR Fisheries Division chief. “We encourage avid anglers to consider inviting a new angler out for this year’s Summer Free Fishing Weekend to show them how simple and fun it can be.”

Official summer #MiFreeFishingWeekend activities are being scheduled in communities across the state to assist with public participation. These activities are coordinated by a variety of organizations including constituent groups, schools, local and state parks, businesses and others. A full list of these events can be found online at michigan.gov/freefishing.

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It’s best to leave snakes be

 

The only venomous snake species found in Michigan, the rare eastern massasauga rattlesnake is shy and avoids humans whenever possible.

Michigan is home to 18 different species of snakes, 17 of which are harmless to humans

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources gets many questions this time of year about Michigan’s snakes. Eighteen different species of snake call Michigan home, but only one of them poses any real harm to humans.

“Whether you think snakes are terrifying or totally cool, it is best just to leave them be,” said Hannah Schauer, wildlife communications coordinator for the DNR.

The snake the DNR gets the most questions about is the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, the only venomous species found in Michigan. This snake rarely is seen and is listed as a threatened species by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service due to declining populations from habitat loss. As its name implies, the massasauga rattlesnake does have a segmented rattle on its tail. It should not be confused with the other, harmless species of snake in Michigan that do not have segmented rattles but will buzz their tails if approached or handled.

“The massasauga rattlesnake tends to be a very shy snake that will avoid humans whenever possible,” said Schauer. “They spend the vast majority of their time in wetlands hunting for mice and aren’t often encountered.”

Schauer said that when a massasauga is encountered, if the snake doesn’t feel threatened it will let people pass without revealing its location.

“If you do get too close without realizing it, a rattlesnake will generally warn you of its presence by rattling its tail while you are still several feet away,” Schauer said. “If given room, the snake will slither away and likely will not be seen again.”

Rattlesnake bites, while extremely rare in Michigan, can and do occur. Anyone who is bitten should seek professional medical attention.

Another snake that can cause quite a stir is the eastern hog-nosed snake, one of the many harmless species found in Michigan. When threatened, hognose snakes puff up with air, flatten their necks and bodies, and hiss loudly. This has led to local names like “puff adder” or “hissing viper.” If this act is unsuccessful, they will writhe about, excrete a foul-smelling musk and then turn over with mouth agape and lie still, as though dead. Despite this intimidating behavior, hog-nosed snakes do not pose a threat to humans.

Michigan snakes do not attack, chase or lunge at people or seek out human contact. If you have spotted a snake, stay at least 3 feet away from the head to avoid getting bit. Handling or harassing snakes is the most common cause for humans getting bit. Simply put, if left alone, Michigan snakes will leave people alone.

To find out what other kinds of snakes Michigan has and how to tell the difference between them, check out the “60-Second Snakes” video series on the DNR’s YouTube channel.

Learn more about Michigan’s snakes by visiting mi.gov/wildlife and clicking on the “Wildlife Species” button, then selecting “Amphibians and Reptiles.”

Please consider reporting any reptile or amphibian sightings to the Michigan Herp Atlas research project to help monitor amphibian and reptile populations in the state and protect these important Michigan residents for future generations. Visit www.miherpatlas.org for more information.

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Earth Aliens

Garlic mustard is one of the alien (non-native) plants in Michigan that disrupts habitat by replacing native wildflowers and killing native butterflies that try to feed on it. Photo from Michigan.org.

Earth aliens are killing or replacing native species by out competing them. Does it matter to our lives, economy, social, and environmental wellbeing? How do invading aliens impact us?

About seven percent of plants in North America were aliens from other continents by 1840. Presently, about 37 percent of plants in native habitats are aliens. Farm fields are planted with non-natives where aliens are critical to our health and survival. Many non-native yard plants please the eye but have negative effects on animals and native communities. It is a problem when aliens escape and invade native habitats. We need crops and farm fields but we also need healthy native habitats without aliens.

Garlic mustard is one species replacing native wildflowers and plants in forests. Organized groups pull the alien mustard on public and private land to help native species. The Mustard White and the West Virginia White are butterflies dependent on native mustards but are killed when they feed on the garlic mustard. They recognize chemicals in garlic mustard when they are searching plants to lay eggs and the chemicals trigger egg laying.

Their caterpillars die when feeding on the plant. Besides direct death by feeding, the alien plant replaces native plants. This happens with other plants and insects that have specific nature niche adaptations. Plants and animals evolve to co-exist. When alien plants cause plant species to disappear, associated insects disappear.

Plants evolve chemicals over time that prevent herbivores from feeding on them. It allows successful reproduction of their kind. The Mustard White and West Virginia White have been able to circumvent the native mustard’s chemical strategies, feed on them, and survive while other species cannot use the plant. When only a few species evolve to feed on a plant, the plant’s ability to reproduce and survive is improved. Such biodiversity adaptations allow species to survive and perform vital functions in ecosystems.

Most aliens from other continents are unable to survive and disappear shortly after invading in new habitat. Those that live often become economic or health hazards. For Native Americans, small pox that arrived with Europeans was deadly because they had not evolved defenses. Various fungi have caused devastation and starvation. The Irish potato famine that caused the death and economic collapse for Ireland is one example. Agricultural scientists work to protect crops from corn smut, fruit flies, and many threats to cultivated crops.

The scientists also work to protect native communities and species important to the forest industry. White Pine blister rust had environmental impact leading to economic loss and community social hardship. When native plant communities cannot sustain themselves, the human economy declines causing communities problems. The alien emerald ash borer caused billions in economic loss since it arrived and has killed countless native animals. Animals dependent on ash trees have declined. The Dutch Elm disease caused loss of trees and the DDT treatment caused severe environmental problems. Eagles and other species were pushed toward extinction and we are still working decades later at great expense to remedy the pesticide-caused problems.

Native plants enrich soil fertility, maintain mycorrhizal fungi essential for nutrient absorption, and maintain nutrient cycles important for human communities. The economic importance is critical. Our nations soils continue to decline with loss of species disrupted by aliens. We add fertilizers to replace lost nutrients but native species do it more efficiently. It is important to help native species survive to build soils, support native insects, birds, and mammals to maintain our country’s healthy economic, social, and environmental triple bottom line.

To protect your interests, protect native species that support healthy biodiversity in your yard. Prevent alien species from simplifying healthy habitats. Alien species kill native species and harm our economy and social structure by impairing environmental health. Nationally, prevent current efforts to eliminate environmental law protections. Locally, manage your yard in a manner that supports native species survival.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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DNR reminds moose watchers of traffic hazards

A moose stands not far off U.S. 41 near Humboldt in Marquette County. DNR officials are reminding the public to remember safety and use caution when stopping along roadways to watch and photograph wildlife. Photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials are reminding the public to remember safety and use caution when stopping along roadsides to look at moose and other wildlife.

“We have had recurring concerns reported about motorists stopping along roadsides in the Upper Peninsula to watch and photograph moose,” said Lt. Pete Wright, a DNR district law supervisor. “We understand seeing a moose is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people and it can be tremendously exciting. However, people need to be mindful of the dangers posed by passing traffic and the animals themselves.”

  • If stopping along a roadway to experience a Michigan moose sighting:
  • Pull your vehicle completely out of the traffic lanes to park.
  • Make sure vehicle has stopped moving before exiting.
  • Watch behind for oncoming vehicles before opening vehicle doors.
  • Do not walk through traffic to cross the highway.
  • Wait until there is a sufficient opening in traffic to cross the road. Avoid having to wait in the middle of the road for cars to pass.
  • Remain aware of where you and others are standing while watching or photographing wildlife. Keep away from traffic lanes. Do not rely on motorists to see you and avoid you.
  • Respect moose and other wildlife as the wild creatures they are. Watch or photograph wildlife from a safe distance. Do not approach or harass wildlife.
  • Keep a sharp eye out for traffic when returning to your vehicle. Use safe crossing methods.
  • Watch for approaching vehicles when pulling your vehicle back onto the roadway. Merge properly with traffic.

“Michigan is fortunate to have moose and a wide array of other watchable wildlife to enjoy,” Wright said. “However, when doing so, it’s always best to keep safety in mind.”

For more information on wildlife and wildlife viewing visit www.michigan/gov/wildlife.

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Fishing Tip from the DNR 

Fishing for muskellunge is a premier challenge

Known as “the fish of 10,000 casts,” muskellunge are a game fish native to the lakes and streams of Michigan. They are a prized catch to many anglers, but present many challenges when trying to do target them. But, if you do your research and are patient, you too could possibly land a big one!

Muskie anglers can choose from a variety of methods such as trolling, casting or still fishing with live bait. Muskellunge tackle must withstand the larger, bulkier lures required, as well as the fact these fish can exceed 30 pounds. Anglers should use much heavier line and stronger rods. It should be noted that muskie fishing success usually requires more dedication and persistence than for other species.

Want to learn more about this valued game fish? Check out their section of the Michigan Fish and How to Catch Them website at https://tinyurl.com/michiganfishcatchthem.

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