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Archive | Outdoors

Squirrel stare down

Squirrels at The Post are funny creatures. Sometimes they come to our front window and watch us—silently willing us to come out and give them food. The squirrel in the photo watched our designer, Belinda Sanderson, when she got out of her car recently and decided to have a stare down with her. “He was just frozen, staring at me for the longest time, like he was waiting for me to take the picture,” she said with a laugh.

Do you have winter wildlife photos you’d like to share with us? Send them to news@cedarspringspost.com.

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Desire to have a bird brain

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Black-capped Chickadees have an advantage that we apparently do not. They grow new brain cells each fall and get rid of some old cells containing information no longer needed. The cells destroyed hold information on where they hid seeds last winter. The new neurons will store locations for this winter’s seed hiding.

Dr. Fernando Nottebohm of Rockefeller University in New York studies the growth of neurons in the brains of birds. Todd Peterson and Frances Wood shared this information in Audubon Notes.

I suspect studies on other bird species would reveal similar findings. Species visiting my feeders grab a seed and depart to unknown locations. I see birds wedging seeds in tree bark crevasses. White-breasted Nuthatches have long slim bills, a black cap, white underparts, and short tail feathers. They appear quite flat on their upper side. You could place a ruler on their back and it would touch the entire length from head to tail.

A Black-capped Chickadee’s back is more contoured with its head raised higher than its back and holds its long tail at slightly different angles. A ruler would not touch head to tail at the same time. They have gray wings with a white marking along the leading edge of flight feathers. People heading south for winter can see the Carolina Chickadee that looks nearly identical but lacks the white feather edging. 

The three species collect and hide seeds for winter. It is likely studies of the nuthatch and Carolina Chickadee bird brain hippocampus will reveal importance for their spatial memories also. People wonder why spend time and money to learn such things. Some ask, “What good are these species? 

Aldo Leopold said such a question is the height of ignorance. We are all ignorant in most areas of knowledge. Every organism has hidden values. Most benefit them. Not everything is about “me” nor should it be. We know little about the natural world and nature niches. It is not reasonable to assume other species have little value. My friend Bob Raver replied to people asking that question with, “What good are you? 

For those needing a better answer to why learn about birds replacing brain cells, Dr. Nottebohm said, “Studying the ability of a bird’s brain to generate new neurons might uncover ways to replace brain cells lost due to injury, stroke or degeneration, as happens in diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s.”

I am on a combination of chemos that causes chemo brain, meaning that I have memory impairment from the chemicals used to keep me alive. Fortunately, they do not impair my long-term memory but I have difficulty learning new things or remembering things like what I had for lunch without writing it down as a memory jogger. I am concerned about dementia because my dad and his mother suffered from dementia. For now, I can blame my short-term memory difficulties on chemo. 

My cancer is terminal and not curable but great advances have been made. My oncologist’s goal is to keep me alive until I die from something else. When my multiple myeloma was first diagnosed when I was 47, life expectancy was one to three years and it was likely I would not reach age 50. Fortunately, the blood cancer progressed slowly. By age 57 the cancer caused seven bone fractures in my spine and I was using a walker. I could not navigate stairs. Scientists were studying frogs that could regenerate bones in lost limbs. Doctors used chemicals to help my bones’ regeneration and chemo to slow cancer progression. I do not know if my bone regeneration had anything to do with frog bone research. Today, another ten years later, I am walking without a walker and look reasonably normal except for 30 pounds of weight gain caused by a steroid chemo. 

Practical uses of bird neuron development that helps us is good and desirable. I contend species have their own value and we should not only be concerned with what good are they for us? Instead, ask what value you are for other species. What you do to help other species might help you in unknown ways. It is good citizenship to protect species like chickadees that have a right to share the world even if there is no apparent value to us.

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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CWD identified in a Mecosta County farmed deer

 

Chronic wasting disease was confirmed this week in a one-and-a-half-year-old female deer from a Mecosta County deer farm. CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. The sample was submitted for testing as a part of the state’s CWD surveillance program.

“The deer farmer who submitted the sample has gone above and beyond any state requirements to protect their deer from disease, and it is unknown at this time how this producer’s herd became infected with CWD,” said Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development State Veterinarian James Averill, DVM. “In partnership with the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we are taking the necessary steps to protect the health and well-being of all of Michigan’s deer populations.”

“What we know about CWD is always evolving,” said DNR state wildlife veterinarian, Kelly Straka, DVM. “As new positives are found, we learn more about how it’s transmitted to determine the best way to protect both free-ranging and farmed deer.”

MDARD and DNR are following the Michigan Surveillance and Response Plan for Chronic Wasting Disease of Free-Ranging and Privately Owned Cervids. The positive farm has been quarantined and, based on the plan, DNR and MDARD will take the following steps:

*Conduct trace investigations to find possible areas of spread.

*Identify deer farms within the 15-mile radius and implement individual herd plans that explain the CWD testing requirements and movement restrictions for each herd. These herds will also undergo a records audit and fence inspection.

*Partner with the USDA on the management of the herd.

CWD is transmitted directly from one animal to another and indirectly through the environment. Infected animals may display abnormal behavior, progressive weight loss and physical debilitation. To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in humans. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.

Since May 2015, when the first free-ranging white-tailed CWD positive deer was found in Michigan, the DNR has tested approximately 23,000 deer. Of those tested, as of December 6, 30 cases of CWD have been suspected or confirmed in deer from Clinton, Ingham, Kent and Montcalm counties. This is the first year any free-ranging deer were found CWD positive in Montcalm or Kent counties.

More information about CWD—including Michigan’s CWD surveillance and response plan—is available at  http://www.michigan.gov/cwd.

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More deer suspected positive for chronic wasting disease 

 

30 deer from Clinton, Ingham, Kent and Montcalm counties have been identified either as CWD positive or CWD suspect since 2015

With the firearm deer season complete, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has now identified a total of 30 free-ranging white-tailed deer that are confirmed or suspected to have chronic wasting disease. Several thousand additional samples are awaiting testing by Michigan State University, so numbers for this deer season could still change.

Since May 2015 when the first CWD deer was found, the DNR has tested approximately 23,000 deer. Of those tested, 30 cases of CWD have been suspected or confirmed in deer from Clinton, Ingham, Kent and Montcalm counties. “CWD suspect” means that the deer tested positive on an initial screening test, but has not yet been confirmed through additional testing. It is very rare that a CWD suspect will not be confirmed as a CWD-positive animal, but it is possible.

From 2015 to 2016, a total of four deer (in DeWitt, Eagle and Watertown townships) in Clinton County tested positive. So far in 2017, a single CWD suspect has been identified in Westphalia Township, also in Clinton County. In Ingham County, five deer from Meridian Township tested positive from 2015 to 2016; since then, no deer from Ingham County have tested positive for CWD.

In Montcalm County, a total of 17 deer from the following townships are suspected or confirmed to be positive for CWD: Cato, Douglass, Fairplain, Maple Valley, Montcalm, Pine, Reynolds, Sidney and Winfield. In Kent County, three CWD-positive deer were found in Nelson and Spencer townships. This is the first year any CWD-suspect free-ranging deer were found in Montcalm or Kent counties.

“The fact that we have likely found so many additional CWD-positive deer is a major concern for Michigan’s deer population,” said Chad Stewart, DNR deer specialist. “However, Michigan has a comprehensive CWD response and surveillance plan to guide our actions, and we will continue working with hunters and taking proactive measures to contain this disease.”

To date, the DNR has:

*Established a CWD Core and Management Zone where CWD has been detected.

*Implemented deer feeding and baiting bans throughout entire CWD Core and Management Zones.

*Intensified surveillance of free-ranging deer in CWD Management Zones, including mandatory check and testing of all hunter-harvested deer within Core CWD Areas.

*Opened and staffed additional deer check stations to better accommodate hunters within Core CWD Areas.

The DNR encourages hunters throughout the state to continue to hunt responsibly and submit their deer for CWD surveillance and testing. 

“Hunters are our best ally in understanding the magnitude of chronic wasting disease in Michigan,” said Stewart. “It’s vital for hunters throughout the state to continue to bring in their deer for testing, and to talk to one another about the seriousness of the situation and the actions they can take right now to help limit the spread of CWD.”

High rates of CWD in a deer population could significantly affect the number of deer, and also could significantly depress the potential for older age classes, especially the more mature bucks.

Michigan welcomes approximately 600,000 deer hunters each year who, over the past decade, harvest an average of 340,000 deer. Overall, hunting generates more than $2.3 billion a year for Michigan’s economy, with approximately $1.9 billion of that stemming from deer hunting.

“There’s no question that a healthy deer herd across the state is critical to Michigan’s economy and to a thriving hunting tradition that spans generations of friends and family,” Stewart said.

The DNR strongly recommends that hunters who harvest deer in Clinton, Ingham, Kent and Montcalm counties have their deer tested by bringing them to a deer check station.

Hunters who have submitted their deer heads for CWD testing should process their deer as needed, but wait for test results before consumption.

To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in humans. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals. 

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals. Susceptible animals can acquire CWD by direct exposure to these fluids, from environments contaminated with these fluids, or from the carcass of a diseased animal. 

Some CWD-infected animals will display abnormal behaviors, progressive weight loss and physical debilitation; however, deer can be infected for many years without showing internal or external symptoms. There is no cure for a deer once it is infected with CWD. 

To learn more about CWD, and the current known distribution of CWD in Michigan, visit michigan.gov/cwd. Results are updated weekly.

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Extinctions

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Waylon Jennings said, “The wide-open spaces are closing in quickly from the weight of the whole human race.” 

One does not need to be a scientist to recognize how human abundance imposes on people and other species. When does too much of something threaten human existence and other species? Watching the loss of another species and being unable to save it despite best efforts lets us know the fragility of nature niches. 

We watched the most abundant bird species decline to extinction in a 50-year period. We did not understand the ecological requirements of the Passenger Pigeon and could not save it. We were unable to fully analyze its needs and habitat requirements before it was gone. A segment of the human population saw it as a commodity to use until it was gone and dismissed it without remorse. Another segment ached in heart and mind. 

There are those that feel a responsibility for sustaining creation and those that feel all creation is here for unregulated use and consumption for personal desires. Key to that statement is “feel.” It has nothing to with scientific evidence to sustain Earth ecosystems for our health. How we feel trumps evidence-supported science. Compassion and a tender heart are necessary if we hope to embrace science to help us.

The disappearance of a species means little if people do not share a sense of oneness and purpose with other life. When parents lose children to malaria, it is no wonder they hope for the extinction of the disease agent. Many would appreciate extinction of all mosquitoes but most mosquito species cannot transmit malaria. 

Mosquitoes are a nuisance with tremendous impacts on wildlife health. They draw blood that weakens animals as large as moose. Despite the apparent negative impacts of mosquitoes, their presence is essential for maintaining life and reproduction for aquatic insects, fish, birds and even people. Science evidence supports that a great diversity of species is needed to sustain food chains and long-term ecological stability. 

Why am I thinking about extinctions? I am a member of the Mitchell’s Satyr and Karner Blue Butterfly working groups with US FWS and MDNR that are striving to help those endangered species recover adequately to sustain their populations without human assistance. They both live in our region and are declining. 

On September 22, 1979 scientists reported the Large Blue Butterfly (Maculinae arion) became extinct. Efforts to save it were progressing. Life history research was occurring but the species disappeared before intricacies of its nature niche were understood. Saving remnants of habitats is needed because we cannot learn enough.

We reduce species by eliminating habitat. Loss of healthy living space impacts species and our own survival chances. Human survival, like that of the abundant Passenger Pigeons, depends on understanding ecological requirements. How we feel about our role in nature and for maintaining healthy yards can save us. 

Protecting groundwater from discarded chemicals, reducing excessive release of carbon into the atmosphere by switching from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, in addition to maintaining yards with native species instead of large lawns can protect our own nature niche and that of other species. Protecting National Monuments protects species important for maintaining biodiversity and preventing extinctions.

It is estimated 10 to 50 million species live on Earth. A million may have been lost since the Large Blue became extinct. Evidence supports that human enhanced climate change and other misuses accelerate extinction. Scientific evidence is easily dismissed. How we feel about living things that maintain a healthy world is important. As our population increases, it becomes increasingly critical to eliminate large lawns to allow native species a place to live. We can manage for a healthy future if we feel like it. Sound science and reason can provide the “how to” if our feelings demonstrate caring. Love and caring for life on Earth will lead to accepting and using scientific evidence to sustain people, society, and a healthy future. 

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 anticipates delay in chronic wasting disease test results

 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources advises hunters that, due to the delivery of testing kits being delayed by the supplier, obtaining chronic wasting disease test results will take longer than normal. This situation is not unique to Michigan; there is a national shortage. The Michigan DNR originally placed its testing kits order earlier this summer.

The DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory continues to collect and submit samples to Michigan State University. Samples will be processed by MSU as soon as the testing kits arrive, which is expected to occur the week of Dec. 4. 

The testing delay will affect deer that arrived at the lab the week of Nov. 27. The DNR asks hunters to be patient during this delay.

“The DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory staff has been processing over 1,000 deer heads per day for disease testing,” said DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason. “The lab has been operating evenings, weekends and holidays to ensure the most rapid turnaround time possible. We want to provide hunters with answers as quickly as we can.” 

Hunters who have submitted deer for testing can check their results online by visiting michigan.gov/dnrlab.

To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in humans. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals. 

The DNR thanks all hunters who have brought in deer for CWD testing and encourages anyone who would like their deer tested to bring it to a deer check station.  

“Continued hunter assistance is critical in the ongoing fight against the spread of CWD,” said Mason. “The response from hunters so far shows a strong willingness to help, and it’s clear that more hunters are committed to getting their deer tested.”

There are three Core CWD Areas that have mandatory check. To determine if a hunting location is within a mandatory check area, or to find the nearest DNR deer check station, visit michigan.gov/cwd.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals. Susceptible animals can acquire CWD by direct exposure to these fluids, from environments contaminated with these fluids or the carcass of a diseased animal. 

To learn more about chronic wasting disease and how deer are tested for CWD, visit michigan.gov/cwd.

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Campground host applications being accepted for 2018 season

The DNR is accepting applications for volunteers to work as campground hosts in Michigan state parks and rustic state forest campgrounds during the 2018 season. It’s a great way to camp for free and get a behind-the-scenes park experience.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is seeking volunteer campground hosts in Michigan state parks, recreation areas and rustic state forest campgrounds for the 2018 camping season.

In exchange for 30 hours of service per week, including duties such as helping campers find their campsites, answering camper questions, planning campground activities and performing light park maintenance duties, campground hosts enjoy waived camping fees. 

Both individuals and couples may apply for volunteer positions that begin as early as April and last through October. Volunteer hosts must be 18 years of age and provide their own camping equipment, food and other personal items.

“For many visitors, the camping experience wouldn’t be the same without campground hosts,” said Miguel Rodriguez, promotional agent for the DNR. “These dedicated volunteers engage with park visitors by helping out around the campground, answering camping and park questions and even hosting kids’ crafts and fireside activities. All of this is accomplished while they are enjoying some of Michigan’s most beautiful outdoor destinations.”

Interested volunteers can click on “campground host” at  www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers to learn more about the volunteer host campground program, download an application and waiver, and view a vacancy host campground report, which is updated regularly and indicates when and where hosts are needed in specific parks.

Hosts are screened and interviewed by park managers and selected based on familiarity with the state park system, camping experience, special skills, availability and knowledge of the area. Hosts must participate in a two-day host training session within the first two years of being selected as a host. The 2018 training will take place June 6-7 at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center in Roscommon.

For information, contact Miguel Rodriguez at 517-284-6127 or rodriquezm2@michigan.gov.

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Gift of Christmas birding

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

 

You, your family, and friends are encouraged to participate in a day with the birds. The purpose of the Christmas Bird Count held between 14 December and 5 January is for people and for birds. Frank Chapman began the annual count in 1900 as an alternative to an annual event where people killed as many birds as possible on Christmas Day to see who could shoot the most.

This year marks the 118th year for the count. It is the longest and largest existing citizen science survey. Over 40,000 people survey specified count circles each year for comradery with others interested in the gift of seeing birds and to gather population data that assists scientists. Discovering winter bird population abundance, distribution, and changes over time helps us understand bird ecology. 

Some bird species are increasing while others are declining. One aspect frequently reported in the news is the change in where birds are found in winter. Several species are occupying more northerly locations as climate changes. The Christmas Bird Count supplements the Breeding Bird Surveys to provide a more complete understanding for species. Our local count is the Saturday after Christmas.

Mark December 30 to search for birds with the Grand Rapids Audubon Club (GRAC). Meet at 7:30 a.m. at Wittenbach/Wege Agriscience and Environmental Education Center (WWC), 11715 Vergennes Rd. in Lowell, Michigan 49331. Field teams depart by 8:00 AM. Return around noon for lunch. Joan Heuvelhorst will prepare a lunch. Lunch costs $5.00 or you can BYO. Choose to participate part or all day. 

The GRAC count circle surveyed has its center at Honey Creek and 2 Mile Rds. A radius of 7.5 miles is consistent among all count circles in North, Central, and South Americas. Our group of 40 to 60 people assembles between 7:30 and 8 a.m. to divide into small survey teams. Each team surveys birds in selected portions of the count circle. Experienced observers assist with identification and help participants learn about species’ nature niches. Most birding is done close to the car as teams drive specified areas. Some birders participate during the morning and others continue all day. 

I compile the data and submit it to the National Audubon Society where statistical analysis is addressed over a period of months and years to discover trends and changes in bird population numbers and movements in the Americas. Participation is free but donations are welcome to support the National Audubon Program.

Wear layers of clothing so you can add or remove items to remain comfortable. Binoculars and field guides are helpful but Audubon members will share if you do not have them.  

Plan on having a great time enjoying birds and bird watchers. Make new friends.

Direct inquiries to count coordinators:

Tom Leggett: (616) 249-3382, email tomleggett@hotmail.com or Ranger Steve (Mueller) 616-696-1753, email odybrook@chartermi.net.

Visit the Grand Rapids Audubon Club website (graud.org).

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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Fishing Tip: Where to find northern pike in Michigan

From the Michigan DNR

As the temperatures continue to cool, fishing for northern pike will continue to pick up. Pike are extremely popular during the ice fishing season but are readily available throughout much of the year. 

There are many notable northern pike fisheries located throughout Michigan, including on Muskegon, Portage and Manistee lakes and also Michigamme and Houghton lakes. But this species can be found in many lakes and virtually all larger rivers in the state. 

Please note there are many regulations for northern pike regarding minimum size and possession limit. Be sure to read up on this species in the 2016-2017 Michigan Fishing Guide. Download a pdf of the guide at http://www.eregulations.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/16MIFW-LR-17.pdf.

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Another Montcalm deer positive for CWD

 

This is the second hunter-harvested CWD-positive deer in Montcalm County; three additional suspect positives awaiting confirmation

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced today that the 1.5-year-old buck, harvested last month in Sidney Township (Montcalm County), was confirmed positive for chronic wasting disease by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. This is the 11th case of CWD to be confirmed in a free-ranging deer in Michigan.

Since the harvest of that deer, three additional suspect positive deer—all from Montcalm County, in Pine, Reynolds and Sidney townships—are awaiting confirmation.

“Thank you to these hunters for checking their deer, which is required for these areas. Hunter assistance is critical in the ongoing fight against the spread of CWD,” said Chad Stewart, DNR deer specialist. “The response from hunters so far shows a strong willingness to help, and it’s clear that more hunters are committed to getting their deer tested.”

There are three Core CWD Areas that have mandatory check. To determine if a hunting location is within a mandatory check area, or to find the nearest DNR deer check station, visit michigan.gov/cwd.

“In a short amount of time, without many deer tested from these areas, we are finding more CWD-positive deer,” Stewart said. “This is concerning. We cannot emphasize enough how important it is for hunters from the surrounding areas that are outside of mandatory check locations to have their deer tested, too.”

To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in humans. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals. 

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals. Susceptible animals can acquire CWD by direct exposure to these fluids, from environments contaminated with these fluids or the carcass of a diseased animal. 

To learn more about chronic wasting disease, visit michigan.gov/cwd

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