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Black bears and humans: What you should know

A sow and two black bear cubs investigate a grassy area where garbage has been left. Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

By Kevin Swanson and John Pepin

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

For many people, the opportunity to see a Michigan black bear in the wild is an amazing experience.

Black bears are Michigan’s only bear species. These animals prefer large hardwood or pine forests, intermixed with wetlands, and they can be colored black, brown or cinnamon.

Males live in areas that can be larger than 100 square miles, while females—which give birth to an average of two to three cubs every other winter—stay in smaller areas ranging from 10 to 20 square miles. Adult female black bears typically weigh 100 to 250 pounds.

Bears have sharp claws on their padded feet, used for climbing trees and searching for food, like tearing open rotted stumps and trees for insects.

Many wildlife watchers have a natural curiosity about bears, and the chance to see bears from a safe distance, especially when a sow is accompanied by cubs, often produces moments most people don’t soon forget.

Anglers, campers, hikers and others enjoying the outdoors in Michigan may also encounter a black bear. Typically, bears will run or walk away from humans if they become aware of their presence.

However, in some instances, bears do not run. In these cases, an adult male Michigan black bear—which can weigh more than 400 pounds and stand 5 feet tall—can present an imposing obstacle.

“When bears stand their ground, people should do the same thing,” said Kevin Swanson, a wildlife specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ bear and wolf program. “In these kind of encounters, you should make loud noises and back away from the bear slowly, giving the bear plenty of room to leave the area. Do not run from a black bear or play dead if one approaches.”

In rare cases, black bears can attack. If they do, fight back with a stick, a backpack, similar available items, or your bare hands. 

Fatal black bear attacks are extremely rare. According to the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota, black bears have killed 61 people across North America since 1900. Bear experts there say your chances of being killed by a domestic dog, bees, or lightning are vastly greater.

According to the Center, “Most attacks by black bears are defensive reactions to a person who is very close, which is an easy situation to avoid. Injuries from these defensive reactions are usually minor.”

In Michigan, while cases of black bear attacks—like that of a 12-year-old girl who was attacked and injured while jogging at dusk in Wexford County in 2013—remain rare, reports of bear nuisance complaints are relatively common.

DNR bear nuisance complaints in the Upper Peninsula tallied a bit over 100 for each of the past two years, down from the peak of nearly 250 in 2004.

However, in the northern Lower Peninsula, bear complaints in 2016 numbered over 200, a new record for the region. Previously, complaints had peaked in 2003 in that part of the state at more than 160.

Numerous factors affect bear complaints, including available food sources and public attitudes toward bears over time as population numbers increase.

Many black bear nuisance complaints involve encounters between humans and bears, that were prompted by human behavior.

“Black bears eat plants and animals and seek out a number of different food sources, such as sedge, juneberry, blueberry, acorns, beechnuts, and animal protein that includes insects and occasional deer fawns,” Swanson said. “Bears also have big appetites, an excellent sense of smell and can remember the locations of food sources from one year to the next.”

Problems typically occur when humans feed black bears, intentionally or unintentionally. Bears eat foods left near campsites, garbage, or foods left out for pets or wild birds.

“The best way to avoid issues with black bears is to never feed them,” said Brian Roell, a DNR wildlife biologist in Marquette. “It is very important that bears maintain their natural fear of humans. Bear problems are far more likely to occur when bears become used to finding food provided by humans.”

A DNR information flier on Michigan black bear details some helpful tips for avoiding conflicts with bears around homes and camps:

  • Never intentionally feed bears.
  • Remove potential food sources, like bird feeders, from your yard. Do not feed wild birds in the spring, summer and fall, when bears are most active.
  • Keep pet food inside or in a secured area.
  • Keep garbage and odor at a minimum by removing trash often and cleaning the can or other container used for garbage.
  • Keep garbage in a secured area or in a secured container with a metal, lockable lid until it is picked up or taken away.
  • Keep grills and picnic tables clean.
  • Bee hives (apiaries), fruit trees and gardens can be protected from bears by electric fencing.

There are additional tips for hikers and campers:

  • Keep a clean camp, limiting food odors and garbage.
  • Food and toiletries should never be kept in tents. Store these items in air-tight containers in a vehicle trunk or suspend food in burlap or plastic bags or backpacks from trees. Hang these bags or backpacks 12 feet off the ground, 10 feet away from the tree trunk and 5 feet from the nearest branch.
  • Always cook at a distance from your campsite and wash dishes and utensils shortly after eating.
  • Don’t sleep in clothes that have cooking odors or blood on them.
  • Store garbage as you would food. Burning or burying garbage attracts bears.
  • Travel in groups and make noise when hiking to avoid surprising a bear.
  • Carry bear spray.

“All of us who live and enjoy the outdoors in bear country share the responsibility of not doing things that will intentionally or unintentionally attract bears and create the potential for bear problems,” said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer. “As human and black bear populations grow in some areas, the possibility of human-bear interactions becomes more likely, making this shared responsibility even more important.”

Get more information on Michigan black bears at www.michigan.gov/bear.

See part 2 of this story in next week’s paper.

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Catch of the Week

Sierra Feenstra, age 9, caught this beautiful 14-inch bass at her cottage near Silver Lake Sand Dunes on Upper Silver Lake. Sierra is the daughter of Todd & Becky Feenstra, of Sand Lake.

Congratulations, Sierra, you made The Post Catch of the Week!

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Lost in Time

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

I experience no past and no future. All is present for me. When family talks about something we did, I refer to it as if it just occurred. They tell me that it was ten years ago. My mind keeps things from yesteryear current and the distant future as if they will occur immediately. 

In one sense, this is good. I plan Earth Care for coming centuries as if it will occur in the immediate future. Sustainable living conditions for my grandkids 50 or 100 generations hence is an immediate concern. Care for ecosystems and nature niches today determines the health and wealth of great-great-great-grandkids we will never meet. It is hoped behavior during my short life will provide sustainable conditions for distant generations. 

We each have unique greatness and limitations. For those that know me, it becomes obvious the interworking of my mind blends the distant past and future into the present. Friends I danced with at a 1966 teenage dance and the discovery of climbing nightshade that year, using the book Shrubs of Michigan, in my mind just occurred. 

I still feel the warmth of a girl’s embrace on the dance floor and I can see the location of the climbing vine on a log that has surely decomposed during the ensuing years. It’s senseless to family and friends when I refer to things past as if they just occurred. They must transfigure what I say from a different time to understand me.

Living conditions 1000 years from now are reflected in actions taken today. Much of what I do to enhance biodiversity at Ody Brook is temporary. We can only maintain conditions that maximize living conditions for the greatest number of species during our short lives. Conversely, we can eliminate living conditions that support species and healthy habitats that support distant generations of grandkids. Hopefully our kids and grandkids will learn Earth Care from us and each generation will pass it on to next.

Plant and animal genetic diversity provides future generations opportunities for gene splicing that might prevent diseases or provide medical advances that we cannot anticipate. When species disappear, future generations have lost opportunity. Plants develop protective chemicals and some animals adapt to tolerate them. Keeping species alive is important for the future. Protecting wilderness where many species live is essential for people. 

Some people wonder why it is important to protect things like the federally endangered Karner Blue butterfly or the Mitchell’s Satyr butterfly. It costs money, human effort and requires protecting habitat that some want to eliminate so they can use it differently in the present. Different use is temporary and usually lasts less than a century. This could result in the loss of species that live there. I refer to protecting National Monuments from proposed reductions as Earth Care responsibility for future generations. Our yards also need Earth Care.

I go by many names: Steve Mueller legally, Ranger Steve professionally, and Butterfly Dreamer spiritually. I do not think people will easily recall Steve Mueller. It is trite and forgettable. Ranger Steve is easier to recall but many confuse me with Ranger Rick who is National Wildlife Federation’s raccoon much like McDonald’s “Ronald McDonald.” Butterfly Dreamer is an important part of my passion for preserving healthy economic, social, and environmental conditions for coming generations. Butterfly Dreamer lives to protect the future.

My eccentricity of having no past or future allows me to live in a manner that serves grandkids yet to be born centuries from now. Generations from future centuries are already in my “present.” I have not had the opportunity to meet those kids. If all goes well, they might meet me through writings like this one. My question for society is, how many people will read this as a passing curiosity and how many will maintain a portion of “their” yard with wild species to benefit generations of grandkids yet to be born? I place “their” in quotations because we do not own our yards. We hold them in trust for those that come after us.

I am lost in time with no past or future. It helps me live with past generations that made my present possible. It allows me to maintain healthy conditions for those that come after me. It is how I talk with those generations.

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 to hold town hall meeting on chronic wasting disease Wednesday in Montcalm County

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will hold a town hall meeting on chronic wasting disease Wednesday, Oct. 25, 6 to 8 p.m. in the Ash Foundation Building, located within the Montcalm County Fairgrounds at 8784 Peck Road in Greenville, Michigan.

Earlier this month, the DNR announced that a free-ranging deer in Montcalm County’s Montcalm Township tested positive for chronic wasting disease. Michigan first discovered CWD within a free-ranging deer in May 2015. Since that time, the DNR has tested more than 15,000 free-ranging deer, and 10 have tested positive for the disease.

At the meeting, Dr. Kelly Straka, DNR wildlife veterinarian, and Chad Stewart, DNR deer specialist, will provide information on the disease, its effects on deer and deer populations, and how the DNR has responded to the discovery of the disease. There will be plenty of time for questions.

The DNR hopes many hunters and concerned citizens will attend, especially those who hunt or reside in Douglass, Eureka, Fairplain, Maple Valley, Montcalm, Pine and Sidney townships in Montcalm County, and Oakfield and Spencer townships in Kent County. Local DNR staff members will be available to answer questions related to hunting in the area, including topics like mandatory deer checks, deer processing and new regulations.

“We have been receiving many phone calls from hunters,” said DNR field operations manager John Niewoonder. “We hope this meeting will help to clear up any misinformation and help hunters know the new check station locations and, in general, how they can help.”

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.

To date, there is no evidence that chronic wasting disease presents any risk to non-cervids, including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling venison. 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. Within seven days of submitting a deer head for testing, hunters will be able to find out the test results for their deer.

Learn more about chronic wasting disease at michigan.gov/cwd

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Montcalm deer suspected positive for chronic wasting disease

Spencer, Oakfield Townships may become part of area with new regulations

A 3-½-year-old female deer taken during Michigan’s youth deer hunting season is likely to be the 10th free-ranging deer in the state found to have chronic wasting disease. The animal was harvested in Montcalm Township in Montcalm County, and preliminary tests indicate the animal may be positive for CWD. The DNR is awaiting final confirmation from the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

The suspect deer was harvested by a youth hunter during the September youth season. The hunter voluntarily took the animal to a DNR deer check station and submitted the animal for testing.

“We cannot thank this family enough for bringing their deer to a check station,” said Dr. Kelly Straka, DNR state wildlife veterinarian. “Without their effort, the disease may have gone undetected in this area. We encourage hunters from any part of the state, especially the south-central Lower Peninsula, to have their deer tested.”

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.

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; once a deer is infected with CWD, it will die.

“Infected deer don’t necessarily look sick,” Straka said. “Having your deer tested is the only way to know if it has chronic wasting disease.”

Since May 2015, the DNR has actively conducted surveillance for CWD. To date, more than 14,000 deer have been tested since the first positive case was found, with nine cases of CWD confirmed in free-ranging white-tailed deer previously identified in Ingham and Clinton counties.

To date, there is no evidence that CWD presents any risk to non-cervids, including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling venison. 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.

As additional deer have tested positive for CWD within Michigan, the DNR has put specific regulations in place. Currently, there are two CWD Core Areas, which are deer management units (DMUs) 333 and 359. To review regulations related to those areas, visit michigan.gov/cwd.

Regarding this new suspect positive deer, the DNR is determining next steps as outlined in the CWD Response and Surveillance Plan. Proposed recommendations include:

*Creating a nine-township Core Area that would include Douglass, Eureka, Fairplain, Maple Valley, Montcalm, Pine and Sidney townships in Montcalm County, and Oakfield and Spencer townships in Kent County. Within the Core Area specifically:

*Instituting mandatory registration of deer within 72 hours of harvest, starting Nov. 15.

*Removing antler point restrictions for the restricted tag of the combo deer license if license is used within the nine-township Core Area.

*Allowing antlerless deer to be tagged using the deer or deer combo license(s) during the firearm, muzzleloader and late antlerless seasons.

*Allowing the public to pick up road-killed deer and allow them to be possessed with a salvage tag if the deer head is submitted for testing within 72 hours of pick-up.

*Allowing disease control permits, effective immediately, for landowners with five or more acres within the nine-township Core Area.

*Banning the feeding and baiting of deer in Kent and Montcalm counties, effective Jan. 2, 2018, and encouraging hunters not to bait and feed in these areas immediately.

“With some hunting seasons already under way, we are not recommending that a new deer management unit be created for the area at this time,” said Chad Stewart, DNR deer specialist. “If you purchase or have purchased licenses for DMUs 354 or 341, they can be used in the new Core Area, but it’s critical for hunters to follow the final regulations related to those nine townships.”

Starting Nov. 1, several new check stations near the new Core Area will accept deer for CWD testing. Archery hunters are strongly encouraged to have their deer checked at existing check stations during the early archery season.

A complete list of check stations, including locations and hours, as well as weekly CWD updates, are available at michigan.gov/cwd.

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Like Lichens

By Ranger Steve Mueller

There are small beautiful brown moths with red stripes on their wings that run lengthwise away from the head. People occasionally notice their beauty and ask about them. They are Lichen Moths that likely feed on lichens.

These moths and lichens are creatures few notice. It is incredibly difficult to locate caterpillars on lichens. They are small and blend in well. To study the moth’s nature niche, scientists collect adults and place them in a container with lichens so the moths will oviposit their eggs. Then they can be studied as they grow.

I see a half dozen lichen moths each summer but tens of thousands of lichens grow at the sanctuary. Even if I knew one of the caterpillars was present in lichen, it would be hard to find because they camouflage well.

Lichens can be abundant but their numbers decrease rapidly in response to air pollution. Like all living creatures some are more resistant to pollution than others. They are used to monitor air quality and for fabric dyes. They have antibacterial and anti-germination chemicals studied for medicinal and agricultural uses. Perhaps your antibiotics are lichen based. That alone is reason for us to “like lichens” and protect the habitat. They are good neighbors growing on trees, rock, fences, or almost any place they can gain a foothold.

They use objects as a place to perch much like a bird uses a branch to stand on. They are not parasites penetrating the tissues of organisms for nourishment. Their nature niche method of survive is unique. A lichen is composed of two organisms that live together for survival. One is an alga and the other a fungus.

Visually think of a magnified lichen like a fishnet with tennis balls caught in open webbing spaces. The fishnet represents the fungus that cannot produce food but it holds water like a sponge. The tennis balls represent algae cells that capture sunlight energy to produce food. To survive the fungus grows hyphae that penetrate the algae cells to acquire food to live.

One might think of the fungus as parasite but instead scientists consider the algae and fungus as mutual symbiotic organisms that help each other survive. It is obvious that the fungus benefits by extracting food energy from the algae. The alga benefits because alone it would dry and die. It is like corn and people. We plant corn and it gets to survive abundantly even though we eat it. Without people, corn would be rare on Earth. Without the fungus, the species of alga that depends on the fungus would be extremely rare.

Walk around your neighborhood or visit a county, state, or national park and notice lichens. There are three major kinds or groups of lichens based on growth form. If you have noticed lichens, it is probably the leafy or shrubby growth forms that captured your attentions. Lichens do not have leaves but examine some growing on a tree. They tend to grow from the center outward forming a circular growth like a paper plate. They are thin from top to bottom and spread a few inches wide on the tree trunk. They grow on rocks in the same manner.

They need a substrate to stand on and do not use it for food. Most lichens are only an inch to a few inches across but several might grow together. The leafy ones shaped like a paper plates are called foliose. 

The second group is called fruticose because they grow like miniature shrubs. A striking one is the British Soldier or Red Caps. They have gray/green appearing stem-like branches capped with bright red tops. The red caps are the reproductive structures. These are found in a variety of habitats and frequently colonize bare sand where little else can grow. Keep in mind they are not gathering nutrients from the soil like farm crops. The fungus holds moisture the alga uses for adequate water for photosynthesis and food production to support both.

The third group is crustose and appears like a crust on the surface where it grows. They are often seen on gravestones. The three groups in the Great Lakes region have about 700 species comprising a miniature world. Like lichens, enjoy their beauty, and associated species like lichen moths.

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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2017 Michigan deer hunting forecast 

 

by Chad Stewart, Deer, Elk and Moose Management Specialist, Lansing Customer Service Center

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has compiled information hunters may find helpful before they hit the field this fall.

Know Before You Go 

Part of hunting preparation includes reviewing and understanding pertinent deer regulations. Visit mi.gov/deer, which provides highlights of regulation changes, information about deer management and links to additional resources, such as deer check stations.

Refer to the 2017 Hunting and Trapping Digest and Antlerless Digest, also available at DNR Customer Service Centers and license vendors, for a map of all deer management units (DMUs) and other regulation details.

Breeding Activity 

The peak of breeding activity (the rut) for Michigan deer occurs prior to the opening of the firearm deer season on Nov. 15, with increased movement and activity beginning in late October. The peak breeding dates are fairly consistent statewide; however, does that are not bred during the primary rut, or fawns who are able to put on enough weight, are likely to be receptive to breeding about a month later. This breeding activity often occurs in mid-December and, though less intensive than the primary rut a month earlier, can lead to increased activity and daylight movement later in the season. Hunters can often take advantage of these increased deer movements. Archery hunting is very popular in late October and early November, followed by the busiest deer hunting day of the year– the opening of the firearm season.

What to Expect Across the State 

The 2016 season, while seeing a decrease in hunter numbers, ended with a slight increase in harvest from 2015. Overall hunting success increased across most of the state in 2016, with slightly more than five out of every 10 hunters taking home at least one deer last season.

The winter of 2016 was relatively mild across the entire state. Low snowfall levels and above-average temperatures made for good deer survival conditions and great potential for this year’s fawns. Spring had relatively mild weather as well, which is a major factor in both deer fitness and fawn survival. Due to these circumstances, this year both the overall number of fawns seen and the number of twins and triplets across the state has increased.

In addition to an increase in the number of fawns being reported, the overall number of deer being observed appears to be up as well.

The 2017 deer season is forecasted to have similar to slightly increased success rates compared to last year. See below for regional information.

Upper Peninsula 

The Upper Peninsula has experienced two relatively mild winters the last two years. Though overall deer numbers are still lower than many hunters like to see, some areas have begun to recover from previous harsh winters nicely. As a result, DNR staff members recommended opening a few additional units to antlerless hunting this year. Deer management units open to public- and private-land antlerless permits include DMUs 055, 121, 155, and 255. DMU 122 will be open only to private land-antlerless permits. The open units are in the south central portion of the U.P., which typically has higher deer populations than anywhere else in the U.P. All other areas in the U.P. will not have antlerless licenses available.

In general, hunters should expect to see a slight increase from the number of deer they saw last year, with increases especially in 1.5- and 2.5-year-old age classes. Keep in mind that each area is influenced by local factors and conditions, which then affects deer density and sightings in that area. The largest bucks (heaviest and largest antlers) typically come from agricultural areas, but nice bucks also are taken from forested areas where access is limited and where they have an opportunity to get older.

Continuing for 2017: archery hunters may harvest antlerless deer only if they have an antlerless license. In the U.P., they may not use their single deer or combination deer license to take an antlerless deer during archery season. This change does not affect the Liberty or Independence Hunt and does not impact the mentored youth license.

New for 2017: DMU 117 (Drummond Island) has a new three-point antler point restriction on the single deer license (the antler point restriction on the regular and restricted tags of the combination license remains in place) and a one-buck limit for the entire deer season. This means any hunter participating in the deer hunting season on Drummond Island may only harvest one buck for the entire deer season, and that buck must have a least three antler points on one side, each 1 inch or greater in length. Drummond Island hunters may purchase a combination license, but the second tag must be used in any DMU other than 117.

Northern Lower Peninsula 

The northern Lower Peninsula is expected to see an increase in deer harvest this year. With the mild winter last year and little impact from the previous winter, deer populations have been increasing steadily across much of the area.

Deer sightings have been good throughout the region, and many have reported seeing healthy fawns, including many sets of twins and even some triplets.

Many areas may see more 2.5-year-old and 3.5-year-old bucks this year with the now-permanent three-point antler point restriction (APR) in 13 counties in the northwest area.

This APR allows the majority of 1.5-year-old bucks to mature to the next age class, resulting in increased numbers of 2.5- and 3.5-year-old bucks in the years following. All northern Lower Peninsula deer management units are open for antlerless hunting; refer to the 2017 Antlerless Deer Digest if you are interested in obtaining an antlerless license.

New for 2017: DMU 487 no longer has an APR in place on the regular tag of the deer combination license. Hunters can harvest antlerless deer using either their single deer or deer combination license during the early/late antlerless firearm, archery, firearm or muzzleloading seasons, but the APR that had been in place since 2010 has been removed. Keep in mind that those who purchase a combination license still have a four-point APR on the restricted tag of the combination license, which is similar to the rest of the state. For a map of the different APRs in Michigan, see pages 32 and 33 of the 2017 Hunting and Trapping Digest.

Public-land antlerless licenses also have changed. Removed are the individual public-land units of DMUs 001 (Alcona), 004 (Alpena), 035 (Iosco), 060 (Montmorency), 068 (Oscoda), 071 (Presque Isle) and 135 (Tawas). All are now a part of DMU 487. Hunters who previously hunted public land under one of these licenses now can purchase a public-land antlerless license for DMU 487. This change opens more opportunities for hunters to move around public land in the six-county area. DMU 452, the core TB management area, remains separate from DMU 487 for public-land licenses.

Southern Lower Peninsula 

Abundant food and cover in the form of agricultural crops and scattered swamps and woodlots provide very good habitat across the southern Michigan landscape. This high-quality habitat, combined with relatively mild winter conditions, typically results in a more abundant and productive deer population compared to other regions of the state. The 2017 harvest should be like last year, with perhaps a slight increase given the current conditions. Harvest in the southern Lower Peninsula can depend heavily on the percentage of standing corn. If corn harvest is delayed going into the firearms season, a reduced deer harvest can be expected.

Over the last decade or more, deer population estimates and indices (including deer/vehicle collisions, crop damage complaints, and observations of deer by the hunting community and field staff) in the southern Lower Peninsula have stabilized or declined. In many instances, reductions were intended to reduce conflicts that can occur when deer populations are high, though the DNR still desires to keep adequate deer for enjoyable hunting and viewing experiences. A relatively high proportion of land in this region is broken into small parcel sizes and privately owned. Given this framework, the DNR is working to find more ways to balance high-quality deer hunting experiences and increased hunting opportunities with habitat management goals among networks of private landowners and hunters.

The southeastern Lower Peninsula offers numerous reserved and lottery deer hunting opportunities at managed waterfowl hunt areas, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife refuges and Sharonville State Game Area in Jackson and Washtenaw counties. Additional information related to these hunts can be found on the DNR Reserved Deer Hunts web page. A limited number of leftover licenses are available for these hunts; review the leftover licenses page and navigate to “Deer Reserved Hunts” on the dropdown menu for available quantities. Hunters seeking more information related to deer hunting opportunities at the DNR’s managed waterfowl hunt areas should contact either the Nayanquing Point, Fish Point or Harsens Island field offices and speak with staff.

Additionally, an Urban Deer Management Zone has been developed for Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties (see section below). The archery season in these counties will extend to Jan. 31, 2018 to better manage human-deer conflicts. More information on the Urban Deer Management Zone can be found on page 35 of the 2017 Hunting and Trapping Digest.

Read more in next week’s issue.

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Fact correction on Nature Niche article

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

In the Nature Niche article titled Solar Eclipse and Science Credibility printed August 31, 2017, I stated Copernicus was placed under house arrest for not recanting that the Earth goes around the sun. It was Galileo that was placed under House arrest for building on Copernicus’ work. Source of corrected information is found by Googling Copernicus house arrest and reading Wikipedia account. Galileo’s information is near the end.

“In 1633 Galileo Galilei was convicted of grave suspicion of heresy for «following the position of Copernicus, which is contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scripture», and was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life.”

I apologize for my error in memory recollection.

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Catch of the Week

Deegan Pike, age 8, the son of Brittany and Cory Pike, caught this 14.5-inch large mouth bass while staying at his grandparents and fishing on Maston Lake, in Spencer Township. “He was very excited to reel this guy in,” said his mom, Brittany. “His love for fishing continues to grow and moments like this make up for the ‘big one’ that got away!”

Great job, Deegan, you made the Post Catch of the Week!

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Leg Joints

 

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Femur, tibia, fibula, metatarsals, and tarsals comprise the bones in our legs and feet. Their arrangement allows movement. Other mammals have bones in different arrangements that serve their mobility for greatest survival. Other groups of organisms like birds and frogs have their own special configurations to meet their needs.

Diagram of a typical insect leg.

Insects do not have bones but have specialized leg joints. Insect exoskeletons are on the outside of the body instead of inside like ours. Leg section names are similar but are structurally different. Between the body and femur is a rounded knob called the coxa followed by another small section called the trochanter. The femur is often the largest leg section much like our femur. Though the name is the same, the insect femur is made of a hard chiton comparable to our fingernails that are on the outside to protect inner tissues and muscles. Consider an insect’s skeleton to be like a knight’s armor that protects from the outside.

To move, it is necessary to have flexible connective tissue between various sections of the leg like is used in a knight’s armor. Progressing from the body to leg tip, the leg sections have adaptations that serve the insects life style for survival in its nature niche. The tibia connects the femur with the tarsi. The tibia is comparable to the tibia and fibula of our lower leg.

A series of small leg sections called tarsi beyond the tibia allow flexibility. Most insects have three, four or five aligned in a row. Go outside to look at a large grasshopper or katydid’s leg joints. Some of the large Carolina Grasshoppers with black wings are still active. The last pair of legs on the grasshopper are large, adapted for jumping and are easiest for viewing leg construction. When you try to capture a grasshopper, it becomes obvious how well suited their legs are for escaping danger.

Crickets and long-horned grasshoppers, like the katydids, have an “eardrum” or tympanum at the basal end of their tibia. We have been enjoying the raucous sound penetrating the blackness of night. It is essential for noise making insects to hear the sexual calls at night for successful breeding. Instead of hearing in their heads like us, they hear in their legs.

There are more specialized leg structures than described here so consider visiting the library, the web, and spend time outdoors exploring. One very important feature not mentioned is tarsal claws. Most insects have small claws that aid gripping surfaces. When an insect stands on your arm, you often feel the claws grip.

The front legs of the praying mantis have a long femur and tibia lined with stiff spines that allow it to grip insect prey firmly. Its coxa that connects the femur to the body is long instead of small and round. It allows greater mobility for capturing prey. Each insect species has unique adaptations that meet its lifestyle. If you have been grabbed by a mantis, its spines might have penetrated your skin and even caused some bleeding.

Inside the exoskeleton leg, is where the muscles are attached. Our leg muscles extend across joints so when contracted they cause the leg to bend. If both ends were attached to the same bone, contraction would not result in movement. Insects are similar in muscle attachment except their muscles are inside the hollow exoskeleton but they stretch across joints. You will not find an insect with bulging muscles because they are hidden inside.

Beetles have interesting legs. They are sometimes quite easy to observe in fall because they frequently stand on flower heads for extended periods. Visit a goldenrod or New England Aster to watch. Notice how the front pair of legs reaches forward and the second and third pair of legs extend backwards. Some insects only use four legs (two pairs) when walking so watch to discover them. Observe leg movement and notice if the front and back legs on one side are used with the middle leg on the opposite side when walking.

Some insects like the blister beetle ooze a substance from their leg joints when disturbed. The fluid can cause skin blisters. There are thousands of insects with interesting leg joints. Take time to observe nature’s wonders.

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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