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Archive | Outdoors

Join the #100in100 forest cleanup challenge

Help clean up state forests this summer in the #100in100 challenge. 
Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

It is well known that regularly spending time in the woods does a body good. A strengthened immune system, reduced blood pressure, increased energy, boosted moods and greater focus–all thanks to trees. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to say thanks? This summer, you can.

Now through Sept. 22, the DNR challenges nature lovers to spend some quality time among the trees and clean up 100 state forest sites in 100 days. It’s all part of celebrating 100 years of the National Association of State Foresters and that group’s work to ensure thriving forests for generations to come.

This cleanup effort is hosted by Michigan’s Adopt-a-Forest program, which tracks sites on public land where trash has been dumped and connects with volunteers to help restore the land. An interactive map shows the locations and type of trash that needs to be cleaned up at more than 600 known sites. If a site has a large amount of debris or items that require special disposal, volunteers can request the assistance of program managers who will coordinate placement of appropriate trash bins.

How to join in:

1. Visit CleanForests.org to find a dump site, learn about cleanup safety and sign the volunteer waiver.

2. Gather your crew, get started and do some good!

3. When you’re done, report the site as clean and spread the word on social media with #trashtag and #100in100 forest cleanup challenge to inspire others.

Contact Conor Haenni with questions and for assistance in coordinating a cleanup.

When getting together for a cleanup, be sure to follow guidance from health experts and practice social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Questions? Contact Conor Haenni at 989-429-5542.

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Flashing Fireflies

Ranger Steve Mueller

It was a dark night with a hidden moon. During that special time, the moon and the sun are on the same side of the Earth. It is a time the moon is nowhere to be seen and is a miraculous time to enjoy the blackness of night. 

From the back porch instead of thinking about the moon, fireflies captured my attention. I drifted to my childhood, the time when my kids were young, and now with anticipation for exploring flashing lightening bugs with grandsons. Fireflies and lightening bugs are neither flies nor bugs. They are beetles with hard wing covers they pull forward to expose membranous wings for flight. The wing covers, called elytra, are dark with orange markings but they are not seen at night. What excites us in the dark is their flashing of green, yellow, or red. 

With dusk dimming on warm nights, a firefly light show begins. I enjoy their fireworks more than the beautiful noisy fireworks we set off from cannons. For me, human fireworks are best enjoyed from a distance where their explosions do not ruffle my senses like the bombs of war. Fireflies blink silently to attract mates. While they are busy searching for one with whom to make love, I count flash frequency. Each species has a unique flash speed that speaks like Morse code. They do not talk in words but signal with light codes.

My mind drifts to a favorite “Sesame Street” character – the Count. He loved to count. With my kids we counted the flashes of these night insects. We would count how many were flying. In darkness they would disappear but we would try to determine their direction of flight. It was a wonderful way to explore the outdoor world. 

As a child, sitting and watching was more than could be tolerated. Chasing and capturing them in a jar was essential. I recall on a boy scout camping trip some of the scouts felt it necessary to catch many. Once they had a large number in a jar, they had to determine what to do with them. That was a temporary dilemma. My dad was a scoutmaster and they thought it would be fun to release them in his tent. When he left the campfire to go to bed he would discover his sleeping bag full of burning coals or so he would think. What fun for the scouts!

There is a festival at Great Smokey Mountain National Park in May that attracts people from great distances to see the synchronized flashing. It is not necessary to travel far. The show occurs locally from early June through July. Urban yards might not be a suitable stage but an evening drive with kids or grandkids can be rewarding. 

Fireflies need fields and forests near marshes or damps areas. They are declining worldwide for various reasons not completely understood. Some things are known. They do not move to nearby habitats when human development expands to replace their home. They simply die a local extinction. Our continuously growing population is pushing them off the Earth. Stabilizing our population to share creation will help other species survive. Beside habitat loss, light pollution from too much yard light along with use of pesticides and herbicides are causing declines. We can provide creation care for fireflies for their sake or for our own. 

Scientists found firefly luciferase that produces the bioluminescence can be used as a marker to detect blood clots. It helps identify tuberculosis virus cells. It aids the monitoring of hydrogen peroxide levels that identify cancer and diabetes. We might think nature is expendable with no consequences for us but it is not. We needed to collect the beetles for their chemical but have learned to synthesis it. We would not know its benefits without these insects. If we let other species disappear, we will never discover their value when a need arises. Maybe a cure for coronavirus or other new diseases is hidden in plants or animals but will disappear with the massive extinctions of life forms that is occurring. 

Protectfields, forests and marshes. Fireflies thrive as larvae in rotting wood and forest leaf litter at the margins of ponds and streams. This is a good year for them with the rain we received.  Avoid over cleaning yards and gardens. Immaculate yards spell death to this valuable community member. They help us by feeding on slugs and snails. Avoid using pesticides and herbicides in yards and gardens. Fireflies hide by day in lawns and wild portions of the yard. Incorporate taller grasses in your landscaping. Look at yards with fireflies and determine how they differ from those without.

Firefly flashes make them a charismatic species and their declining abundance is eliminating a great joy in life. They call public attention with their rapid response to environmental changes. They are a good bioindicator identifying mismanagement of the world for which we should take care responsibility. 

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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What’s your campfire made of?

You have a fire ring, a nearby water source and you checked the weather now it’s time to enjoy a campfire and a night under the stars! But before you grab the matches, there’s one more thing to consider: what ingredients are you putting in your fire?

“When we do fire safety talks, we focus on how important it is to keep a fire contained,” said Paul Rogers, DNR fire prevention specialist. “Another vital piece of fire safety is even more basic: building it out of the right materials in the first place.”

Build fires at home or camp only with natural materials like wood, brush and logs. Dry, well-seasoned wood produces the least amount of smoke. Burning plastic, foam and hazardous substances releases chemicals that are harmful to people and the environment; plus, it’s against the law. Such items include plastic cups, food packaging, paint and electronics. It’s better to recycle or responsibly dispose of these items instead. 

Many materials can be recycled through local waste management services or during community waste collection events. Search by location or substance using the Michigan Recycling Directory at recyclesearch.com. 

Burning hazardous substances can release heavy metals, toxic gases and other chemicals into the air we breathe, said Jenifer Dixon, air quality liaison with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. The ashes from waste fires can also contaminate soil and groundwater.

Knowing what goes into your campfire is important for both you and the environment. Get fire safety information at Michigan.gov/PreventWildfires.

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Asian tiger mosquitoes identified in Wayne County

An Asian Tiger Mosquito at the beginning of feeding. By James Gathany/CDC

Insect can transmit viruses such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika

LANSING, Mich. – The invasive Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, has again been identified in Wayne County, officials from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the Wayne County Health Department announced today. The Asian tiger mosquito was discovered in Michigan for the first time in 2017, in an industrial area of Livonia in Wayne County. In 2018, the mosquitoes were again found in Wayne County, in an industrial area of Romulus. This time, the mosquito was discovered in an industrial area in Taylor.

Aedes albopictus, along with Aedes aegypti (the yellow fever mosquito), can transmit viruses such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika to people. These mosquitoes are widespread from tropical to temperate regions of the globe, including many parts of the U.S. They do not occur naturally in Michigan, where winters are usually too harsh for them to survive. However, warming climate trends are supporting the spread of these mosquitoes into more northern regions.

“Although we have not had any illnesses associated with these species of mosquitoes in Michigan, it is important to take precautions since other mosquitoes can spread viruses such as West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis to people,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health. “We urge Michiganders to take precautions such as using an EPA-registered insect repellent when outdoors.”

The Asian tiger mosquito can live in areas with climates that range from tropical to temperate, and it has been extending its known range in the U.S. They are considered established in many midwestern states including Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. Occasionally, the mosquitoes will travel in commercial products shipped from states where they are currently established. This is likely how the mosquitoes have shown up in Wayne County.

This summer, MDHHS has again partnered with local health departments in Wayne and 23 other counties in Michigan to conduct surveillance for the two mosquito species that can carry Zika and other tropical viruses. These invasive day-biting mosquitoes breed in containers where water collects, such as old tires, gutters and flowerpots. Continued surveillance to date suggests that breeding populations have not survived the winter in our state.

Industries that import into Michigan items that can hold water and serve as breeding sites for mosquitoes should consider taking precautions to kill mosquito larvae that may be present in these products.

Michigan residents can protect themselves from mosquito bites by:

  • Eliminating sources of standing water such as wading pools, old tires, buckets and containers by dumping water to prevent mosquito eggs from hatching or larvae from developing into biting adults.
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when outdoors.
  • Applying an EPA-registered insect repellent according to label instructions.
  • Making sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens.

For more information about mosquito-borne viruses and mosquito surveillance in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/emergingdiseases.

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Northern Blue Photographer John Wilkie

By Ranger Steve Mueller

People connections from our past create joyous memories that live even when they are gone. John Wilkie was a Detroit foundry worker with whom I had not had contact but good fortune brought us together. 

In the early 1980’s I was participating in botanical research with Dr. Reznicek from the University of Michigan and Don Henson. They were exploring the Upper Peninsula for rare plants and I was along to learn what I could from the experts. My broad interests are not highly proficient with the possible exception for butterflies. 

The Northern Blue butterfly. Photos courtesy of Ranger Steve Mueller.

During field work, I was introduced to many plant species new to me. As we roved, I kept a watchful eye for various butterflies. Most were beauties commonly encountered like the Acadian Hairstreak, Baltimore Checkerspot, and Arctic Skipper. All were thrilling with somewhat obscure caterpillar host plants and showy wildflower nectar sources. 

A small iridescent blue butterfly we had not seen elsewhere was abundant in one location. I excitedly caught it with my butterfly net. It was a Northern Blue butterfly. I kept an individual for scientific proof because it was not known to have breeding populations in Michigan. Mo Nielsen had found one individual at Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior far from Michigan’s mainland. It had been found in Minnesota north of the great lake and in northern Wisconsin. Some had drifted over the border from Wisconsin into Michigan’s Dickinson County but breeding colonies were not known in this site and I did not find any there when I visited. 

The Northern Blue butterfly underwing by SJM.

While I was absorbed with the butterfly I found, Dr. Reznicek vocally burst with excitement. He found dwarf bilberry (Vaccinium cespitosum). It’s a minute three-inch-tall heath in the blueberry family. Cecil Billington, in his 1949 book Shrubs of Michigan, listed the species for Michigan but had not collected a specimen for scientific proof. Now 30 some years later, Dr. Reznicek collected verifying evidence as a state record. 

Surprisingly, the butterfly I had collected simultaneously 100 feet away in the central UP required that plant as a larval food host. The DNR listed both as state threatened because little was known about them. I was provided a grant for life history research. My study provided proof the caterpillar depended on the bilberry for survival. 

When its presence became known, John Wilkie contacted me. He was trying to photograph every butterfly species known to Michigan. At the time, I lived in the upper peninsula and John, with camera, made the trip north. He stayed at our home and the next day, we visited the only known Northern Blue breeding colony in Michigan. He acquired the desired pictures and kindly sent me an 8X10 print. 

It was a wonderful joy to share the discovery with an avid butterfly enthusiast and enjoy his company in the evening. He was elderly but full of youthful excitement that comes from pursuing the natural wonders that abound in back country wild areas that hold remnants of the unknown. Within weeks of driving home, processing his pictures, and sending me the print, he passed away. This was the last species he was able to capture on film. It was a pleasure to assist in his quest. 

My work with Northern Blue research continued. More extensive study ensued for the presence of the bilberry and some new locations were discovered. I canvased sites in hopes of finding the butterfly. I went to the McCormick Wilderness I had wanted to visit but had never explored. I hiked its back country and happened upon a Northern Blue. It was female so I followed her expecting she might lead me the bilberry that was unknown in that location. The butterfly’s plant search for egg laying, helped me discover a new location for this plant special to her and for the Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 

On wilderness treks one can happen upon new discoveries of significance. Preservation of wilderness is essential to sustain unique nature niches. They also provide opportunity to develop new acquaintances with people like John Wilkie who enrich our lives. Though he is gone, he lives vividly in my experiences. 

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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Quick tips for safe, responsible Fourth of July fun

From the Michigan DNR

Warmer weather is calling, but things look a little different this year due to COVID-19. We’re providing information to keep you and Michigan’s natural resources safe, along with options for staying local and socially distant, while enjoying your favorite outdoor spaces over the July Fourth weekend.

We are committed to providing visitors with safe, clean outdoor spaces and memory-making experiences. Just last week Monday, we reopened state park campgrounds with new health and safety protocols in place. While we do our best behind the scenes, please do your part to protect yourselves and others while enjoying the outdoors:

Go out only if you’re feeling healthy.

Stay at least 6 feet from people who aren’t from your household, and wear a face covering when in enclosed indoor spaces.

Follow operational and sanitation guidelines. Some processes, like checking in and using bathroom facilities at DNR-managed sites, may vary by location. For example, visitors are encouraged to pay by debit or credit card to decrease the exchange of money.

Also, some amenities at a handful of DNR locations remain closed due to delayed construction projects. Get the latest closure updates from the DNR’s COVID-19 response page. Just go to https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/ and click on DNR COVID-19 response.

Below is some additional information to ensure a fantastic Fourth.

Be mindful of beach and boating safety warnings

Record-high water levels are causing increased river flows, submerged docks and piers, swimming and boating hazards and other concerns. Learn more about the effects of high water and how to stay safe at Michigan.gov/HighWaterSafety.

The Great Lakes are large, powerful bodies of water that demand respect and caution from boaters, swimmers and paddlers. Have a great time in the Great Lakes, but visit Michigan.gov/BeachSafety for safety tips before heading out.

Be aware, too, that DNR conservation officers will have a larger presence on the water now until after the July Fourth holiday; it’s all part of Operation Dry Water, a national campaign to promote sober boating.

Know the rules for smoother trail treks

Whether hiking, biking, on horseback or riding an ORV, trail courtesy and etiquette are easy if you know what to do. Here are some tips:

Don’t create your own trails or shortcuts; this can cause erosion and damage habitat.

When meeting an equestrian, slow down and announce yourself so the horse recognizes you as human and not a predator. Stand back and let the horse pass; equestrian users have the right of way.

Keep to the right side. When approaching others from behind, announce your approach. It’s common to say “on your left” when passing.

See more tips and a video about trail etiquette from the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance at https://michigantrails.org/trails/trail-etiquette/

Do your part to prevent wildfires

Dry weather means a higher risk of accidentally starting a wildfire. Never launch fireworks toward forests or fields; dry grass or leaves could ignite. Dispose of used sparklers in a bucket of water.

Burn only wood in your campfire to avoid toxic fumes. When it’s time to put out the fire, thoroughly douse it with water, stir the ashes and douse again. Get more fire prevention tips at https://tinyurl.com/MI-DNR-fire-safety. And, if you plan to burn yard debris at home, get permission first at Michigan.gov/BurnPermit.

Take easy steps to protect woods, water and wildlife

Follow the laws to prevent the spread of invasive species in Michigan waters, and be sure to clean, drain and dry boats and trailers.

Don’t move firewood or bring it with you. Hauling firewood from one part of the state to another can transport insects and diseases that may kill native trees. Buy firewood locally and don’t take home any leftovers.

Remove plants, seeds and mud from boots, pets, vehicles and gear before leaving a recreation site, and take the PlayCleanGo message to heart as you spend more time outdoors this summer. More info at playcleango.org.

Be cautious near islands and other shoreline areas. Loons, wood ducks, trumpeter swans and dozens of other nesting birds need quiet water to maintain their nests and raise their young. Watch for signs and buoys that mark nesting areas or other spots that could be damaged by wakes or high-speed boat operation.

Ducks, geese, eagles, loons, turtles and other animals can get tangled in fishing line, plastic can and bottle rings, and other litter. Help keep our water clean and wildlife safe by taking out any trash that you bring in with you.

Map your next fishing, hiking or boating adventure

Looking for something local or with more space to spread out? Check out Michigan.gov/YourLocalOutdoors, a one-stop shopping map where you can enter your address and find fishing, boating and trails nearby. You also can look at your city, county or local convention and visitors bureau websites for close-to-home options.

Things to know before you go

The Recreation Passport is needed for vehicle entry to state parks, state forest campgrounds and state-managed boating access sites.

Anyone 17 or older must have a valid Michigan fishing license to fish. If you›re under 17 you can fish without a license, but still need to observe all fishing rules and regulations. An adult actively assisting a minor who does not have a license must have a fishing license.

Before hitting the trails, purchase an ORV license or trail permit online.

Think about what you’ll need for your adventure and grab the right gear (including hand sanitizer). To get you started, REI offers a checklist for day hiking (https://www.rei.com/dam/ea_day_hiking_printable_checklist.pdf) and other helpful lists for a variety of outdoor activities.

Many people like to swing by some state parks just to catch nearby evening fireworks displays. This year, however, the DNR will close state park day-use areas at 10 p.m. to help reduce crowds.

Finally, remember to pack your patience. Although many of your favorite outdoor spaces are reopening, some important restrictions (like wearing a face covering when inside enclosed indoor places and not congregating in large groups) are still in place for the safety and protection of visitors, volunteers and staff.

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Chosen wild edibles

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are among the largest butterflies. Photo by Mike Moran.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are among the largest butterflies. Photo by Mike Moran.

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Adult butterflies are general nectar feeders but their kids require carefully chosen wild edibles. One Michigan butterfly is a predator with its larva feeding on aphids but the rest are vegetarians. At Ody Brook the adult Harvester perches on sunlit leaves at the edge of a forest opening we call the Woodcock Circle. When we claimed responsibility for biodiversity enhancement, this small clearing was used by American Woodcocks for their mating display. A five-acre neighboring field was annually planted with field corn. Soon that acreage was allowed to return to wildflowers, shrubs, and trees to increase wildlife survival and woodcocks moved there. 

Caterpillars require a specialized diet with some needing a specific plant Species, Genus, or plant Family. Most will die if not able to utilize a unique diet. Referring to host plants means larval food plants. Without the correct larval foods, we cannot expect to experience the variety and beauty of scale winged adults known as Lepidoptera flitting about yards. The adults visit a broad variety of flowers with sweet nectar. 

One of the first butterflies in spring to eclose from an overwintering pupa is the sky-blue Spring Azure that is the size of a quarter. It utilizes dogwood shrubs for egg laying and caterpillars feed on the shrub’s flowers. Other early fliers are the Eastern Comma and Mourning Cloak that are much larger and hibernate as adults. They can be found on the wing during sunny warm March days in the 50’s F. The orange and black colored commas have a silver crescent on the underside of the hindwing. Expect them in habitats with nearby nettles or elms as hosts. Mourning Cloaks seek willows and aspens. The hibernators lay eggs on carefully chosen hosts. After they grow through the larval stages and transform to adult flutterbys, they float on air through our yards. 

To encourage the well-known Monarch, milkweed is needed because that is the only host acceptable for their young. By allowing milkweed plants to thrive, expect the large orange butterflies to grace the neighborhood. Another orange butterfly that looks similar to the Monarch but is slightly smaller is the Viceroy. Its young depend on willows and aspens. 

During early June, the first Viceroy adult with black lined veins on orange wings takes flight in the vicinity of willows. The miniscule caterpillar that hatched from an egg in autumn anchored a willow leaf to the stem with silk so it would not fall. The leaf became a shelter for the 1/8-inch caterpillar for the winter. With new spring leaf growth, the larva progressed through life stages to flash its orange beauty. 

The large Red-spotted Purples raise young on aspens and wild cherries. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are among the largest butterflies with brilliant yellow wings edged with yellow dots on black margins.  It has wide black stripes that get narrower from the head end toward the tail. Their larva host plant is a cherry tree. 

Many of the 150 species of Michigan butterflies prefer open sunlit habitats where wildflowers abound. Many plants die to the ground in fall but have roots that survive the cold months. Others produce seeds that become the next generation attracting butterflies to brighten our neighborhood landscape. 

All species of fritillaries require violet leaves as their host and feed under the cover of darkness. We see the adults in summer daylight but the caterpillars are almost never seen because they wait until after sunset to crawl from the ground to feed on leaves. 

We might think, “what’s for me?” when we hear wild edibles. There are many edibles for us but the focus here has been on host plants chosen for caterpillars. You are encouraged to help wildlife survive by allowing a portion of your yard to support native plants needed by butterfly larva. Welcome butterflies by avoiding use of pesticides and herbicides. Enjoy and learn butterflies firsthand by joining one or all of the four West Michigan Butterfly Association counts to help you recognize butterflies and their caterpillar nature niche host plants. Google the West Michigan Butterfly Association or contact Ranger Steve for butterfly outing details. Come enjoy Spicebush Swallowtails on sassafras or Pearl Crescents among asters as we carpool to several habitats.

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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Spotted lanternfly could be the next invasive species to threaten Michigan’s agriculture, natural resources

LANSING, Mich.—The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is asking the public to be on the lookout for spotted lanternfly, an invasive insect with the potential to seriously affect Michigan’s agriculture and natural resources. This insect could damage or kill more than 70 varieties of crops and plants including grapes, apples, hops and hardwood trees. To date, spotted lanternfly has not been detected in Michigan.

First found in the United States in 2014 in southeastern Pennsylvania, spotted lanternfly has been spreading rapidly across the nation. Infestations have been confirmed in Delaware, Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland and West Virginia.

Spotted lanternfly causes direct damage by sucking sap from host plants and secreting large amounts of a sugar-rich, sticky liquid called honeydew. This honeydew and the resulting black, sooty mold can kill plants and foul surfaces. The honeydew often attracts other pests, particularly hornets, wasps and ants, affecting outdoor recreation and complicating crop harvests.

“Spotted lanternfly could negatively impact our grape industry,” said Robert Miller, invasive species prevention and response specialist for MDARD. “But it also has the potential to damage stone fruits, apples and other crops in Michigan’s fruit belt as well as important timber species statewide.”

Spotted lanternfly egg masses resemble old chewing gum, with a gray, waxy, putty-like coating. Hatched eggs appear as brownish, seed-like deposits. Spotted lanternfly nymphs are wingless, beetle-like and black with white spots, developing red patches as they mature. Adults are roughly 1 inch long. Their folded wings are gray to brown with black spots. Open wings reveal a yellow and black abdomen and bright red hind wings with black spots transitioning to black and white bands at the edge.

“Prevention and early detection are vital to limiting the spread of spotted lanternfly,” said Miller. “Spotted lanternfly cannot fly long distances, but they lay eggs on nearly any surface, including cars, trailers, firewood and outdoor furniture. Before leaving an area where a quarantine is present, check vehicles, firewood and outdoor equipment for unwanted hitchhikers.”

If you find a spotted lanternfly egg mass, nymph or adult, take one or more photos, make note of the date, time and location of the sighting, and report to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, MDA-Info@Michigan.gov or phone the MDARD Customer Service Center, 800-292-3939. If possible, collect a specimen in a container for verification.

For additional information on identifying or reporting spotted lanternfly, visit Michigan.gov/SpottedLanternfly.

Michigan’s Invasive Species Program is cooperatively implemented by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Department of Agriculture & Rural Development.

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Poached bear leaves behind three cubs; DNR seeking tips

A healthy Michigan black bear. (This is not the bear that was euthanized.)

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers in northwest Michigan are seeking information regarding a bear that was illegally shot in Oceana County early last week. The bear was euthanized due to the extent of its injuries, leaving behind three cubs which were taken to a wildlife rehabilitator.

Following a call to the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline, conservation officers found the bear around 8:15 a.m. Thursday, June 11, in the Ruby Creek, located near Riverbend Road, northwest of the Ruby Creek Tavern in Branch Township.

A map showing Ruby Creek, near Riverbend Road, northwest of the Ruby Creek Tavern in Branch Township (Oceana County), where Michigan DNR conservation officers found a black bear that had been illegally shot. Anyone with information can call or text the DNRs Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800.

When conservation officers arrived, they found the bear near the edge of the creek attempting to get out of the water. The bear’s three cubs had climbed into a nearby tree. Due to a gunshot wound, the bear was unable to move its rear legs. A wildlife biologist examined the bear and determined it needed to be euthanized.

Officers estimate the bear was shot Tuesday or Wednesday (June 9 or 10) of last week.

“It’s a shame this bear had to be euthanized,” said Lt. Joe Molnar. “The bear suffered needlessly, while trying to take care of her cubs. If you or anyone you know has information that can help us solve this crime, we want to hear from you.”

Anyone with information regarding this poaching incident can call or text the RAP hotline at 800-292-7800, available 24/7. Information can be left anonymously. Monetary rewards are available for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of violators. During 2019, more than $9,700 was awarded for information that led to the arrest and conviction of poachers.

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Fallen Cottonwood

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Strong winds howled as I sat by a window at midnight in my writing room. Though I should have felt secure, I was uneasy. No trees were near that would crush the roof and me. A few weeks previous, a large black cherry tree leaned toward the house and I was troubled it might deliver a crushing blow. I hired a tree service to remove that tree before it could crush the carport and enter the house uninvited above my writing chair. 

The tree inspector showed me three holes at the base of the tree and agreed, “Yes, this tree should be removed.” That week two workers brought a truck with a lift bucket that carried one man with a chainsaw to the tree top where he brought down branches and finally the main trunk in sections. They safely prevented damage to our home before frightening winds did more than caress forest trees. 

The workers removed several trees along the power line that stretched through the woods to the neighbors from our front yard utility pole. The neighbors told me they frequently experienced power outages and the utility company said the wire to their house only had a three-foot right of way unlike the wire from the road to the pole in our yard that had a 15-foot right of way for tree clearing. 

It was good fortune I hired the tree clearing before the end of spring when storm activity is prone to increase. Two large sugar maples stand fast and strong near the house. Neither has given us reason to anguish because we are not in an area prone to tornados or hurricanes but people killing storms have occurred in nearby communities during past decades. We maintain an open yard so other trees are a safe distance from the house. 

Living with nature’s temperamental behavior is something we prepared for and anticipated. During the 22 inches of rain received during a short period in the fall 1986, we discovered our foresight was correct regarding whether it was safe to purchase our home. I looked at what I thought would be the streams water level if the 100-year deluge arrived. Within a decade after our home purchase the flood came. We incurred no long-lasting damage.

Flooded driveway at Ranger Steve’s home in 1986.

Outside I waded the stream and stood chest deep in flowing water that during fall was normally two inches deep in a narrow stream channel. The stream had become about 200 feet wide and the driveway near the road was under water. Patrolling police attempted to drive up the drive to check on us but stopped when they thought the water might flood their engine. They wisely backed to safety. 

During a recent wild windy night, a storm front passed and was followed by five inches of rain. The floodplain confined the torrent that moved downstream from Little Cedar Creek to join Cedar Creek, the Rogue River, and the Grand River where floodwater would inundate homes built within the flood zone. Whether those people retained high school earth science lessons about 100-year floods or anticipated safe purchase is obscure. 

After the storm, I walked Ody Brook trails to check for fallen trees. Some of the ash trees killed by the emerald ash borers a few years ago were down and required chainsaw removal from paths. We named a pond Walden’s Pond after our grandson. He is now almost three and has not been to grandpa and grandmas to inspect his pond because of the stay-at-home order to protect his life from COVID-19. Soon he will walk around Walden’s Pond.

There he will discover a large cottonwood tree with a Wood Duck nest box that is no longer standing. The tree fell across the pond and Pond Loop Trail. The winds laid the tree over the south end of the pond near the dam that holds water for slow release into the brook trout stream. The powerful tree crash dislodged the nest box where it remains in the pond. Soon it will be retrieved to determine if ducklings were killed by the spring storm. The nest box appears mostly in tack and when repaired will be erected again. This time it will be placed on a post in the pond to prevent squirrel nesting. When the house was affixed to the tree three years ago, squirrels claimed it. In the pond, use will be restricted for tree cavity duck nesting. 

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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