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Researcher gives rare turtles head start 

*OUT-Woodturtle1 harding

To Jim Harding, spending nearly a lifetime studying wood turtles just makes sense.
“These are very long-lived animals,” Harding said. “And if you want to understand them, you have to study them over a long period of time.”
An instructor and outreach specialist with Michigan State University’s Zoology Department, Harding has been studying the wood turtle population along an Upper Peninsula river since 1969, when he was working on his master’s degree. But, he’s quick to tell you, he’s been interacting with them even longer; he has a photograph of himself and a turtle from his study site – on property owned by his grandfather – when he was five years old.
*OUT-woodturtle2 walks across sand“I was always fascinated by turtles,” he said. “It wasn’t until many years later that I realized these weren’t just any turtle. They were special.”

The wood turtle is one of 10 species of turtles that live in Michigan. Of the 10, one species is considered threatened (spotted turtle) while the wood turtle joins the box turtle and Blanding’s turtle as a species of concern, explained DNR fisheries biologist Tom Goniea, who oversees reptiles and amphibians as coordinator of the state’s Scientific Collector’s Permit program.
Wood turtles join Blanding’s and box turtles in a group of turtles that are unusually long-lived, Harding said. Wood turtles have unfortunately been attractive to the pet trade, due to their ornate, ridged shells that look like carved wood; their striking, brightly colored yellow bodies; and their similarities to tortoises, which seems to lead people to believe wood turtles are more intelligent or wiser than other species of turtles.

Wood turtles are associated with moving water, from small creeks to large rivers. Although Harding finds them upland at times, “you never find them too far from the river,” he said. The population on his study site is “just a shadow of its former self,” Harding said, something he attributes to two causes: collection by the pet trade back in past decades and a burgeoning raccoon population.
“For years we’ve had no evidence of natural reproduction at all,” said Harding, who recently spent time with several associates looking for wood turtles – and their nests – on his study site. “We don’t see any juveniles. The raccoons are getting all of their nests.”
As a result, Harding, who has the appropriate permits from the DNR, has taken to “head-starting” wood turtles. If he finds a turtle nest, he collects the eggs, incubates them, and raises the hatchlings for a year, then releases them at the study site.

By head-starting the young turtles, they are able to reach the size of a three- or four-year-old by the time Harding releases them, which he hopes will lead to better survival rates, even with some loss of adult turtles to raccoons. Raising the hatchlings for a year is more of a chore than it sounds; the eggs are delicate and must be handled with care. The juveniles must be kept in separate holding areas as they’ll bite each other’s tails and limbs if left together.
To accommodate the hatchlings, Harding raises a few himself, has help from some fellow turtle aficionados with a couple more, and enlists the aid of John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids for help with the rest. So far, his work appears to be bearing fruit as he’s found some of his released turtles surviving in the wild.

Omnivorous creatures that have developed a unique hunting technique—they thump the ground with their shells, creating vibrations that send earthworms to the surface—wood turtles are in short supply across their home range, which extends west to Minnesota, north into Canada and southeast to perhaps Virginia. In Michigan, wood turtles are found across most of the U.P and northern half of the Lower Peninsula.

“Michigan may be one of the states that is very important to their future because we have habitat,” Harding said. They use a mosaic of forest and more open terrain. Timber harvests don’t bother them. Wood turtles do not require wilderness. All they require is that they be left alone.

“They live long lives because, even under the best of conditions, most of their eggs and young are destroyed,” he continued. “So few of them grow up, they have to lay eggs over 30 or 40 years in hopes that they can replace themselves. Every individual is valuable.”
Harding can’t tell you how long they live, but he has one specimen that he marked when the turtle was at least 20 years old and subsequently observed 45 years later, making the creature at least 65.
“I suspect they can live a lot longer than that,” he said.

Wood turtles lay five to 18 eggs, with an average clutch size of around 10. The turtles nest on sand banks that are large enough that they can get above typical high-water stages so the nests are not drowned out by floods. Harding said he “used to find dozens of clutches of eggs,” but these days, if he finds five or six nests “it’s a really good year.”
“I’m happy finding any,” he said. “Some years I’ve gotten skunked.”
If a hiker or paddler encounters a wood turtle, they are advised to enjoy the sighting but then to move on.
“It is illegal to collect, possess, kill or otherwise harass or harm wood turtles or any other species of special concern,” Goniea said.

Except for possibly helping one across a road, observers should keep their hands to themselves. And that will serve wood turtles splendidly, Harding said.
“All they ask is to be left alone” he concluded.
For more information about wood turtles or the other nine species of turtles found in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/wildlife. To learn how to get involved with citizen monitoring of reptiles and amphibians in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/herpatlas.



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Rogue River Butterfly Count

The Rogue River Butterfly Count was held on July 5, 2014 between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. There was a light breeze with good sunlight to stimulate butterfly activity, and the temperature warmed from 62 to 80 F. Thirty-two species with 239 individuals were seen. Review the species listing and number of each species seen. Consider joining us next year for a fun day and to develop your skills for identifying species in your neighborhood and yard. Consider contacting me to join the West Michigan Butterfly Association to explore butterfly nature niches. Our membership fee is $5.


Rogue River Butterfly Count Sightings

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – 2

Spicebush Swallowtail – 3

Cabbage White – 10

Clouded Sulphur – 60

Orange Sulphur – 2

Acadian Hairstreak – 1

Banded Hairstreak – 6

Edward’s Hairstreak – 2

Coral Hairstreak – 7

Eastern Tailed blue – 4

Summer Azure – 3

Great Spangled Fritillary – 1

Greater Fritillary species – 4

Aphrodite Fritillary – 1

Baltimore Checkerspot – 2

Question Mark – 2

Eastern Comma – 2

Mourning Cloak – 7

American Lady – 3

Red-spotted Purple – 1

Northern Pearly Eye – 6

Eyed Brown – 1

Appalachian Brown – 4

Brown satyr species – 1

Little Wood Satyr – 15

Common Wood Nymph – 5

Monarch – 1

European Skipper – 51

Tawny-edged Skipper – 3

Little Glassywing – 3

Northern Broken Dash – 15

Delaware Skipper – 6

Hobomok Skipper – 1

Black Dash – 1


Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. 616-696-1753.


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Going deep for bass and walleye 


Eric payne and a bass caught on a sidewinder.

Eric payne and a bass caught on a sidewinder.


Jack Payne with a walleye caught while slow trolling a Bass Stopper.

Jack Payne with a walleye caught while slow trolling a Bass Stopper.

by Jack Payne

I like summertime fishing. Patterns get set and the same technique can work on multiple species on different lakes. An example is a recent outing on a northern lake that holds both walleye and bass. Some days I come armed with a nice fat crawler but on this occasion we did not have any meat.

Instead we went with the Bass Stopper Worm from Stopper Lures. We used both the original worm and the Sidewinder. The Sidewinder comes with a single propeller blade. Both worms come with either two hooks or three hooks molded into the worm. The Bass Stopper worm is a scented worm with anise oil. Anise oil is a lifelong favorite scent of mine.

We started out at daybreak working the edge of the deepest cabbage weeds that we could find. Normally I would use one or two split shots but on this day we also experimented with the new Cast a Weight sinker that was designed for the Stopper pre-rigged worms. These weights slide through the weeds without fouling up and get to the bottom much faster.

Running the trolling motor on slow mode we looked for anything different on the weedline. A clump sticking out further, a small opening or a section of short grass bordering the cabbage weeds. Any change would potentially harbor a fish.

Cast out the rig, let it settle to the bottom and then slowly bounce it back in. We would raise up our rod tip and let the worm flutter down. Reel in the slack and repeat. Because the water temperatures are up there we moved along at decent pace. Early in the spring we move at a snail’s pace.

Once the sun came up we moved out to the points and deeper water. Many of our fish came in depths of 18-24 feet. We would work the shady side of the points first. Speaking of this, fish the points that will get the sunlight the earliest in the day. Get there before the sun gets to high and keep moving.

If we caught a fish we stayed on the point. Go 5-10 minutes without a bump we would pull up and hit the next deep water point. We ran this technique until the sun was shining on all of the points. The higher the sun went the deeper the fish dropped down.

Midday action was best over the mud flats and the small mid lake humps. By this time we had a small chop on the water. Fishing the deeper water we switched to the Sidewinder. The front blade created a bit of noise and improved our action.

Fishing deep water requires more weight and more patience. When we had enough wind we cast out two rods each and sat the rods into a rod holder. On my boat I have Driftmaster rod holders that I use for trolling and drifting.

The key was getting your worm to glide just over the bottom. We wanted the wave action to lift up our worm and then let it flutter down. When a fish hit it was normally hooked. These razor sharp small hooks really do the job.

A benefit using the plastic worms over a real crawler is that small perch and bluegill do not drive you crazy. We catch a few perch and gills with the plastic worms and the size is generally very pleasant to work with.

The plastic worms can be fished in many ways. Very few anglers give them a shot when fishing deeper than ten feet of water. Add a Cast a Weight and fish deeper. Play the sun and use the sun. The results will surprise you.

Visit Jackpaynejr.com for more fishing articles.


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Live On Friendly Terms

By Ranger Steve Mueller


One of my early poems expresses thoughts I maintain today.


I cannot say I am educated

because I know plants

in the wild.  When I know

them on friendly terms, I

will not need to say I’m

educated for the wise will know

and others, well they won’t care. – October 13, 1974


When you encounter plants in your yard it is not necessary to know its name to appreciate its beauty or presence. It can help if you want help maintain healthy nature niches. Knowing the plants to remove so native species can thrive will better maintain soil health and species diversity.

Many non-native species crowd out native species that maintain soil health or help native animals survive. The exotic Emerald Ash Borer has cost Michigan’s economy ten of millions of dollars in economic loss in ten years and it continues to devastate ash tree populations. It is reducing moth, butterfly, bee, and many other insect populations that are important to birds for feeding young.

Knowing plants on friendly term suggests we take responsibility for our actions and cause no harm. A principal for doctors is to cause no harm. That is easier said than done. Medicines often cause harm but hopefully do more good than harm as they help us recover from variously ailments.

When we remove plants from the landscape to construct homes we do harm. How we manage the remaining yard can allow native plants to thrive. Those plants are better at supplying needs for native mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish, insect and other species than non-natives.

We can learn to live to with nature and in nature niches. Many of our activities work to separate us from nature and eliminate nature niches. Manicured lawns are non-native plants that preclude most native species from surviving.

We maintain some lawn around the house and have mowed trails through our Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary but most of the property and been allowed to revert to native nature niches to maintain healthy biodiversity. The mowed lawn looks nice and keeps mosquitoes away from the house so we can sit comfortably on the porch.

Beyond the lawn, the yard is bustling with birds feeding on insects in knee high wildflowers, shrubland, and forest. The yard is alive with sound, visual beauty, wild activity and enriches our lives and the lives of other species.

I have documented about 250 species of plants here with many more to be discovered. I have overlooked a Wafer-ash growing here that my friend Chip Francke noticed this week. It added a species to my list but it is also a food plant for the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly and probably other species.

Over 100 bird, 24 mammal, 11 herps, 51 butterfly species have been documented along many other species. Many creatures that share our yards and I think it wise for more of us transform part of our yards to wild nature niches.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.  616-696-1753.


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Clean boats help prevent introduction, spread of aquatic invasive species

The Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers and boaters that as the holiday weekend approaches they should clean their boats, trailers and equipment before and after use to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species in Michigan. Boats can unintentionally spread invasive species from one body of water to another, but most of these situations are avoidable by following a few, simple steps:

•Clean boats, trailers and equipment before you launch and again after.

•Drain water from bilges and livewells at the ramp before leaving.

•Dry trailers, boats, equipment and storage areas thoroughly before using them in a different body of water.

•Dispose of unused bait in the trash.

•Don’t transfer live fish to water bodies, other than where they were originally caught.

•Disinfect livewells and bilges with a bleach solution comprised of one-half cup of bleach to 5 gallons of water

Michigan laws prohibit placing a boat, trailer or other boating equipment into state waters with plant material attached.
For more information on the importance of cleaning boats and equipment to prevent aquatic invasive species, check out the video above created by the Michigan Sea Grant program, with support from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

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Bass Fishing Strategies

Jack Payne with weeline bass.

Jack Payne with weeline bass.

By Jack Payne


I enjoy reading and studying experts in their respective field. When it comes to fishing four anglers stood the test of time with me. Al Linder, Jimmy Houston, Buck Perry and Doug Hannon. Location of the bass and how bass feed are critical.

When fishing a point the back sides are protected from the wind and this is also where plankton and baitfish will blow across. Consider the angle of the sun as well. Fish the structure that offers the most shade.

A large weedbed is like a giant buffet. Bass snuggle into a thick weedbed ready to pounce on anything that will fit into their mouth. Once you find a weedbed narrow your search down to the areas that are the closest to deep water or to a sharp drop-off. The deep water provides a sanctuary from danger.

If you look at a contour map you will locate areas where the contour lines come tight together. If it connects to deep water and to a large weed flat, mark it. This is a high percentage location.

Another high percentage spot would be a cup or inside turn on the weedline. Using your graph and your eyes you will locate areas where the weeds go in and then out. If this is your first time trying this throw out a few barker buoys.

One more location which ties in with the first spot would be any weeds that extend outward from the main bed. Weed points or land points both offer seclusion from the sun and access from the deep water to the prime feeding areas in the shortest amount of time.

One of the first things that I learned was that bass feed up much quicker and easier than down. The eyes and mouth are up on a bass and anglers will hook more bass if they can keep their bait at least three inches off of the bottom. This is one reason that the drop-shot rig is so popular.

The same applies when fishing a jig or a worm. How often do you hook a bass on the rise or drop of a lure as compared to the lure sitting flat on the bottom?

The plastic worm is another old standby that still produces. The Whacky Worm is perfect for these conditions. It flutters almost like a feather and is easy for a bass to suck in without feeling any resistance.

One of my favorites is the Bass Stopper Worm from Stopper Lures. This pre-molded worm works great without any weight and is a killer along the deep sides of the weeds with one split shot.

A bass will suck in the weightless worm and not feeling resistance it will run with it. Imagine a feather fluttering in the wind; well it’s the same with a weightless worm. With the two or three molded hooks one will stab the bass in the mouth.

Another easy bait to master and a favorite of Jimmy Houston is the spinner bait. The Stopper Spinner Bait comes in two weight sizes. Shallower water use the quarter ounce. Deeper water try the three eight ounce.

If you concentrate on the high percentage locations and slow down I believe that your catch rate will increase three folds. Hit likely spawning and shoreline cover early in the season, slowly move to the new weed growth and finally hit the deep edges and deep-water points. Hit each weed clump, every log and stump and hang on. With this weightless worm you rarely snag.

Other advice that I’ve heard and used over the years that is well worth repeating: learn a few basic lures as described well. Master these before going on and pick out one or two lakes and learn them well. Confidence, practice and master are the three keys.












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Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

Isle Royale Discoveries

OUT-RangerSteveMuellerTime in nature niches has rewards. It allows our minds to free from daily pressures, provides healthy exercise, time with family and friends, and a chance to interact with nature.

When I leave work and home for wild places, it takes three days to stop thinking about work needs and tasks. Getting away from home allows freedom from projects waiting there.

Mogens Nielsen found a Northern Blue Butterfly at Isle Royale National Park but little was known about it besides it was the first known presence in Michigan. Another flew over the Wisconsin/Michigan border in Dickinson County. Later I discovered a healthy colony in Alger County while conducting rare plants studies in the Upper Peninsula with Dr. Tony Reznicek, from the University of Michigan Herbarium and Don Henson.

Tony suddenly called out, “Look what I found.” He discovered a plant species not documented for Michigan. It was dwarf bilberry in the blueberry family. I immediately called, “Look what I found.” I was focused on butterflies instead of plants and caught a Northern Blue Butterfly. I found a colony with many and this was the first known colony for Michigan.

The Michigan DNR immediately listed both plant and butterfly as Threatened Species and provided me a life history research grant to study the butterfly species. I later collected its larvae on the plant species Tony discovered. The newly known butterfly larvae use that plant as a food plant. We discovered two species with ecological nature niche connections on the same day.

My research took me to various locations where Don Henson found additional colonies of the plant. I was looking for more Northern Blue colonies. The research also took me to Isle Royale NP to where Mo had found the first Northern Blue in Michigan. I wrote an extensive report of my research for the DNR but the rest of this article is unrelated with other discoveries at Isle Royale.

The park provided me with a collecting permit to document new species in the park during my research on the Northern Blue. I discovered two butterflies species not documented for the park. They were the Common Wood Nymph and the Bog Copper.

Unfortunately, those specimens were set aside and forgotten until this year. I was reviewing my research journals and saw a note to myself stating “species to be listed later.” I quickly looked in my collection database and saw they were not listed there either. I went to my specimen collection and found them waiting to be processed. I called the national park to inform them of the long overdue discovery report. It has been 25 years but the species were still unknown for the park. Arrangements have been made to place them in the Michigan State University collection as scientific proof of presence at Isle Royale NP.

The park resource manager requested specific collection locations. I provided details. The park service cannot protect or understand the ecological nature niches without knowing the species that live there. The plants, mammal, bird, insect, and other species lists continue to grow. Geology, climate and air quality studies monitor the environment for comparison with our modified human communities. The data helps us understand things that degrade our health and living conditions so we can protect society’s health for present and future generations.

Most of us go to national parks to refresh our spirits, physical health and souls. Parks provide society with much more to help sustain our culture’s social, environmental, economic health.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.  616-696-1753.

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Help remove invasive plants from state parks

Get out and enjoy Michigan state parks and recreation areas in southwest Michigan and help protect natural habitat. The Department of Natural Resources recently announced its July schedule of volunteer steward activities at state parks and recreation areas throughout southwestern Michigan.

Volunteers will work alongside DNR staff to remove invasive, non-native shrub species that damage Michigan’s natural areas. Sometimes people plant these species, such as Japanese barberry and common privet, in home landscapes without realizing that the plants can damage local ecosystems. Invasive plants can then spread and threaten habitats for native birds and other species. Volunteers will learn to identify these plants and make a significant impact by properly removing them from natural areas within the parks. No experience is necessary and training and equipment are provided.

Japanese barberry

Japanese barberry

Dates, times and locations (counties) of group workdays are:

• Saturday, July 12: P.J. Hoffmaster State Park (Muskegon), 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

• Sunday, July 13: Ludington State Park (Mason), 1-4 p.m.

• Saturday, July 19: Warren Dunes State Park (Berrien), 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

• Saturday, July 26: Ionia State Recreation Area (Ionia), 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

• Tuesday, July 29: Muskegon State Park (Muskegon), noon-3 p.m.

Volunteers should bring gloves and drinking water and wear appropriate clothing for outdoor work, including long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes. All volunteers, especially large groups, are encouraged to register in advance. Questions should be directed to Heidi Frei at 517-202-1360 or freih@michigan.gov.

For more details on DNR volunteer steward activities, including meeting location and activity descriptions, please visit www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers and click on the link for Calendar of Volunteer Steward Workdays.

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Red Flannel Rod and Gun Club events

Next three-gun shoot is July 12-13

OUT-Rod-n-gun-club-WEBThe Cedar Springs Rod and Gun Club has had a busy spring with many shooting events. The most recent event, a three-gun shoot, took place on June 14 and 15. Participants shot 10 rounds of trap, two rounds at each station, using a shotgun; five rounds each at 50 and 100 yard targets, using a rifle; then headed to the pistol range to shoot 10 rounds at a 50-yard target. There was also some fun competition shooting, as well.

We appreciate all the members that came out to volunteer their time and also to compete. Everyone had a great time.

The top shooter for the two-day event was Ed Crouch, from Zeeland. A few women also participated, and top honors went to LouAnn Wheat.

All events are open to the public. The next three-gun shoot is scheduled for July 12 and 13 9am-3pm. Please come and join in on the friendly competition. Other scheduled events for this year include the 3D archery shoot every other Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Monday nights from 5-8 p.m.; and open and league trap shooting on Tuesday nights starting at 6 p.m.

The club is located at 7463 18 Mile Road NE, Cedar Springs.

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Two new state records highlight great Michigan fishing

The Department of Natural Resources confirmed two new state-record fish last week for brown bullhead and black buffalo.

The state record for brown bullhead was beat by a fish caught by Jared Gusler, of Fairview, in Alcona Pond, in Alcona County, on Sunday, May 25, at 2 a.m. Gusler was bowfishing. The fish weighed 3.77 pounds and measured 17.5 inches.

This brown bullhead set a new state record.

This brown bullhead set a new state record.

The record was verified by Kyle Krueger, a DNR fisheries biologist in Mio. The previous state-record brown bullhead was caught by Michael Kemp, of Lansing,on Coldbrook Lake, in Kalamazoo County, on Sept. 2, 1989. That fish weighed 3.10 pounds and measured 17.5 inches.

Joshua Teunis holds the black buffalo he caught that set a new record.

Joshua Teunis holds the black buffalo he caught that set a new record.

The state record for black buffalo was beat by a fish caught by Joshua Teunis, of Grand Haven, in Bear Lake, in Muskegon County, on Sunday, June 15, at 1:45 a.m. Teunis was also bowfishing. The fish weighed 41.25 pounds and measured 38.25 inches.

The record was verified by Rich O’Neal, a DNR fisheries biologist in Muskegon.

The previous state-record black buffalo was caught by Bryan Degoede of Kalamazoo on the Kalamazoo River in Allegan County on Sept. 5, 2012. That fish weighed 37.06 pounds and measured 39.25 inches.

State records are recognized by weight only. To qualify for a state record, fish must exceed the current listed state record weight and identification must be verified by a DNR fisheries biologist.

“We’ve had 12 of Michigan’s 56 state-record fish beat in the past 10 years, which just goes to show you how outstanding the state’s fishing is right now,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “Start planning your next fishing trip to your favorite body of water—you just might catch the next state record!”

For more information on fishing in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/fishing.

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