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DNR reminds deer hunters of license structure


With Michigan’s archery deer season in full swing and firearm season set to begin Nov. 15, the Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters of changes to the state’s hunting license structure that took effect in 2014.

Available deer licenses include:

  • Single deer license, valid throughout archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons. This license has replaced the separate archery and firearm licenses. Hunters who buy a single deer license may not buy a second single deer license or the deer combo license.
  • Deer combo license, which includes two kill tags, one regular and one restricted. Hunters who want two deer licenses must buy the deer combo license instead of the single deer license. The deer combo license is valid for use during the archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons. A hunter can use both kill tags in the firearm seasons, both in the archery season or one in each season.
  • Antlerless deer license, available based on license quotas set for each Deer Management Unit (DMU).

To see how the single deer and deer combo licenses may be used in each deer season, based on which DMU a hunter wishes to hunt, see the Antler Point Restriction Regulations map and chart on pages 32 and 33 of the 2015 Hunting and Trapping Digest.

A base license now is required for all hunters. The base license provides critical funding for habitat and conservation work on both public and private land and supports the work of conservation officers and field staff to ensure safe, legal hunting practices are followed. The purchase of a base license includes small game hunting. Whether they choose to hunt small game or not, hunters’ base license dollars will be used to enhance and expand hunting opportunities, which benefits hunters of all species.

More information about Michigan’s hunting license structure—including license prices, frequently asked questions and details about how license dollars will be invested—is available at www.michigan.gov/dnr under “In the Know.”

For more details about hunting seasons, licenses and regulations, see the Hunting and Trapping Digest and Antlerless Deer Digest at www.mi.gov/dnrdigests.

Those who have questions or need help determining which licenses to buy may contact their nearest DNR Customer Service Center. The closest center to our area (Region 4) is the Plainwell Customer Service Center, 621 North 10th Street, Plainwell, Michigan, phone number 269-685-6851.

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Keep fire safety in mind when heading into the woods 


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is reminding hunters, and everyone else outside enjoying the fall weather, to be cautious while lighting campfires and using woodstoves this season.
A warm beginning to autumn has increased the chances of a wildfire. In fact, the DNR recently responded to several fires, both in the Upper and Lower peninsulas; the largest of those was a 17-acre fire in Sanilac County.
Dan Laux, DNR fire prevention specialist, said remembering the basics of fire safety will help ensure that this hunting season isn’t ruined by a wildfire.
“Our main concerns have to do with falling leaves and dry grass, combined with embers from woodstoves and campfires,” Laux said. “The beginning of the hunting season has been a bit warmer and dryer this year, so that causes a little concern. If folks take a few extra minutes to keep fire safety in mind, it’ll help ensure that the only blaze in this woods this hunting season will be the blaze orange on our hunters.”
The DNR recommends following a few general precautions to ensure fire safety:

  • Never leave a campfire or woodstove unattended.
  • Clear the area of leaves and dry fuel before lighting a campfire.
  • Don’t park a vehicle in dry grass.
  • If a campfire gets out of control, call 911 immediately.
  • Avoid outdoor burning when it is windy to prevent escape and spread of a fire.

So far this year, the DNR has responded to a total of 341 wildfires, which have burned 2,920 acres.

To learn more about the DNR’s firefighting efforts, and how to prevent wildfires, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.

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Smallmouth bass state record broken 


Greg Gasiciel of Rhodes, Michigan, recently set a new state-record catch for smallmouth bass with a fish he caught Sunday on Hubbard Lake in Alcona County.

Greg Gasiciel of Rhodes, Michigan, recently set a new state-record catch for smallmouth bass with a fish he caught Sunday on Hubbard Lake in Alcona County.

Previous state record had stood since 1906

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed a new state-record catch for smallmouth bass. This marks the sixth state-record fish caught so far in 2015.

The existing state record for smallmouth bass was broken Sunday, October 18, by Greg Gasiciel of Rhodes, Michigan. Gasiciel was bait-casting with a green grub when he landed a 9.33-pound, 24.50-inch smallmouth bass from Hubbard Lake in Alcona County.

The record was verified by Kathrin Schrouder, a DNR fisheries biologist in Bay City.

“This is additional evidence that Michigan truly has world-class bass fisheries,” said Jim Dexter, Department of Natural Resources Fisheries chief. “Smallmouth bass is one of the most popular, most sought-after sportfish in North America. Even though the Michigan state record stood for more than 100 years, we’re excited to see the bar set even higher for those who set out to land this iconic fish.”

The previous state record for smallmouth bass was set back in 1906 with a 9.25-pound, 27.25-inch fish taken from Long Lake in Cheboygan County. Records show this fish was caught by W.F. Shoemaker.

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.

For more information on fishing in Michigan, including other state-record catches, visit michigan.gov/fishing.

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Youth waterfowl hunts 

Bring a young hunter to one of Michigan’s seven managed waterfowl hunt areas in October and November for a memorable hunting experience.

Bring a young hunter to one of Michigan’s seven managed waterfowl hunt areas in October and November for a memorable hunting experience.

The Department of Natural Resources encourages waterfowl hunters to bring a young hunter to one of Michigan’s managed waterfowl hunt areas in October and November for a memorable hunting experience. Hunters can choose from several dates and locations. Parties with at least one youth hunter will be given priority in the draw at all seven managed waterfowl hunt areas:

Oct. 24 – Nayanquing Point Wildlife Area (afternoon hunt only) in Pinconning

Oct. 31 – Muskegon County Wastewater (morning and afternoon hunts) in Twin Lake

Oct. 31 – Fish Point State Wildlife Area (afternoon hunt only) in Unionville

Oct. 31 – Fennville Farm Unit of the Allegan State Game Area (morning hunt only) in Fennville

Nov. 7 – Shiawassee River State Game Area (afternoon hunt only) in St. Charles

Nov. 8 – Pointe Mouillee State Game Area (morning hunt only) in Rockwood

Nov. 13 – Harsens Island Managed Hunt Area (afternoon hunt only) on Harsens Island

Drawings for the youth morning hunts will occur at 5:30 a.m. Drawings for the youth afternoon hunts will take place at 11 a.m. (11:30 a.m. at Harsens Island).

Youth priority drawings are available for hunting parties with at least one youth (age 16 or younger) and up to two adults (maximum party size is four). All youth participating in these priority hunts must be properly licensed to hunt. Youth hunters 9 years old and younger must be accompanied by a qualified Mentored Youth Hunting Program mentor.

For more information about hunting at the DNR’s managed waterfowl hunt areas, visit www.michigan.gov/wetlandwonders.

The Wetland Wonders Challenge, sponsored by Consumers Energy, runs until Jan. 31, 2016. Youth and adult hunters that hunt at three managed waterfowl hunt areas can be entered in the contest. Hunt at more than three areas for additional contest entries. Seven winners will be chosen to win ultimate waterfowl hunting prize packages valued at $1,500, including a “golden ticket” that’s good for one first-choice pick at a managed waterfowl hunt area for the 2016-17 season (non-reserved). See www.michigan.gov/wetlandwonders for contest terms and conditions.

The Wetland Wonders Challenge is part of the Michigan Waterfowl Legacy, which is a 10-year, cooperative partnership to restore, conserve and celebrate Michigan’s waterfowl, wetland and waterfowl hunting community. The initiative is a “call to action” to honor yesterday, engage today and build for tomorrow. To learn more, visit www.michigan.gov/mwl or look for Michigan Waterfowl Legacy on Facebook.

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Competently incompetent

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

We all have areas of great competence and areas of lesser competence. As an ecologist, I have good competence but when it comes to any specialty subject, I lack desired competence. We all fit this scenario with strengths and weaknesses.

Recently I came up with the descriptor “Competently Incompetent” and it even fits organisms in nature niches. Each organism has adaptations that help it excel in limited areas. When working with groups, I sometimes have people get their eye close to a tree to look for insects’ eggs or insects in the crevices of the bark from one-inch distance. All is blurry and we are incompetent at the task of finding eggs or insects from that close. Brown Creepers successfully hunt from one-inch distance. Their small eyes can focus that close.

It is a little embarrassing when I present programs to groups like garden, butterfly, plant, or bird clubs, where I have been introduced as Michigan’s premiere Lepidopterist, botanist, or ornithologist, when some of Michigan’s true premiere specialists for those subjects are in attendance.

They are researchers that seldom present public programs but spend 40 to 60 hours a week working in their specialty area in the field or laboratory. Their work is the source of information for my programs, as well as Nature Niche articles. My field and laboratory time is split among geological, plant, insect, bird, amphibian, reptile, mammal, fish, weather, soil studies and more. I annually attend conferences for specialty subjects to develop a better knowledge.

The result is that I have developed good competency in many subjects and am able to apply the knowledge for how ecosystems function. When attending special subject conferences, I realize I am a nitwit among renowned specialists from around the country and world. Actually, I have developed their respect because they know I am “Competently Incompetent.” No one can be competent in all areas. I turn to specialists for guidance and help for my areas of incompetence and that has earned their respect. They know I have enough competence to know where I am incompetent.

In my research at Bryce Canyon National Park, I collected three virgin tiger moths. When studying them in my summer lab at the park, I could not determine the species. I took them to an international conference of specialists and requested help from three scientists that work with tiger moths. All scratched their heads and said they could not identify them beyond the Genus Grammia. One requested to take them for study. He was specifically working with this Genus Grammia. He studied body structures (morphology), dissected genitalia (regularly used to distinguish species), and did DNA sequencing (like human DNA testing for paternity and crime solving). Even though they looked nearly identical to known species, he found they did not match any. He gathered the physical evidence necessary to describe a new species.

His next step was to publish a paper describing the new species in detail where he named the species Grammia brillians. I was competent enough recognize that I could not identify the insect and brought it to specialists.

Like “Dirty Harry” said in one of the movies, “You need to know your limitations.” I am not pleased with my limitations but I also know I have a strong, broad competence to speak to many organizations. I have earned the title as one of Michigan’s premiere scientists for several subjects. I know I am not truly premiere. For most nature enthusiasts, I might appear premiere. Do not sell yourself short. I am sure each reader has specific knowledge I lack. Continue spending time outside absorbing sights, sounds, smells, feel, and taste of nature. Join me sometime to teach me your discoveries and increase my knowledge.

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 showcases cougars in two new displays 

Display: The new mountain lion display at Tahquamenon Falls State Park provides visitors with information on cougars in the Upper Peninsula.

Display: The new mountain lion display at Tahquamenon Falls State Park provides visitors with information on cougars in the Upper Peninsula.

Confirmed reports reach 31 in Michigan

Two cougar mounts recently provided to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have attracted a lot of attention in Luce County this summer.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, cougars—also called mountain lions—were once the most widely distributed land animal in the Western Hemisphere, but have been eliminated from about two-thirds of their historic range.

At one time, cougars lived in every eastern state in a variety of habitats, including coastal marshes, mountains, and forests. They were native to Michigan but were extirpated from the state around the turn of the 20th century.

These big, long-tailed cats typically hunt at night, generally weigh between 90 and 180 pounds, and measure five to six feet from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.

One of the DNR’s two cougar mounts is on display at the “Fact Shack” at the Upper Falls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which is situated off M-123, about 25 miles north of Newberry.

 Poached: A mountain lion poached in Schoolcraft County in 2013 is now on display at the Department of Natural Resources customer service center in Newberry.

Poached: A mountain lion poached in Schoolcraft County in 2013 is now on display at the Department of Natural Resources customer service center in Newberry.

“The cougar was donated by the GarLyn Zoo in Naubinway and was a captive animal that died of natural causes,” said Theresa Neal, park interpreter at Tahquamenon Falls. “The display features information about cougars in Michigan, an actual cougar track cast and information on how the DNR handles reports and sightings of cougars.”

The second cougar mount can be seen at the DNR’s Newberry customer service center, located off M-123, just south of Newberry. This glass-encased cat was received by the DNR at the close of a cougar poaching case in Schoolcraft County.

During the 2013 muzzle-loader deer hunting season in the Upper Peninsula, conservation officers received a tip that a cougar had been killed at a hunting camp near Seney.

“The investigation revealed the animal was shot and wounded with a rifle when it entered a field near the camp,” said DNR Sgt. Mike Hammill. “The following day, the cougar was tracked down and killed by one of the suspects.”

Hammill said the suspects returned home to Bay City with the cougar, intending to mount the animal.

“Before this took place, three suspects were identified, interviewed and ultimately arrested and the cougar was recovered,” Hammill said. “The suspects involved were all convicted, served jail time, paid several thousand dollars in fines, costs, and restitution, and lost hunting privileges for several years.”

Hammill said that as a part of the sentence, the shooter was required to pay the cost of having the animal mounted.

In August, the cougar mount was displayed at the DNR’s Pocket Park during the Upper Peninsula State Fair in Escanaba. Following the fair, the cougar was exhibited at the Schoolcraft County Courthouse in Manistique, before returning to the Newberry DNR customer service center earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the DNR has confirmed 31 cougar reports in the Upper Peninsula since 2008, but so far there remains no evidence confirmed of a breeding population.

“Within the last decade, numerous cougar sighting reports have been received from various locations in Michigan and are investigated by DNR Wildlife Division’s cougar team,” said Kevin Swanson, a DNR wildlife biologist in Marquette.

The most recent confirmed mountain lion report occurred in September with DNR verification of a trail camera image in Dickinson County.

“This situation is not unique to Michigan but has been occurring in many other Midwestern and eastern states as young males disperse from core range areas in the western United States,” Swanson said.

All of Michigan’s DNR-verified cougar reports have come from the Upper Peninsula, where 12 of the region’s 15 counties have had reports.

Marquette County has led the confirmed cougar reports with six; Menominee County has had four; Houghton, Delta and Mackinac counties have had three each, while Baraga, Chippewa, Luce, Schoolcraft and Ontonagon counties have each had two and Keweenaw and Dickinson have had one each.

Of those confirmed reports, 21 involved photos, eight were tracks, one was video and scat and the remaining confirmed report was that of the cougar poached near Seney in Schoolcraft County in 2013.

To learn more about cougars in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/cougars.

Information about Tahquamenon Falls State Park, including maps and the nature program schedule, can be found at www.michigan.gov/tfallseducation.

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Who was that?

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Do you know what type of bird this is? Check out Ranger Steve’s tips on what to look for. Answer is in the article. Photo from the Audobon.org field guide.

Do you know what type of bird this is? Check out Ranger Steve’s tips on what to look for. Answer is in the article. Photo from the Audobon.org field guide.

A brown sparrow-sized bird captured my attention. A luminescent white shown from its throat. Narrow black lines framed the white on sides and bottom. Have you identified the bird? Noticing key field marks, in a short time, is often essential because many birds do not stay in easy view. 

The bird was in the willow thicket at Ody Brook. Several were present. It was early October when flocks of birds move through on a southward journey. I could eliminate most choices. Clearly, it was not waterfowl, and shorebirds tend to be along water edges or wading, so I can rule those out, except for possibly the Killdeer. Killdeers have departed, so that is not a likely choice. Shorebirds, like killdeer, stay mostly on the ground and this bird was on a shrub branch.

Large birds like gulls, grouse, hawks, and doves do not fit this observation. When trying to identify, narrow choices by selecting from a sparrow, robin, or crow-size. Then consider habitat and eliminate waterfowl, if you are in a forest or shrubland. Some waterfowl, like wood ducks, could be in a tree, so do not be so absolute that you rule out those you are looking at. Some species are unlikely to be in Michigan, so you can eliminate species restricted to dry arid deserts along the Mexico/US border, or other habitats not found in Michigan.

There are good bird field guides for Michigan, Eastern North America, and North America north of Mexico. Some popular Michigan bird field guides are incomplete so I suggest getting one that is most inclusive, instead of only having common birds. Some guides are much better than others.

The bird in question moved from the willow to a speckled alder. It faced me, showing a plain gray breast with no striping. Its bill was short and thick. Eliminate birds with thin bills like warblers and kinglets as well as flycatchers that have long point bills. Have you figured out the bird from the characters provided?

As the bird looked at me from the alder branch and turned its head, I could see white stripes on its head running from the beak to the back of the head. A neon yellow spot between the bill and eyes was evident in the sunlight. In shade, the yellow was not obvious. Perhaps you have figured it out now. If not, pause here, get a bird field guide, and find a sparrow-sized bird, with white stripes on the head, yellow by the bill and eye, white throat, thick short bill, plain gray breast, brown back and legs for perching on twigs.

Check if the bird you are considering is here all year or migrates. If it migrates, is it here in summer, or does it nest farther north, in places like the boreal forest? This bird happens to be a boreal nester so we would not see it during the summer months. That is not evident from our current observation, but maybe you noticed a bird with such a description was not seen all summer.

It has one of the most beautiful songs but is usually quiet during fall migration. Its musical song is a favorite sign of spring and offers wonderful joy to one’s spirit when heard. Sometimes one will let loose its song in fall or part of its song. It is described as reminiscent of the words “Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody” and belongs to the white-throated sparrow. Canadians prefer “Oh My, Canada, Canada, Canada.”

Start with yard birds you regularly see in your neighborhood nature niche to discover unique feather color patterns, size, bill, and leg characteristics. Many birds change plumage with the seasons, but some do not. I enjoy watching birds in the yard and at the feeder more than television so I usually wait to watch TV until after dark. Listening to music CDs is a nighttime pleasure also, so as not to interfere with the activity and music abounding from the depths of the wild sanctuary where I live.

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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Tips for safe bowhunting


Michigan’s bowhunting season opened October 1, and Department of Natural Resources conservation officers are sharing tips for a safe bowhunting experience.

“Bowhunting is enjoyed by thousands of hunters every year in Michigan, and we want to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable hunting season,” said Sgt. Steve Orange, supervisor of the DNR’s hunter education program. “With the season upon us, every hunter should follow some common sense safety tips before heading to or being in the woods.”

The top safety tips for bowhunting include:

  • Before you go out, inspect equipment, including your tree stand or other raised platform. If anything is worn, frayed, cracked or peeling, replace it or get it fixed.  *If using a compound bow or crossbow, make sure the cables and pulleys are in good working order.
  • When sharpening broadheads, be careful and take your time.
  • Practice tree-stand safety.  The DNR recommends using a full-body safety harness to get into and out of your tree stand.
  • If using a raised platform, always use a haul line to raise and lower your gear.
  • Keep arrows in the quiver until you are ready to use them. A common injury is to stab or injure yourself or a hunting companion while carrying arrows in your hand or nocked on your bow.
  • When heading out to the woods, hunt with a friend or family member or make sure you tell someone reliable where you are going and what time to expect you back. This information is valuable in helping conservation officers or sheriff’s deputies to find you if you are lost.
  • Also, think about carrying a cell phone, compass, flashlight and other small safety items in when in the woods.

Other important reminders include:

  • Obtain permission from landowners before hunting on their land or using their land to access public land.
  • Never take a shot at a deer that is beyond the maximum effective range of your equipment and your shooting ability.
  • If you are successful, field dress your deer and cool its meat immediately.  Michigan’s unpredictable weather means October days are sometimes warm, and warm temperatures and can cause the meat to spoil quickly.

For more information about Michigan’s conservation officers, go to www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers. For more information about hunting in Michigan, go to www.michigan.gov/hunting.

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Fall Ephemerals

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller


Fall has a resurgence of some spring activity but has its own unique ephemerals. Anxiously we wait for the fall color pageant. By August, cherry trees were dropping red and yellow leaves and sugar maples began releasing some green leaves.

The Michigan Botanical Club visited Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, on September 19, and witnessed 1200-1500 Clouded Sulphur butterflies flying over and among Frost Asters, in the field. Of the 40 people present, most said they have never seen so many butterflies in one area. It was a great, moving experience lasted through most of September and continues into October. After killing frosts, asters are mowed annually, in late October, to prepare the area for the ephemeral spring mating display of American Woodcocks. Also present were some Orange Sulphurs that hold off making an appearance until late in the year. We work to manage the sanctuary for greatest habitat biodiversity.

Fall flowering species of showy yellow goldenrods were observed in sunlit openings. Ragweeds with small unnoticed green flowers bloom at the same time. It is ragweed’s ephemeral, small, lightweight pollen carried on the wind that causes “hay fever.” Unfortunately, many people blame goldenrods because their fall ephemeral flowering occurs at the same as ragweed. Goldenrod pollen is large, heavy and falls to the ground. Goldenrod depends on insects to carry its pollen to other flowers and is not a source of “hay fever.”

A small fall resurgence of spring flowering maiden pinks shows pink petals with white dots and fringed petal tips. As daylight hours shorten and night lengthens, spring and summer plant physiology is confused and causes a slight increase in plant hormone levels that stimulates some out-of-season flowering. It is normal for fall flowering plants to have their full plant hormones increase late to stimulate fall flowering. Spring flowering plant schedules are completed because of earlier hormone peaks but a hormone resurgence stimulated by night length similar to spring brings about some out-of-season blooming.

Even animals like spring peeper frogs have a late season hormone rise that stimulates some breeding behavior. One will hear scattered peeping throughout the woods but the frogs do not migrate to their essential fishless breeding vernal ponds to lay eggs like they do in April and May. Gray tree frogs call with their short loud trilling burst from the woods. Of course, deer begin their ephemeral rut.

Bird migration time varies among species and is partly driven by hormone level changes. Many shorebird species migrate south as early as July. Warblers move through from August to October. Interestingly, it is the first year young birds that come through ahead of parents.

Bur Oak is an ephemeral of centuries, with its coming and going in Michigan, where remnants still survive. It has become less common due to habitat change. It thrives and reproduces best in grasslands, with widely scattered trees known as savannas. It has adaptations to survive periodic fires. We have largely stopped wildfires and the tree is in decline as savannas disappear. With periodic fires, savanna habitat supports conditions where this species can increase.

Nature niches have yearly ephemerals and others that occur over centuries (probably not technically classified as ephemerals). Some species are “ephemeral” that come and go over centuries, depending on adaptations to events like essential fires. Our lives are too short to witness all the ephemeral wonders around us.

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

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What’s “bugging” you in our streams?


OUT-insect_monitoringIn many cases we think bugs are a nuisance, but bugs in a stream can be very useful.  Stream insects are a good measure of water quality.  Unlike fish, stream insects cannot move around much, so they are less able to escape the effects of sediment and other pollutants that diminish water quality. Stream insects can also be easily identified.

Trout Unlimited National, Cannon Township and Michigan Trout Unlimited will be holding a Stream Insect Monitoring Event on Saturday, October 17, 2015, from 9:00 a.m. to1:00 p.m. at the Rockford Community Cabin – 220 North Monroe Street in Rockford.  Volunteers will be assigned to a monitoring group with a team leader. Each group will collect and identify insects, from different stream sites, in the Rogue River and Bear Creek watersheds. You don’t need any experience with stream insects to participate and all ages are welcome.

What will you need? Please RSVP to Nichol De Mol at 231-557-6362 or ndemol@tu.org if you would like to attend. Lunch will be provided for all volunteers. Please bring waders if you have them and dress for the weather conditions.

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