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Muskegon River walleye egg collection to occur this spring

 

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds Muskegon River anglers that Fisheries Division personnel will be taking walleye eggs below Croton Dam this spring.

The DNR plans to collect approximately 62 million walleye eggs from the Muskegon River in 2014 that will result in 13.4 million fry for transfer to rearing ponds throughout the Lower Peninsula. These walleye will be raised to fingerling size and stocked in late spring or early summer in lakes and rivers throughout the state.

Lake Michigan walleye populations in the Lower Peninsula depend on the fingerlings produced from Muskegon River eggs, as well as many inland lakes in the Lower Peninsula. The size of the walleye spawning run in the Muskegon River is presently about 40,000 to 50,000 each year. DNR crews will strip milt and eggs from approximately 700 adult fish, which will be returned to the river, except for 60 that will be sent to Michigan State University for fish health testing.

“This adult population consists of mostly stocked fish,” said Rich O’Neal, fisheries biologist for the Central Lake Michigan Management Unit. “The Muskegon River has the largest run of walleye in the Lake Michigan watershed south of Green Bay.”

The DNR plans to collect walleyes with an electro-fishing boat beginning as early as the week of March 24 and concluding by April 15. Eight days of fish collections are planned during this period. The actual date when collections will begin depends on water temperatures and the presence of ripe fish. This schedule can change on a daily basis for many reasons, but it is anticipated most work will be completed during the last week of March through the second week of April.

Sampling using electro-fishing usually begins each day at Croton Dam at about 8:30 a.m. and proceeds downstream to the Pine Street access site. If more eggs are needed, additional collections may occur downstream to the Thornapple Street access site.

Egg collection and fertilizing is conducted at the Pine Street access site, about 2 miles downstream of Croton Dam. This process generally begins between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. The public is welcome to observe how the eggs are removed from the fish and fertilized before they are packed and shipped to Wolf Lake and Platte River state fish hatcheries.

Anglers who wish to avoid the walleye collection activities should fish downstream of the areas of the river previously noted. The DNR asks anglers to exhibit caution when fishing near the electro-fishing boats. Wading anglers will be asked to exit the water when the boat approaches to ensure anglers’ safety during the electro-fishing work. The DNR appreciates angler cooperation during this critical egg take operation.
Learn more about fisheries management and fishing opportunities at the DNR website www.michigan.gov/fishing.

 

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Giant Swallowtail

OUT-Nature-niche-SJM-GiantSwallowtail-OdyB13May2012-12-copy-2By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Immobile and vulnerable all winter, the Giant Swallowtail waits. It has many adaptations for survival. During the winter wait, it is too cold to do anything but wait. Enclosed in a chrysalis it transforms from caterpillar to winged jewel. It transforms within its last larval skin during the fall from a full-grown caterpillar to a chrysalis in a hidden location.

Inside the jewel of a chrysalis, body tissues of the caterpillar dissolve to an apparent liquid. Primordial cells actively work to rebuild an adult body through most miraculous changes. Cool or cold weather delay completion of the work for weeks or months. In the more southern states the wait between caterpillar and adult is shortest. Warm weather arrives sooner allowing the transformation process to continue.

In Michigan it is thought that the process never completes and the butterfly freezes to death in the chrysalis before spring arrives. The result is that we have no Giant Swallowtails until some immigrate north to colonize the state with a new population.

I disagree in part with such thoughts. I have seen Giant Swallowtails year after year at Ody Brook where the host plant for the caterpillar is abundant and have found them in repeated years in other patches of Xanthoxylem americanum. In still other patches of the prickly ash, I have been unable to find the butterfly. That led me to the scientific hypothesis that some swallowtails survive in isolated patches to provide an ongoing legacy.

To further support the hypothesis, I discovered that reliable patches containing the butterfly year after year had none after a very cold winter with subzero temperatures. It took a few years before those patches supported the species again. My idea is that it took a few years for immigrants to find populations of the host plant.

When host plants are found by an adult swallowtail, it lays eggs that develop into bird turd looking caterpillars that fed on the leaves. Caterpillars pupate and develop into adults by fall to provide many beauties in landscapes with host plants. Those pupating in fall wait the long winter. Many freeze but a few might survive to maintain a population in isolated patches of prickly ash. This is still not scientifically proven.

To scientific prove my hypothesis, it is necessary to provide evidence that chrysalises survived the winter in the wild. I have not looked for or found supporting evidence. That does not mean they do not survive. It means there is no supporting evidence that some survive winter in this climate. This skeptical process is what makes scientific method so valuable and self-correcting. It dispels unsupported information that we often choose to believe because we want to or because it appears logical.

Through scientific process we learned the sun does not rise in the east and set in the west. Instead we discovered the Earth rotates to provide the illusion of sunrise and sunset.

For now, science supports that Giant Swallowtails do not survive Michigan winters. I expect any Giant Swallowtail chrysalises found this winter will be frozen. Immigrants will be essential if we are to see the species this summer. The winter provided chilling subzero temperatures in local nature niches. Maybe the deep snow covered and protected a few precious winged jewels.

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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Signs of Spring

OUT-hawk-march-2014-009

Mary Lou Fuller, of Solon Township, sent us this picture of a hawk having his afternoon meal in the lilac bush right outside her kitchen window.

Ranger Steve Mueller identified it as a Cooper’s Hawk. The Cooper’s Hawk can be found from southern Canada to Northern Mexico, and usually migrates south for the winter.  They mainly prey on smaller birds such as robins, doves, woodpeckers, and others.

Thanks for your photo, Mary Lou, this gives us hope that springs is right around the corner!

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Three arrested in cougar killing

 

Cougar taken in Upper Michigan’s Schoolcraft County

Three suspects from Bay and Saginaw counties involved in the Dec. 9 illegal killing of a cougar appeared on March 5 in Schoolcraft County District Court, where they were arraigned on warrants related to the killing. Two of the suspects pled guilty and the third entered a not guilty plea.

Troy Robert Richard, 42, of Bay City, pled guilty to the taking/possession of an endangered species and conspiracy to take an endangered species. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, a three-year revocation of all hunting privileges, $5,775 in fines, court costs and restitution including expenses to preserve the animal for educational purposes. Richard also forfeited the weapon involved in the taking of the animal and was ordered to serve 120 hours of community service.

Theodore Robert Richard, 68, of Munger, pled guilty to aiding and abetting the illegal taking/possession of an endangered species and paid $1,725 in fines and costs, had all hunting privileges revoked for a period of two years and received 96 hours of community service.

Todd Anthony Richard, 43, of Burt, pled not guilty to conspiracy to take/possess an endangered species. He owns and operates a taxidermy business in Bay County and is a brother to Troy Richard.

The crime occurred at the Richards’ hunting camp in Germfask Township near Seney, in Schoolcraft County, on Dec. 9, 2013. The investigation revealed the animal was shot from the subjects’ camp when it walked into a deer food plot and drove the deer out while the subjects were muzzleloader hunting for deer. The animal was wounded by Troy Richard, with a centerfire 22-250 caliber rifle and it then fled the food plot. It was tracked and located approximately one-quarter mile away the following day and killed.

The investigation also revealed Troy and Theodore Richard then brought the animal back to their camp where they field dressed it and hid it. They proceeded to cook and eat part of the heart. They left for their homes in Bay County shortly after, with the animal intact but field dressed in the back of Troy Richard’s pickup truck.

Troy Richard reported that he struck a deer with his truck after leaving the camp. He picked up the deer, put it in a trailer with other deer they had killed and transported it to the Michigan State Police post in St. Ignace where he obtained a permit for the roadkill deer, all while having the cougar in the truck’s bed, under a tonneau cover so that it could be hidden from view. DNR investigating officers noted that Richard had ample opportunity to report the cougar killing at this point, but failed to do so.

Troy Richard returned to his residence, with the cougar, where the animal was skinned and prepared for mounting. The skull was also boiled and preserved; the remains of the carcass were disposed of.

It was discovered that when the Richards learned that Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers knew about the poaching, they attempted to hide the evidence at another location. During the investigation, the Richards gave many false statements and had officers searching several areas in the U.P. where they claimed to have disposed of the entire cougar and repeatedly denied that they took the animal home with them. The cougar hide, which had been prepared for mounting, and the skull were eventually recovered, and the entrails of the adult male cougar were also found at the Richards’ camp. The suspects ultimately admitted the crime and related it as one of opportunity—a once-in-a-lifetime chance to kill a cougar in Michigan and have it mounted. Cougars are on the Michigan endangered species list and are a protected animal that may not be hunted.

Anyone with information on any other poaching case may call the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 800-292-7800. Information can be left anonymously. Information can also be provided online at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers. Information leading to an arrest and conviction is eligible for a cash reward funded by the Game and Fish Protection Fund.

 

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Red-winged blackbird arrival

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

OUT-Nature-niche-red-winged-blackbirdEncourage family members to predict the arrival date and first sighting of Red-winged Blackbirds. For decades it has been an annual activity for me. It helps us tune in to nature occurrences. I wait until mid February before making a final hypothesis. The hypothesis is different than a wild guess. I could make a guess in September. Instead I gather available evidence to make an educated guess on an annual basis. My friend Greg and I always try to guess the closest date and hope our own is the most accurate. It is a fun activity.

It is somewhat like predicting weather. Daily variations are going to impact the actual arrival day.

Evidence from previous years indicates early March is usually when they arrive in our area. With evidence from past years, we can make a hypothesis months early. For a more accurate prediction, I like to gather additional information. I look at long-range weather forecast, current snow depth, the amount of frozen water on lakes, and spring progression in plant communities. The final critical piece is determined by when a good south wind will facilitate bird flight. I make a prediction before information on wind direction is available. I once predicted February 28 and hit it right on and have gotten it right on at least one other time. I usually do not hit the date exactly but I am quite close.

It is mid February and already willow tree branches are turning brighter yellow. Silver Maple buds are beginning to swell just a little. This is occurring despite this winter being much colder than usual, snow depth much deeper, and winter storms persisting. The plants are anxious for their seasonal spring work. A few sunny days have warmed tree trunks and branches causing sap to start flowing. This afternoon the first sapsickle has formed on the sugar maple. Time to go sample the sweet taste of spring before the squirrels start licking it.

Frost may still be moving deeper into the ground, but a higher sun and longer days indicate spring is near. Male Red-winged Blackbirds want to claim the most productive breeding habitat available. First arrivals get first dibs. They will choose cattail marshes where they can broadcast claim to breeding territory, with a vocal konk-a-ree and by flashing as much as possible of the red wing patch bordered with yellow.

For 10 to 14 days, males vie for the most desirable territory, before females arrive. Amid male territory challenges, females arrive to compete for ideal nest and feeding habitat, with other females. Females are drab brown flecked with tan for a camouflage appearance. We tend not to notice their stealth arrival without effort.

Beautiful males are loud and stand in open exposed areas that capture our attention more than many bird arrivals. It is always a fun bird to anticipate and to watch changing season signals that help predict arrival most accurately. My prediction for this year’s first arrival is March 7. I need to leave Ody Brook to see the first arrivals. They come here and visit feeders but not until they have first inspected breeding habitats and filled the air with konk-a-ree in favored 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.  

 

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Michigan-caught Great Lakes muskellunge part of best catches contest

Joseph Seeberger (center) caught a state-record Great Lakes muskellunge on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, in Antrim County’s Lake Bellaire.

Joseph Seeberger of Portage, Mich. (center), displays the 58-pound Great Lakes muskellunge he reeled in during an October 2012 outing on Lake Bellaire. Brother Chuck Seeberger (left) and friend Jason Orbeck (right), both of Battle Creek, were on hand for the big catch.

The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) has compiled a list of what it considers to be the best record catches of the past year, which includes a world-record Great Lakes muskellunge caught in Michigan. The muskie is part of the IGFA’s 10 of the Best Catches of 2013 effort, which is now asking anglers to vote for their favorites.

The voting contest launched on March 1 at www.igfa.org/contests/AnglersChoice. The catch that receives the most votes will receive the Angler’s Choice Award at the IGFA’s World Record Achievement Award ceremony in April.
Voting takes place until March 31. Voters are limited to one vote per day throughout the month.

The Great Lakes muskellunge was caught on Oct. 13, 2012, on Lake Bellaire in Antrim County. The state record was caught by Joseph Seeberger of Portage, Mich., and weighed 58 pounds and measured 58 inches. It was listed as a world-record catch by the International Committee of the Modern Day Muskellunge World Record Program in February 2013.
It should be noted the muskie is the only fish in the contest that was caught in the United States. Catches were selected based on difficulty of the species, size of the fish, tackle used, and the history associated with that particular record.

The IGFA is an organization committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule making and record keeping.

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Fishing in Michigan

 

Attention all anglers, a new fishing license season begins April 1!

Michigan’s fishing licenses were restructured on March 1 – there are now five options to choose from when making your purchase. All fishing licenses are good for all species.

•  Resident Annual – $26

• Non-Resident Annual – $76

• Senior Annual (for residents age 65 or older) – $11

• 24-Hour (resident or non-resident) – $10

• 72-Hour (resident or non-resident) – $30

Residents and non-residents can also purchase the Hunt/Fish combo license for $76 and $266 respectively that consists of a base license, annual fishing license, and two deer tags. Please note, a base license is not required when just purchasing a fishing license.

Michigan’s new fishing licenses will bring additional revenue into the state that will be invested into the state’s fisheries; including providing greater access to world-class fishing opportunities, improving fisheries habitat in inland lakes and streams, and increasing the health and quantity of fish stocked in the state.
Fisheries Division does not receive any general funds and depends on angler dollars (through license sales and federal excise tax dollars for fishing tackle) to manage the state’s fisheries. Buying a fishing license, even if you do not plan to fish, can make a big difference to the future health of Michigan’s prized freshwaters.

There are two simple ways to purchase a fishing license in Michigan:

1. Visit your local license retailer or DNR Operations Service Center and make a purchase in person.

2. Use the E-License system to buy a license online 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just visit www.mdnr-elicense.com on your computer, smartphone or tablet to get started.
Don’t miss your chance to experience some of the finest freshwater fishing in the world!

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

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Common Grackle may no longer be common

 Photo by Phil Hauck.

Photo by Phil Hauck.

Prior to European settlement the Common Grackle was likely not common. It wasn’t until settlers started clearing land for agricultural uses that the species start expanding, and rapidly. By 1974, the species global population had reached 190 million individuals (National Audubon).

The Common Grackle is part of the blackbird family and if you live in an urban area chances are you have seen one or an entire flock. This grackle looks black from a distance but up close they display a glossy purple head, a bronzy-iridescent body and bright golden eyes. In Michigan, they prefer larger cities including Detroit, Lansing, Jackson, Grand Rapids, Gaylord, Clare and Sault Ste. Marie. The species is most often found in open to partially open areas with scattered trees, usually along forest edges. The Common Grackle particularly prefers human-altered habitats.

Although once widespread, the species has witnessed a 61 percent decline in population numbers since 1974, making the current global population roughly 73 million individuals (National Audubon). In Michigan, the decline is not as drastic, with a 2.5 percent decrease annually from 1988 to 2008 (Michigan Breeding Bird Atlas I & II). Partners in Flight estimates that in the state the Common Grackle population is around 1.6 million individuals, making it one of the more common birds in Michigan.

Its commonality along with its current population decline has landed the Common Grackle on National Audubon’s list of “Top 20 Common Birds in Decline”. The species decline is due to two different elements.

Common Grackles often roost in large numbers around agricultural food sources such as corn, soybeans and cherries, which has caused the species to be considered an agricultural pest allowing it to be legal to eliminate the bird in some areas. According to the Michigan Breeding Bird Atlas the depredation order, “allows the control of Common Grackles in agricultural situations when found committing or about to commit depredations upon ornamental or shade trees, agricultural crops, livestock, or wildlife, or when concentrated in such numbers and manner as to constitute a health hazard or other nuisance.” (Depredation 2008). When grackles roost at the same site for several consecutive years the site has a chance of harboring the fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum, which can be fatal in humans because it causes histoplasmosis, an infection of the lungs.

The second reason for the population decline is due to the bird’s shrinking habitat. In the late 1800’s and into the 1900’s land was being cleared at an astonishing pace, opening up an abundance of habitat for the grackle. Now with reforestation in full swing, the Common Grackle is witnessing a large, quick habitat loss.

To help the Common Grackle improve its population numbers check into the federal, state and local regulations on agricultural pests. If you live in an area with large numbers of blackbirds investigate what the protocol is regarding blackbird control and then contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or your state wildlife office; if permits have been issued report the information to the stateofthebirds@audubon.org.

Additionally, participating in bird surveys such as the Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count and the North American Breeding Bird Survey will help scientist get a better idea of the species overall population. Lastly, if you submit checklists to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s citizen scientist project eBird, make sure to include all birds you observe, even the species you think are common, you never know when they will be in decline.

 

 

 

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Snowmobile Violations – Leaving the scene of a property damage accident.

OUT-Snowmobile-Conservation-officer-logoby Sgt. John Jurcich

 

The Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division, continues to seek information related to a hit and run snowmobile crash which killed one dog and seriously injured a second dog along Simonelli Road in Fruitland Township of Muskegon County on the evening of February 16th 2014.

At approximately 7:30 p.m. two Fruitland Township residents were at the end of a driveway while snow was being cleared and mail was being retrieved from a mailbox along this lightly traveled rural road. Two vehicles were visible at the end of the driveway with tractor lights illuminating the road at the time of the incident.  Two Brittany Spaniels, owned by one of the residents, briefly ran into the gravel roadway and were returning to the drive when a lone snowmobile approaching from the north, traveling the center of the roadway at a high rate of speed appeared. The snowmobile continued at high speed striking both dogs within twenty feet of the owner and witness. The suspect vehicle did not slow or brake prior to or after the collision.  One dog died on scene after being thrown 114 feet, and the second dog required emergency care and surgery in Grand Rapids with veterinary bills totaling more than $6,000.

The snowmobile was last observed at the intersection of Simonelli and Lakewood Roads. Conservation Officers and local law enforcement have been working leads related to this incident but continue to seek additional information. Investigators may be seeking a mid to late 1990s, Polaris snowmobile, dark in color, being operated by a lone occupant. This snowmobile may have left the Berry Junction Trail or the City of Whitehall just prior to the incident and may have been returning to Fruitland or the Laketon Township area at the time of the crash.

Snowmobiles in Muskegon County may operate to the extreme right of the “right of way” or plowed portion of the roadway.  Speeds may not exceed those posted or designated to normal vehicular traffic.  Under Michigan Snowmobile and Motor Vehicle Code laws, snowmobiles involved in a crash causing property damage or human injury, must stop at the scene to provide information.

Information may be provided to the DNR Report All Poaching Hotline at 1 800 292-7800 or the Muskegon Silent Observer at 72-Crime.

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Gradual Metamorphosis

by Ranger Steve Mueller

 

As a child I collected butterflies in fallow farm fields near my home.  I recall rearing large numbers of mourning cloaks and tent caterpillars.  The joy of the metamorphosis was miraculous and butterflies were released to “live and be happy”.  When I collected adults, I recall how difficult it was to kill such splendid creatures in my killing jar. Collecting allowed me to study details that were otherwise not possible. More than once I released specimens too near death to ever recover completely.  That may have been improper treatment for those poor individuals but a child has a unique view and understanding of life.

All too rapidly the fallow farm fields became housing developments and that angered and disappointed me.  The loss of habitat was crucial in my development as a lepidopterist.  As a seven year old, I recognized human population expansion was squeezing other life off the planet and by age 19 I decided to limit my own family to no more than two children. I developed understanding and reasons for collecting and studying these wonderful creatures whose presence declined proportionally with development and human population growth.

In addition to observing life histories, my efforts to collect, kill, and classify intensified so I could learn ways to sustain species and life.  I gradually metamorphosed in my understanding for taking the delightful insects from nature. It was essential to study details that help species survive. The research led me to discover distribution of species not known to live in Michigan and Utah. Scientific collecting allowed me to document hundreds of new County records where species were not known to live. Collecting even resulted in the discovery of a new species called the Brilliant Virgin Tiger Moth (Grammia brillians) at my Bryce Canyon National Park research site.

My three-year-old daughter, Jenny Jo, collected with me when young and clearly instructed me to release specimens from the net so they could “live and be happy”.  Thus I saw a new generation of lepidopterist beginning her metamorphosis. I thought her development and collecting efforts might help butterflies “live and be happy”. Now grown, her efforts do not include study of butterflies but she developed a love for life and joy for nature’s biodiversity. She lives conservatively to sustain life on Earth for all species.

Jenny helped me again see the miraculous nature of butterfly existence that a child sees. A three-year-old renewed my efforts to help butterflies “live and be happy” – a thought sometimes difficult for the adult perspective but one we should never lose.

Live a life that conserves nature niches.

Adapted from July 1983 article published in the Lepidopterists’ Society News

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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