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Archive | Outdoors

Target shooting rules have changed on state game and wildlife areas

 

With firearm deer season almost here, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters that target shooting rules were recently changed through a land use order by the DNR director.

“Many hunters head to local state game and wildlife areas to sight in their guns, and with the recent changes to target shooting on these specific areas, we want to help hunters be legal,” said Tim Payne, DNR southeast regional wildlife supervisor.

Previously, target shooting on some state game and wildlife areas resulted in user conflicts and management issues. Some of the issues included congestion of people, unsafe use of targets, early morning or late night shooting, and damage to habitat and restoration efforts (tree damage, litter, etc.).

To help alleviate conflicts and to provide a safer target shooting experience, target shooting rules on state game areas and wildlife areas now are as follows:

A person shall not do any of the following:

  • Target shoot at anything other than a paper, cardboard or commercially produced portable target designed and manufactured for the specific purpose of target shooting.
  • Use or attempt to use incendiary or explosive targets.
  • Use or attempt to use incendiary or explosive ammunition.
  • Use or attempt to use armor-piercing ammunition (as defined by section 224c of 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.224c)
  • Possess or be under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol or a combination while target shooting.
  • Use or attempt to use a firearm, other than a pistol, revolver, shotgun, rifle, hand-held firearm or a muzzle-loading firearm.
  • Use a muzzle-loading firearm exceeding .80 caliber.

A person must adhere to the following:

  • When skeet and trap shooting, use only clay targets and shot size BBB or smaller, unless posted otherwise.
  • No target shooting before 9 a.m. or after 7 p.m. or sunset (whichever is earliest), or as posted.
  • No one shall possess or be under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol or a combination of a controlled substance and alcohol while target shooting.
  • The DNR recommends shooters familiarize themselves with their firearms and ammunition and the distance that individual rounds can travel. To ensure their safety and the safety of other users of state game and wildlife areas, shooters are encouraged to be aware of their surroundings, including neighboring homes, topography and the backstops they are using for shooting. Target shooters are reminded that it is illegal to use a tree as a target, or as a holder for a target.

Target shooting may not be allowed at all state game and wildlife areas, and each game or wildlife area may have additional restrictions and guidelines. Learn more about the state game or wildlife areas near you.

The DNR also has seven staffed shooting ranges that are open for use. Bald Mountain Recreation Area and Island Lake Recreation Area both have staffed shooting ranges that are managed by Michigan Shooting Centers.  The DNR also staffs five other shooting ranges at Dansville State Game Area (Ingham County), Ortonville State Game Area (Lapeer County), Pontiac Lake Recreation Area (Oakland County), Rose Lake State Game Area (Clinton County) and Sharonville State Game Area (Jackson County).

Learn more about the DNR shooting ranges including offerings, locations and hours or search for other ranges around the state at Michigan.gov/shootingranges.

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Shades and shapes of fall

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Fall yard raking is upon us and provides healthy physical activity. We rake leaves onto a tarp and drag them to the Island Bridge Trail or Peninsula Bridge Trail at Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary where they protect boot soles from clogging with mud in wet locations.

The fun work is watching the occasional wood frog hop to a new hiding place, noticing the mosaic of remaining colors in fallen leaves and varied shapes. Encourage children or grandchildren to join with yard clean up. My kids helped by piling leaves and then jumping on them or crawling into the middle of the pile to hide like a frog. They are good memories that last a lifetime, even though their work might not have been very productive.

Most leaves have a yellow tinge. A great activity is finding leaves from one tree that express many shades of the same color or even different colors. Examine leaves on a tree that match colors with fallen leaves. It is a great way for you and children to learn attention to detail. We are not too old to live like a child. We just get too hurried in life. My writings are to encourage nature niche experiences primarily for adults and hope kids will learn and grow to appreciate continued outdoor activities that were learned from parents and grandparents.

It is excellent for all family members to participate in nature center activities for fun and learning. The Howard Christensen Nature Center has many programs locally and other nature centers in Grand Rapids and Ottawa County have wonderful activities as well.

After collecting leaves on the ground from one tree to compare colors with those that remain on the tree, collect leaves from different tree species and align them in a row to create a smooth transition within one color and then among various color shades. Arrange them in the ROYGBIV spectrum of the rainbow. ROYGBIV is Red-Orange-Yellow-Green-Blue-Indigo-Violet.

Identify as many colors as possible and determine which are most to least abundant. Learning details about chlorophylls, carotenes, and xanthophylls can wait until you feel like delving into the science of pigment color and function.

Compare leaf margins and sizes of leaves from the one tree and with different trees species. Compare with leaves remaining on the tree. It will be noticed that leaves with greatest sun exposure are smaller than leaves that are more shaded. They are referred to as sun and shade leaves. For those that like exploring on the internet, look up those terms and look up trees to identify them by matching leaves. Googling “Michigan Flora” will help limit your search to Michigan species.

Most of us have not spent time noticing varied leaf shapes. Some are long and thin, round, oval, wavy or toothed margined. Teeth on the margin might have large and small teeth alternating or have teeth of equal size. Some have many teeth or few. Different oak species have rounded or sharp pointed lobes. Oaks tend to turn purple or brown as fall progresses. Where does purple fit into the ROYGBIV sequence? It is a good discriminating activity for all of us.

If that is not enough, learn to separate tree species based on their growth silhouette. Yardwork can be fun.

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 sees success in fall walleye stocking

A healthy fall walleye fingerling, reared in DNR ponds near Belmont in Kent County, is ready to be released into Crystal Lake in Montcalm County. Photo courtesty Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

A healthy fall walleye fingerling, reared in DNR ponds near Belmont in Kent County, is ready to be released into Crystal Lake in Montcalm County. Photo courtesty Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Fall is harvest time in Michigan, and while most may be thinking of picking apples or plucking pumpkins, Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries crews are thinking about walleye.

Specifically, they’re collecting the last of the walleye fingerlings that are raised in rearing ponds for stocking and getting the fish to where they want them to be.

For the most part, walleye are reared for a short period of time in ponds and stocked as spring fingerlings—most at less than 2 inches in length—in high densities. But fisheries biologists know that fall fingerlings can be stocked at much lower densities and produce better results than spring fingerlings.

Volunteer members of the West Michigan Walleye Club lift a fyke net (a bag net for catching fish) of fingerlings out of a DNR walleye pond near Belmont in Kent County. Photo courtesy Michigan DNR.

Volunteer members of the West Michigan Walleye Club lift a fyke net (a bag net for catching fish) of fingerlings out of a DNR walleye pond near Belmont in Kent County. Photo courtesy Michigan DNR.

Recently, DNR technician supervisor Ed Pearce brought his crew (technicians Mike Wilson and Matt Smith) to the state’s walleye ponds near Belmont in Kent County to get the walleye out of the ponds and into a couple of southern Michigan lakes.

A dozen or so members of the West Michigan Walleye Club, who spent the summer babysitting the ponds, assisted the crew in the operation.

“We have found that if we put in fall fingerlings, their survival is very, very good,” said Jay Wesley, the DNR’s Lake Michigan Basin coordinator. “It’s really the key to stocking walleye in southern Michigan. We’ve done it with fry, but it’s really hit or miss.”

Although walleye are much in demand—anglers love them—most southern Michigan waters are not ideal for the fish, which prefer cooler water than most southern Michigan lakes maintain in the summer.

In addition, most lakes have established fish populations that predate heavily upon the tiny walleye. By stocking fall fingerlings, fisheries managers not only enjoy better fish survival but are also more likely to establish fishable walleye populations.

“If we can get a cool-water hatchery facility, our capacity to raise more fall fingerlings would increase,” Wesley said. “Right now, we’re kind of doing it experimentally, pond by pond, but we need a coordinated effort at one hatchery to really get it going.”

At some ponds, crews leave a percentage of the fish there after spring harvest to grow into fall fingerlings. At Belmont this year, production was so poor that fisheries managers decided to leave them all in the pond to grow until fall.

The operation at Belmont consists of three ponds—a fill pond, fed by a natural creek; the walleye pond; and a minnow pond, which is stocked early in the season with fathead minnows that will reproduce and provide forage for the walleye pond.

Members of the club tended the ponds all spring and summer. In spring, they fertilize the ponds to produce the plankton the fry need to survive.

“For six weeks, we put 500 to 600 pounds of fertilizer—a mixture of alfalfa and soy meal—into the ponds to provide the nutrients for the plankton,” said Al Davis, club director. “We started with 100 pounds of minnows in the minnow pond, and we produced more than 400 pounds of minnows this year—and we’ve still got minnows in there.

“We had more than 90 man-hours in just feeding fish and transferring the minnows from the minnow pond to the walleye pond.”

Fall harvest involves lowering the water level to congregate the fish more closely, then installing trap nets to collect them. It takes two days of water-lowering and net-setting to get the bulk of the fish.

Next, the remaining water is drained into what the guys call a “wolf trap”—a concrete and screen box below the pond’s discharge tube—where the remaining fish are entrapped and netted out.

“We’ll get 90 percent of the fish out with the nets, then we’ll seine the wolf trap,” Pearce said. “We’ll get all of those fish.”

Pond production is highly variable, depending largely on environmental factors over which no one has control. The poor production this spring led to a bonanza of fall fingerlings.

“It has been a good year this year,” Davis said, as he handled nets at the recent fingerling harvest. “In 2010, we had a bunch of fish, but a flood came through and blew the dike. The fish all wound up in the Grand River.

“But since 2009, this pond has produced more than 800,000 walleye fry.”

Raising fingerlings is costly and time-consuming. The club chipped in to help defray the cost of fertilizer and provided the bulk of the labor.

Pearce, who praised the club effusively, said the program would be nearly impossible without the club’s assistance.

“These fall fingerlings are worth their weight in gold,” Pearce said. “We use them in lakes that are full of bluegills; bluegills are good predators, so we put them in at a size that they’re not going to get eaten up.”

Fall fingerlings tend to measure 5 to 7 inches. It’ll take about two years for them to recruit into the fishery, when they become legal targets at 15 inches.

Schoolchildren from two nearby schools also attended the first day of the fall fingerling harvest.

For his part, Pearce said the fall fingerling harvest is one of his favorite tasks as a fisheries worker.

“This is enjoyable,” Pearce said. “You’re doing your job, and you’re educating kids, too. These are the days we look forward to.”

Get more information on DNR fish stocking at michigan.gov/fishing.

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DNR seeks bear den locations in northern Lower Peninsula

_out-bear-dens-yearling-in-den

While out in the field, hunters and trappers could come upon a denned black bear. The Department of Natural Resources is looking for locations of denned bears in the northern Lower Peninsula, in order to fit them with a radio collar for an ongoing bear management program.

“Information gathered from bears assists in managing the black bear population,” said Mark Boersen, wildlife biologist at the DNR Roscommon Customer Service Center. “Currently, we have four female bears being monitored from both air and ground using radio tracking equipment.”

After locating a denned bear, DNR biologists will determine if the animal is a good candidate for a radio collar. Bears that are selected will be sedated by a wildlife biologist and fitted with a collar and ear tags. A small non-functional tooth will be collected to determine the bear’s age and to provide a DNA sample. Upon completion of the short procedure, biologists will carefully return the bear to its den, where it will sleep through the remainder of the winter months.

Those who encounter bear dens are asked to record the location, with a GPS unit if possible, and contact Mark Boersen at (989) 275-5151 or boersenm@michigan.gov with specific location information. It is illegal to disturb a bear den or to disturb, harm, or molest a bear in its den.

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Holes in the fabric of space

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Imagine a giant child placing a dark veil over the Earth and using a pin to poke holes in the veil to allow light through. The pinholes would look like stars to us. A new “star” would appear with each pinhole. It has only been a few centuries since similar ideas have been slowly replaced with scientific explanations. Of course, we still write stories as real. Many people believe them because they are simple explanations or are consistent with ideas we learned as a child about time and space or are simply what we want to believe.

I still like to travel to “Never Never Land” even though there is no physical scientific evidence of its existence. We like to believe there are parallel universes like exist in the “Back to the Future” movie series.

I sat on the Ody Brook Big Field bench at dusk when the sky only expressed one star, Arcturus. It was not long before more stars popped into view as if a giant child was poking holes in a dark veil covering over Earth.

High and slightly to the north above me, the constellation Cassiopeia looked like a lopsided bright W. To the northwest and closer to the horizon from the W was a lone star in the dusk sky. It was the North Star. Even closer to the northwest horizon were three bright stars creating the handle of the Big Dipper. Only one of the Big Dipper bucket stars was visible before darkness increased. Stars rise four minutes earlier each night, changing their position as the year progresses. Expect constellations to be on the move all year.

An introduction to the night sky is best discovered when the sky is not fully dark. Most constellations are composed of bright stars. It is easier to see them before the sky is cluttered with dimmer stars. For better or worse, lights from communities prevent viewing of dimmer stars. It might be easier to see the bright constellations but I want a dark sky lighted by 2000 stars.

Using outside lights that shine down instead up saves energy, money, and improves night darkness. Placing a shade above lights lowers needed wattage and expense. A billboard was placed across the road from Ody Brook with two bright lights shining skyward where they light the neighborhood and sky instead of just the sign. Township and city commissions could be elected to implement practices that protect neighborhood darkness.

As dusk changed to darkness, the other three stars forming the bucket of the Big Dipper appeared and a dim star by the middle handle star became visible. That dim star in the past was used to test distance vision and in the military to determine if servicemen were allowed to serve in certain positions requiring keen eyesight.

When the sky was dark enough, dimmer stars of the Little Dipper became visible. Consider the Big Dipper sitting on a level table and it will appear the smaller dipper empties into the larger. Their names are Ursa major and Ursa minor. The seven stars in each do not resemble Big and Little Bear shapes. There are more stars comprising the bear constellations. They are dimmer stars not easily visible in a community lit sky.

The Milky Way crosses the sky from Cassiopeia southward toward Sagittarius, the Archer. The Milky Way is comprised of massive stars arranged in a flat plane like a dinner plate. The flat plate is our galaxy. Stars above and below the plate stand out against the black night sky and are close enough for us to see as individual stars. Most stars in the Milky Way are distant and appear as a fuzzy white band unless one uses a telescope.

Physical evidence only supports that life exists on Earth. New evidence constantly changes science knowledge and facts about universe nature niches. We all “know” life exists elsewhere based on Star Trek and Star Wars. Many believe similar ideas instead of science-based evidence. Atmospheric evidence is adequately conclusive to convince 97 percent of climate scientists that human caused global climate change is increasing and threatening our economy, coastal cities, and agriculture. Validity deniers should ask why they deny despite overwhelming climate change evidence. Is it for personal reasons? Where are your holes in the fabric of space? Is the child with veil and pin real? Forty-nine percent of US citizens deny human-caused climate change. I wonder why?

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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Be an ethical hunter: buy a license before you go 

out-ethical-hunter-deer

And don’t loan kill tags

Conservation officers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources urge deer hunters to engage in an ethical hunt: Buy a license before going out and don’t loan kill tags.

Every deer hunting season, DNR conservation officers encounter individuals engaged in unethical hunting practices. These officers tackle many cases of individuals buying hunting licenses after harvesting deer or loaning kill tags to friends or relatives.

“Each year, we see cases of individuals waiting to buy licenses until after they have shot a deer,” said Dean Molnar, assistant chief of the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. “We remind all hunters that you must buy your license before you go out to hunt and have it in your possession when afield. Buying a license is not only the ethical and responsible thing to do; it is the law. Harvesting a deer without a license is poaching.”

Deer poaching in Michigan carries a restitution payment of $1,000 per deer, a $200 to $1,000 fine and jail time up to 90 days. In addition, a violator’s hunting privileges are suspended for three years. Under the new law that took effect in 2014, antlered deer are assessed an additional $1,000 in restitution plus the standard $1,000 for illegally killing any deer. In addition, deer with eight points but not more than 10 are $500 a point, while deer with 11 points or more are assessed a penalty of $750 per point.

Additional years of hunting privileges will be revoked for violators. This includes an additional two years of revoked hunting privileges for the first offense and an additional seven years for a second or subsequent offences. Michigan also participates in the Wildlife Violator Compact, which includes hunting revocation in participating states.

Another unethical practice encountered frequently each hunting season in Michigan is the loaning of kill tags to an unlicensed individual who has harvested a deer.

“Loaning kill tags is among the top violations we see while on patrol, and is often done for friends or relatives who are from out of state to avoid paying the nonresident license fee,” said Molnar. “Kill tags must be validated and attached immediately to your harvested deer and visible for inspection. It is unlawful to loan out or borrow kill tags.”

For more information on deer hunting in Michigan, go to www.michigan.gov/deer.

To report a natural resource violation, please call the Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/rap.

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Youth waterfowl hunts at Michigan’s Wetland Wonders

Youth waterfowl hunts at Michigan’s Wetland Wonders, the seven premier managed waterfowl hunt areas in the state, offer kids a memorable hunting experience.

Youth waterfowl hunts at Michigan’s Wetland Wonders, the seven premier managed waterfowl hunt areas in the state, offer kids a memorable hunting experience.

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

Oct. 22 – Nayanquing Point Wildlife Area (afternoon hunt only) in Pinconning

Oct. 29 – Muskegon County Wastewater (morning and afternoon hunts) in Twin Lake

Oct. 29 – Fish Point State Wildlife Area (afternoon hunt only) in Unionville

Nov. 5 – Fennville Farm Unit of the Allegan State Game Area (morning hunt only) in Fennville

Nov. 5 – Shiawassee River State Game Area (afternoon hunt only) in St. Charles

Nov. 11 – Harsens Island Managed Hunt Area (afternoon hunt only) on Harsens Island

Nov. 13 – Pointe Mouillee State Game Area (morning hunt only) in Rockwood

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

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

Only parties including youth hunters will be allowed to hunt at Fennville Farm the afternoon of Nov. 5, and only youth will be permitted to shoot during this hunt.

All youth participating in these priority hunts must be properly licensed to hunt. Youth up to the age of 9 need only a Mentored Youth Hunting license to hunt waterfowl. Youth 10-15 years of age need a junior base license only, and youth ages 16 and older need a junior base license, a waterfowl license with Harvest Information Program survey questions answered and a Federal Duck Stamp.

Michigan’s Wetland Wonders are the seven premier managed waterfowl hunt areas in the state. These areas, scattered across the southern Lower Peninsula, were created in the 1960s to provide exceptional waterfowl hunting opportunities and still are managed today to provide waterfowl habitat for nesting and migration and for the benefit of other wetland wildlife. Since the beginning, the areas have been funded by hunting license fees and area use fees, but they are open for anyone to visit, use and enjoy most of the year.

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

Don’t forget that the Wetland Wonders Challenge, sponsored by Consumers Energy, runs until Feb 12, 2017. Youth and adult hunters who hunt at three managed waterfowl hunt areas can be entered in the contest. Hunt at more than three areas for additional contest entries. Seven hunters will be chosen to win ultimate waterfowl hunting prize packages valued at $1,500, including a “golden ticket” good for one first-choice pick at a managed waterfowl hunt area for the 2017-18 season (non-reserved). See www.michigan.gov/wetlandwonders for contest terms and conditions.

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Tracks 

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Take a walk in the sand and discover new sounds and sights. When walking along Lake Michigan’s Shoreline or an inland lake find a place where the sand sings to you. If too close to water’s edge or too far away, the land will not speak. Find the correct location between wet beach and dry sand where the sand sings. It requires the exact ratio of water to sand to create sound. You can force sound production in any location but when you walk the right path, the sand will speak freely in a narrow band of beach.

It is up to you to interpret what singing sand has to say. Use your imagination and include family members or friends to discuss meaning. Examine scientific details of the sound creation or just have fun with the phenomenon.

While enjoying time on the beach with sun, waves, color, and ever changing surroundings, begin exploring your own tracks. It will be a great introduction into the world of animal tracking. Shed shoes and walk in areas covered and uncovered by lapping waves. You will have little time to examine your tracks before they are erased by the next oncoming wave. Step inland from wave-covered areas where track details will remain longer. Notice your foot print details. Dry sand does not produce good track detail.

In damp sand, what parts of your print show detail? Are parts of your foot missing? Are toes evenly spaced? Are toes of equal length or show equal impression? Compare your print with those of others. Can you recognize your footprint from that of friends? Do you walk with more or less pressure on your heel or ball of foot? Is there greater imprint pressure along the side of the print? Zig-zag and see if print impressions change.

Once you notice human foot print details of depth, shifting directions, size, and speed of movement, one can make better sense of animal tracks.

Animal size is one of the first things that can be determined but one can be fooled. Karen and I were portaging a canoe in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of northern Minnesota when we encountered a moose track that was almost a foot long and six inches wide. This is about double the normal size. Had we discovered the “Big Foot” of the moose population? No. The moose was walking in mud and the print expanded in the soft mud. I have done the same with my footprints in light snow where my tracks appeared twice normal size.

If animals are moving in groups, recognize heavier animals from lighter animals by the depth of imprints if the ground is soft enough to hold imprints. Exploring animal prints on wet shorelines of lakes or streams helps. Tracking on fallen leaves through the forest is nearly impossible.

What can be followed through the forest are animal paths.  Animals often use the same path and create a trail just wide enough for their movement. When I walk deer paths, I am amazed how narrow they are and how low branches hang. It seems the deer must be very short. The narrowness seems too close for a buck to travel without snagging antlers. Along the trail, I discover this is not true because buck antler scrapes are evident on small trees.

Bucks stop to scrape velvet from antlers as blood vessels in the skin covering begin to die and itch. They also battle with small saplings to make noise to announce breeding territory. It is easy to find scrapes when one follows a deer trail. I find some scrapes that are many years old. When a tree is not damaged too severely, it grows in diameter and the deer scrape scars grow with the tree bark. When people carve initials in aspen bark, the initial scars grow as the tree grows. Take time to look for tracks and signs of animals.

Begin tracking discoveries with your own tracks along beautiful lake or stream shores and then discover nature niche nuances created by animal movements. One will never become bored with wild outdoor wonders. Fall tracking practice will lead to fun winter snow adventures with mice to large mammals and birds.

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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Cougars poached; DNA tests done 

 The cougar shown was poached in Schoolcraft County in 2013. This is one of two male cougars the Michigan Department of Natural Resources sampled tissue from for genetic analysis. Photo courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources.


The cougar shown was poached in Schoolcraft County in 2013. This is one of two male cougars the Michigan Department of Natural Resources sampled tissue from for genetic analysis. Photo courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Genetic testing on tissue samples from two cougars poached in the Upper Peninsula shows the two animals likely came from a population found generally in South Dakota, Wyoming and northwest Nebraska.

“This genetic research lines up with what we’ve presumed previously, that cougars found in the Upper Peninsula are males dispersing from this population east of the Rocky Mountains,” said Kevin Swanson, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife management specialist with the agency’s Bear and Wolf Program. “These males dispersed from the main population are looking to establish new territories.”

Since 2008, the DNR has confirmed 35 cougar reports in the Upper Peninsula, but so far there remains no conclusive evidence of a breeding population. No reports have been confirmed from Lower Michigan.

Cougars are an endangered species in Michigan protected by law.

The U.P. cougar confirmations were derived from trail camera video, photographs, tracks, scat or in the case of the two males poached, carcasses.

On Feb. 1, a cougar, or mountain lion, was found dead in Dickinson County, about 4 miles north of Iron Mountain.

Conservation officers investigating the incident said the animal, which a medical examination determined had been in a snare, had been dumped near the intersection of Johnson Road and County Road 607 in Breitung Township.

On April 18, researchers at the National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation in Missoula, Montana received a tissue sample collected Feb. 1 from the dead cougar.

The sample had been sent to the center for genetic evaluation by DNR wildlife biologist Brian Roell in Marquette.

Researchers had previously received another cougar tissue sample from Roell on Aug. 28, 2015, which had been collected Nov. 20, 2013, after the poaching of a cougar in Schoolcraft County.

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

Investigation revealed the animal was shot and wounded with a rifle when it entered a field near the camp. The following day, the cougar was tracked down and killed by a man developed later as a suspect.

Three men from Bay City were arrested and convicted for poaching the cougar. The men served jail time, paid several thousand dollars in fines, costs and restitution, and lost hunting privileges for several years.

The genetic results from analysis of the two cougar samples were reported recently to the DNR by the center.

Researchers analyzed the DNA from the two samples using mitochondrial DNA, which traces mother-line ancestry. A haplotype is a group of genes within an organism inherited together from a single parent.

Kristine Pilgrim, genomic laboratory’s supervisor, said the two cougars had a haplotype “M,” which is the most common North American haplotype.

Researchers investigated the potential population of origin for the two cougars using a database which includes samples from cougar populations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oregon and Florida.

“Preliminary substructure analysis shows that these animals are most closely related to individuals from the region of the Black Hills of Wyoming and South Dakota and northwest Nebraska,” Pilgrim said.

Using the genic information from the tissue samples, matched against results from other cougars in the center’s database, probabilities are calculated for the animal’s origin.

The tissue sample from the cougar from Schoolcraft County showed a probability of 74.1 percent to have come from the Wyoming-South Dakota-Nebraska population, while the Dickinson County cougar’s probability was 99.8 percent.

Researchers caution the probability does not necessarily mean the cougars are directly from that location, because there may be other populations that have not been sampled and included in the database.

“This research adds a couple more pieces to the puzzle, helping us to learn more about the cougars found in the Upper Peninsula,” Swanson said. “We still have not found the presence of any females or cubs, which would indicate a breeding population. This analysis also adds information to the center’s data set.”

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, cougars 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 trapped and hunted from the state around the turn of the 20th Century.

Thirteen western states allow cougar hunting and the North American cougar is listed there as a game species.

The DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline (1-800-292-7800) offers money to tipsters. Information may be provided anonymously.

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

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Fishing Tip: Go “hunting” for fish this fall

out-fishing-tip-walleye

Autumn can be one of the best times of year to seek out your favorite fish species for a day of fun angling.

Several species to target this October and November include walleye, perch and trout.

Walleye are thought to be in their best condition in the fall, and can often be found in the river-mouth areas of larger, inland lakes.

They’re gathering there to take advantage of baitfish that like to hang out as the weather cools off.

Set your sights on 10 to 12 feet deep to find these big old guys.

Perch will also populate around those same river-mouths, but these fish will likely be much closer to the river than walleyes. Check out depths as shallow as four feet to find them.

Trout will be available in those larger lakes as well during this time period, and can be found in the same areas as the walleye and perch.

Try your luck at some great angling this fall. For more information on the numerous opportunities to fish in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/fishing.

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