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Archive | Outdoors

Catch of the Week

Mya Hendges shows off her sunfish

The children of Rick and Amber Hendges, of Solon Township, have been reeling in some nice catches. 

Mya Hendges, age 9, caught this nice sunfish while fishing with her grandparents in Trufant. 

Hunter Hendges caught a pike.

Hunter Hendges, age 11, caught this pike while fishing in Trufant at his great-grandma’s house. 

Kylee Hendges, age 6, caught this nice blue gill while fishing with her grandparents in Trufant. Kylee loves to fish. She baits her own hook and even takes her own fish off!  

Kylee Hendges is proud of her blue gill.

Great job, Mya, Hunter, and Kylee! You made the Post Catch of the Week!

 

It’s back—get out those cameras!

It’s that time of year again when anglers big and small like to tell their fish tales! Send us a photo and story of your first, best, funniest, biggest, or even your smallest catch. Include your name, age, address, and phone number, along with the type and size of fish, and where caught.  We can’t wait to hear from you! Photos published as space allows. Photos/stories may be sent by email to news@cedarspringspost.com with Catch of the Week in the subject line, or mail to: Catch of the Week, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

  

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Another Montcalm deer suspected to have CWD

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced on Tuesday, October 24, that a second hunter-harvested deer in Montcalm County is suspected positive for chronic wasting disease. A sample has been sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for confirmation. If confirmed positive, the 1.5-year-old buck, harvested in Sidney Township, would be the 11th free-ranging deer in Michigan found to have CWD.

“The fact that we already have another positive deer within Montcalm County is of major concern,” said Dr. Kelly Straka, DNR state wildlife veterinarian. “We strongly recommend hunters who harvest deer in Montcalm County have their deer tested. Deer with CWD can look perfectly healthy even though they are infected.”

To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in humans. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals. 

Since May 2015 when the first CWD deer was found, the DNR has tested more than 15,000 deer. Thus far, 10 cases of CWD have been confirmed in free-ranging white-tailed deer from Clinton, Ingham and Montcalm counties.

As additional deer have tested positive for CWD within Michigan, the DNR has put specific regulations in place. This deer was harvested in the Montcalm-Kent Core CWD Area, which includes Maple Valley, Pine, Douglass, Montcalm, Sidney, Eureka, and Fairplain townships in Montcalm County; and Spencer and Oakfield townships in Kent County. Starting Nov. 15, this nine-township area will have mandatory deer check.

As announced previously, the DNR will hold a town hall meeting Wednesday, Oct. 25, 6 to 8 p.m. in the Ash Foundation Building, located within the Montcalm County Fairgrounds at 8784 Peck Road in Greenville, Michigan.

At the meeting, Dr. Straka and DNR deer specialist Chad Stewart will provide information on chronic wasting disease, its effects on deer and deer populations, and DNR actions to date in responding to the discovery of the disease. Dr. Cheryl Collins, veterinarian from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, will be present to provide information and answer questions related to farmed deer.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals. Susceptible animals can acquire CWD by direct exposure to these fluids, from environments contaminated with these fluids, or from the carcass of a diseased animal. 

Some CWD-infected animals will display abnormal behaviors, progressive weight loss and physical debilitation; however, deer can be infected for many years without showing internal or external symptoms. There is no cure; once a deer is infected with CWD, it will die. 

To learn more about CWD, visit mi.gov/cwd

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Senescence 

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

The growing season is senescing. In the temperate region, it would seem that most plant life grows old at the same time and dies. Many species complete their adult life cycle by late fall. It appears life comes to an end with death surrounding us until new life and growth resurges in the spring.  

No more strawberries, raspberries, or apples to harvest. Fortunately, we are still able to pick and enjoy apples late into fall in our backyard tree. Deer also enjoy them. The raspberries are gone by late summer. Strawberries from the garden are a distant memory from early summer. Each plant has its own moment in the sun. 

Growth and life cycles in nature niches are linked with day length. More accurately I should refer to night length. It is the hours of darkness that most influences the timing of annual flowering and fruit production. As the hours of darkness increase during the fall, senescence advances.

When the girls were young, we had a wonderful raspberry garden in the front yard and a strawberry patch in the backyard. Raspberries seemed to attack with serious thorns when we tried to harvest fruit. Strawberries were not defensive in that manner but required more bending. As the girls aged, we added what I called patch gardens. They were small 4 by 6-foot flower gardens that were their responsibility. It was a good way to introduce them to the value of caring for life. They selected the plants they wanted to grow.

Plants in our produce garden served some nutrition needs and the flower gardens were feasted on by eyes. Besides glorious feasting for our eyes, flower gardens provided food for small neighbors like bees and butterflies. They attracted birds and small mammals into view that enriched our lives. 

When I was young, my mother was busy in fall canning tomatoes and other produce in Kerr jars. She aged and her own senescence arrived. A few years ago, we emptied her residence and found Kerr jars that were passed on to others. Canning from personal gardens is done by fewer people now in this age of economic richness. 

People complain about the bad economy but nearly all families have more economic resources than families had 60 years ago. People now afford warmer homes, more travel, an abundance of electronic gadgets, outrageously priced phones and service instead of party phone lines. Many have phones for each family member instead of several families sharing a party line. We have more clothes than needed and most kids no longer go to school with patches sown on pants except for stylish appearance. Most can afford to buy food and do not need to grow their own. Today, many grow food to avoid pesticides and herbicides. Our apple tree is chemical free providing healthy apples.

Looking beyond our personal needs, we see wild neighbors struggle to survive in balance with natural life cycle influences of season, precipitation, soil nutrients, predators, necessary plants and animal associates. Fall signals, it is time for plants to senesce. Their demise is hastened some years by an early killing frost. This year, frost delayed to late October. Plants still progressed with their aging and decline. 

Metabolic activity and cell growth came to a season’s end without a killing frost. Many plants die to the ground and store personal produce in roots for a spring resurgence. The roots and stems of others die completely but their kind survives because they leave behind seeds to replenish the Earth. 

Senescence comes to us all. Along the way we can experience and enjoy the abundance and variety of life when we allow wild neighbors to provide real richness in our lives. As I pen this, red leaves on maples, yellow on cherries and maroon on oaks signal the annual passage of time. I wonder how many more cycles of color and falling leaves I will experience. 

It is always sad to see summer go but I have great hope and anticipation for spring that I am sure will come.

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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New state record cisco caught

Michael Lemanski holding his state-record cisco (formerly known as lake herring).

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirmed last week that a new state-record had been set for the fish known as cisco (formerly known as lake herring). This marks the second state-record fish caught in 2017.

The fish was caught Friday, June 9, at 10 a.m. by Michael Lemanski of Florence, Wisconsin, on Lake Ottawa in Iron County in the western Upper Peninsula. Lemanski was still-fishing with a homemade jig. The fish weighed 6.36 pounds and measured 21.8 inches.

Jennifer Johnson, a DNR fisheries biologist in Crystal Falls, verified the record.

Robert Rogers, of Hartford, Wisconsin, set the previous state-record for cisco (lake herring) in 1992, when he caught one while trolling the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. That fish weighed 5.4 pounds and measured 25 inches.

“Although this fish was caught in June, we only recently verified it as a state record,” said Gary Whelan, the DNR’s fisheries research manager. “The reason for the delay stemmed from the fact we wanted to ensure this fish was not a hybrid between a cisco and a lake whitefish. These fish look extremely similar so we gathered DNA from the fish to test its compatibility with what we know about cisco. That test, done by Michigan State University, proved to be a match.”

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.

To view a current list of Michigan state-record fish visit  michigan.gov/staterecordfish.

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Black bears and humans: What you should know

A sow and two black bear cubs investigate a grassy area where garbage has been left. Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

By Kevin Swanson and John Pepin

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

For many people, the opportunity to see a Michigan black bear in the wild is an amazing experience.

Black bears are Michigan’s only bear species. These animals prefer large hardwood or pine forests, intermixed with wetlands, and they can be colored black, brown or cinnamon.

Males live in areas that can be larger than 100 square miles, while females—which give birth to an average of two to three cubs every other winter—stay in smaller areas ranging from 10 to 20 square miles. Adult female black bears typically weigh 100 to 250 pounds.

Bears have sharp claws on their padded feet, used for climbing trees and searching for food, like tearing open rotted stumps and trees for insects.

Many wildlife watchers have a natural curiosity about bears, and the chance to see bears from a safe distance, especially when a sow is accompanied by cubs, often produces moments most people don’t soon forget.

Anglers, campers, hikers and others enjoying the outdoors in Michigan may also encounter a black bear. Typically, bears will run or walk away from humans if they become aware of their presence.

However, in some instances, bears do not run. In these cases, an adult male Michigan black bear—which can weigh more than 400 pounds and stand 5 feet tall—can present an imposing obstacle.

“When bears stand their ground, people should do the same thing,” said Kevin Swanson, a wildlife specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ bear and wolf program. “In these kind of encounters, you should make loud noises and back away from the bear slowly, giving the bear plenty of room to leave the area. Do not run from a black bear or play dead if one approaches.”

In rare cases, black bears can attack. If they do, fight back with a stick, a backpack, similar available items, or your bare hands. 

Fatal black bear attacks are extremely rare. According to the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota, black bears have killed 61 people across North America since 1900. Bear experts there say your chances of being killed by a domestic dog, bees, or lightning are vastly greater.

According to the Center, “Most attacks by black bears are defensive reactions to a person who is very close, which is an easy situation to avoid. Injuries from these defensive reactions are usually minor.”

In Michigan, while cases of black bear attacks—like that of a 12-year-old girl who was attacked and injured while jogging at dusk in Wexford County in 2013—remain rare, reports of bear nuisance complaints are relatively common.

DNR bear nuisance complaints in the Upper Peninsula tallied a bit over 100 for each of the past two years, down from the peak of nearly 250 in 2004.

However, in the northern Lower Peninsula, bear complaints in 2016 numbered over 200, a new record for the region. Previously, complaints had peaked in 2003 in that part of the state at more than 160.

Numerous factors affect bear complaints, including available food sources and public attitudes toward bears over time as population numbers increase.

Many black bear nuisance complaints involve encounters between humans and bears, that were prompted by human behavior.

“Black bears eat plants and animals and seek out a number of different food sources, such as sedge, juneberry, blueberry, acorns, beechnuts, and animal protein that includes insects and occasional deer fawns,” Swanson said. “Bears also have big appetites, an excellent sense of smell and can remember the locations of food sources from one year to the next.”

Problems typically occur when humans feed black bears, intentionally or unintentionally. Bears eat foods left near campsites, garbage, or foods left out for pets or wild birds.

“The best way to avoid issues with black bears is to never feed them,” said Brian Roell, a DNR wildlife biologist in Marquette. “It is very important that bears maintain their natural fear of humans. Bear problems are far more likely to occur when bears become used to finding food provided by humans.”

A DNR information flier on Michigan black bear details some helpful tips for avoiding conflicts with bears around homes and camps:

  • Never intentionally feed bears.
  • Remove potential food sources, like bird feeders, from your yard. Do not feed wild birds in the spring, summer and fall, when bears are most active.
  • Keep pet food inside or in a secured area.
  • Keep garbage and odor at a minimum by removing trash often and cleaning the can or other container used for garbage.
  • Keep garbage in a secured area or in a secured container with a metal, lockable lid until it is picked up or taken away.
  • Keep grills and picnic tables clean.
  • Bee hives (apiaries), fruit trees and gardens can be protected from bears by electric fencing.

There are additional tips for hikers and campers:

  • Keep a clean camp, limiting food odors and garbage.
  • Food and toiletries should never be kept in tents. Store these items in air-tight containers in a vehicle trunk or suspend food in burlap or plastic bags or backpacks from trees. Hang these bags or backpacks 12 feet off the ground, 10 feet away from the tree trunk and 5 feet from the nearest branch.
  • Always cook at a distance from your campsite and wash dishes and utensils shortly after eating.
  • Don’t sleep in clothes that have cooking odors or blood on them.
  • Store garbage as you would food. Burning or burying garbage attracts bears.
  • Travel in groups and make noise when hiking to avoid surprising a bear.
  • Carry bear spray.

“All of us who live and enjoy the outdoors in bear country share the responsibility of not doing things that will intentionally or unintentionally attract bears and create the potential for bear problems,” said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer. “As human and black bear populations grow in some areas, the possibility of human-bear interactions becomes more likely, making this shared responsibility even more important.”

Get more information on Michigan black bears at www.michigan.gov/bear.

See part 2 of this story in next week’s paper.

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Catch of the Week

Sierra Feenstra, age 9, caught this beautiful 14-inch bass at her cottage near Silver Lake Sand Dunes on Upper Silver Lake. Sierra is the daughter of Todd & Becky Feenstra, of Sand Lake.

Congratulations, Sierra, you made The Post Catch of the Week!

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Lost in Time

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

I experience no past and no future. All is present for me. When family talks about something we did, I refer to it as if it just occurred. They tell me that it was ten years ago. My mind keeps things from yesteryear current and the distant future as if they will occur immediately. 

In one sense, this is good. I plan Earth Care for coming centuries as if it will occur in the immediate future. Sustainable living conditions for my grandkids 50 or 100 generations hence is an immediate concern. Care for ecosystems and nature niches today determines the health and wealth of great-great-great-grandkids we will never meet. It is hoped behavior during my short life will provide sustainable conditions for distant generations. 

We each have unique greatness and limitations. For those that know me, it becomes obvious the interworking of my mind blends the distant past and future into the present. Friends I danced with at a 1966 teenage dance and the discovery of climbing nightshade that year, using the book Shrubs of Michigan, in my mind just occurred. 

I still feel the warmth of a girl’s embrace on the dance floor and I can see the location of the climbing vine on a log that has surely decomposed during the ensuing years. It’s senseless to family and friends when I refer to things past as if they just occurred. They must transfigure what I say from a different time to understand me.

Living conditions 1000 years from now are reflected in actions taken today. Much of what I do to enhance biodiversity at Ody Brook is temporary. We can only maintain conditions that maximize living conditions for the greatest number of species during our short lives. Conversely, we can eliminate living conditions that support species and healthy habitats that support distant generations of grandkids. Hopefully our kids and grandkids will learn Earth Care from us and each generation will pass it on to next.

Plant and animal genetic diversity provides future generations opportunities for gene splicing that might prevent diseases or provide medical advances that we cannot anticipate. When species disappear, future generations have lost opportunity. Plants develop protective chemicals and some animals adapt to tolerate them. Keeping species alive is important for the future. Protecting wilderness where many species live is essential for people. 

Some people wonder why it is important to protect things like the federally endangered Karner Blue butterfly or the Mitchell’s Satyr butterfly. It costs money, human effort and requires protecting habitat that some want to eliminate so they can use it differently in the present. Different use is temporary and usually lasts less than a century. This could result in the loss of species that live there. I refer to protecting National Monuments from proposed reductions as Earth Care responsibility for future generations. Our yards also need Earth Care.

I go by many names: Steve Mueller legally, Ranger Steve professionally, and Butterfly Dreamer spiritually. I do not think people will easily recall Steve Mueller. It is trite and forgettable. Ranger Steve is easier to recall but many confuse me with Ranger Rick who is National Wildlife Federation’s raccoon much like McDonald’s “Ronald McDonald.” Butterfly Dreamer is an important part of my passion for preserving healthy economic, social, and environmental conditions for coming generations. Butterfly Dreamer lives to protect the future.

My eccentricity of having no past or future allows me to live in a manner that serves grandkids yet to be born centuries from now. Generations from future centuries are already in my “present.” I have not had the opportunity to meet those kids. If all goes well, they might meet me through writings like this one. My question for society is, how many people will read this as a passing curiosity and how many will maintain a portion of “their” yard with wild species to benefit generations of grandkids yet to be born? I place “their” in quotations because we do not own our yards. We hold them in trust for those that come after us.

I am lost in time with no past or future. It helps me live with past generations that made my present possible. It allows me to maintain healthy conditions for those that come after me. It is how I talk with those generations.

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 to hold town hall meeting on chronic wasting disease Wednesday in Montcalm County

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will hold a town hall meeting on chronic wasting disease Wednesday, Oct. 25, 6 to 8 p.m. in the Ash Foundation Building, located within the Montcalm County Fairgrounds at 8784 Peck Road in Greenville, Michigan.

Earlier this month, the DNR announced that a free-ranging deer in Montcalm County’s Montcalm Township tested positive for chronic wasting disease. Michigan first discovered CWD within a free-ranging deer in May 2015. Since that time, the DNR has tested more than 15,000 free-ranging deer, and 10 have tested positive for the disease.

At the meeting, Dr. Kelly Straka, DNR wildlife veterinarian, and Chad Stewart, DNR deer specialist, will provide information on the disease, its effects on deer and deer populations, and how the DNR has responded to the discovery of the disease. There will be plenty of time for questions.

The DNR hopes many hunters and concerned citizens will attend, especially those who hunt or reside in Douglass, Eureka, Fairplain, Maple Valley, Montcalm, Pine and Sidney townships in Montcalm County, and Oakfield and Spencer townships in Kent County. Local DNR staff members will be available to answer questions related to hunting in the area, including topics like mandatory deer checks, deer processing and new regulations.

“We have been receiving many phone calls from hunters,” said DNR field operations manager John Niewoonder. “We hope this meeting will help to clear up any misinformation and help hunters know the new check station locations and, in general, how they can help.”

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals.

To date, there is no evidence that chronic wasting disease presents any risk to non-cervids, including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling venison. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals. Within seven days of submitting a deer head for testing, hunters will be able to find out the test results for their deer.

Learn more about chronic wasting disease at michigan.gov/cwd

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Montcalm deer suspected positive for chronic wasting disease

Spencer, Oakfield Townships may become part of area with new regulations

A 3-½-year-old female deer taken during Michigan’s youth deer hunting season is likely to be the 10th free-ranging deer in the state found to have chronic wasting disease. The animal was harvested in Montcalm Township in Montcalm County, and preliminary tests indicate the animal may be positive for CWD. The DNR is awaiting final confirmation from the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

The suspect deer was harvested by a youth hunter during the September youth season. The hunter voluntarily took the animal to a DNR deer check station and submitted the animal for testing.

“We cannot thank this family enough for bringing their deer to a check station,” said Dr. Kelly Straka, DNR state wildlife veterinarian. “Without their effort, the disease may have gone undetected in this area. We encourage hunters from any part of the state, especially the south-central Lower Peninsula, to have their deer tested.”

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals. Susceptible animals can acquire CWD by direct exposure to these fluids, from environments contaminated with these fluids or the carcass of a diseased animal.

Some CWD-infected animals will display abnormal behaviors, progressive weight loss and physical debilitation; however, deer can be infected for many years without showing internal or external symptoms. There is no cure; once a deer is infected with CWD, it will die.

“Infected deer don’t necessarily look sick,” Straka said. “Having your deer tested is the only way to know if it has chronic wasting disease.”

Since May 2015, the DNR has actively conducted surveillance for CWD. To date, more than 14,000 deer have been tested since the first positive case was found, with nine cases of CWD confirmed in free-ranging white-tailed deer previously identified in Ingham and Clinton counties.

To date, there is no evidence that CWD presents any risk to non-cervids, including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling venison. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.

As additional deer have tested positive for CWD within Michigan, the DNR has put specific regulations in place. Currently, there are two CWD Core Areas, which are deer management units (DMUs) 333 and 359. To review regulations related to those areas, visit michigan.gov/cwd.

Regarding this new suspect positive deer, the DNR is determining next steps as outlined in the CWD Response and Surveillance Plan. Proposed recommendations include:

*Creating a nine-township Core Area that would include Douglass, Eureka, Fairplain, Maple Valley, Montcalm, Pine and Sidney townships in Montcalm County, and Oakfield and Spencer townships in Kent County. Within the Core Area specifically:

*Instituting mandatory registration of deer within 72 hours of harvest, starting Nov. 15.

*Removing antler point restrictions for the restricted tag of the combo deer license if license is used within the nine-township Core Area.

*Allowing antlerless deer to be tagged using the deer or deer combo license(s) during the firearm, muzzleloader and late antlerless seasons.

*Allowing the public to pick up road-killed deer and allow them to be possessed with a salvage tag if the deer head is submitted for testing within 72 hours of pick-up.

*Allowing disease control permits, effective immediately, for landowners with five or more acres within the nine-township Core Area.

*Banning the feeding and baiting of deer in Kent and Montcalm counties, effective Jan. 2, 2018, and encouraging hunters not to bait and feed in these areas immediately.

“With some hunting seasons already under way, we are not recommending that a new deer management unit be created for the area at this time,” said Chad Stewart, DNR deer specialist. “If you purchase or have purchased licenses for DMUs 354 or 341, they can be used in the new Core Area, but it’s critical for hunters to follow the final regulations related to those nine townships.”

Starting Nov. 1, several new check stations near the new Core Area will accept deer for CWD testing. Archery hunters are strongly encouraged to have their deer checked at existing check stations during the early archery season.

A complete list of check stations, including locations and hours, as well as weekly CWD updates, are available at michigan.gov/cwd.

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Like Lichens

By Ranger Steve Mueller

There are small beautiful brown moths with red stripes on their wings that run lengthwise away from the head. People occasionally notice their beauty and ask about them. They are Lichen Moths that likely feed on lichens.

These moths and lichens are creatures few notice. It is incredibly difficult to locate caterpillars on lichens. They are small and blend in well. To study the moth’s nature niche, scientists collect adults and place them in a container with lichens so the moths will oviposit their eggs. Then they can be studied as they grow.

I see a half dozen lichen moths each summer but tens of thousands of lichens grow at the sanctuary. Even if I knew one of the caterpillars was present in lichen, it would be hard to find because they camouflage well.

Lichens can be abundant but their numbers decrease rapidly in response to air pollution. Like all living creatures some are more resistant to pollution than others. They are used to monitor air quality and for fabric dyes. They have antibacterial and anti-germination chemicals studied for medicinal and agricultural uses. Perhaps your antibiotics are lichen based. That alone is reason for us to “like lichens” and protect the habitat. They are good neighbors growing on trees, rock, fences, or almost any place they can gain a foothold.

They use objects as a place to perch much like a bird uses a branch to stand on. They are not parasites penetrating the tissues of organisms for nourishment. Their nature niche method of survive is unique. A lichen is composed of two organisms that live together for survival. One is an alga and the other a fungus.

Visually think of a magnified lichen like a fishnet with tennis balls caught in open webbing spaces. The fishnet represents the fungus that cannot produce food but it holds water like a sponge. The tennis balls represent algae cells that capture sunlight energy to produce food. To survive the fungus grows hyphae that penetrate the algae cells to acquire food to live.

One might think of the fungus as parasite but instead scientists consider the algae and fungus as mutual symbiotic organisms that help each other survive. It is obvious that the fungus benefits by extracting food energy from the algae. The alga benefits because alone it would dry and die. It is like corn and people. We plant corn and it gets to survive abundantly even though we eat it. Without people, corn would be rare on Earth. Without the fungus, the species of alga that depends on the fungus would be extremely rare.

Walk around your neighborhood or visit a county, state, or national park and notice lichens. There are three major kinds or groups of lichens based on growth form. If you have noticed lichens, it is probably the leafy or shrubby growth forms that captured your attentions. Lichens do not have leaves but examine some growing on a tree. They tend to grow from the center outward forming a circular growth like a paper plate. They are thin from top to bottom and spread a few inches wide on the tree trunk. They grow on rocks in the same manner.

They need a substrate to stand on and do not use it for food. Most lichens are only an inch to a few inches across but several might grow together. The leafy ones shaped like a paper plates are called foliose. 

The second group is called fruticose because they grow like miniature shrubs. A striking one is the British Soldier or Red Caps. They have gray/green appearing stem-like branches capped with bright red tops. The red caps are the reproductive structures. These are found in a variety of habitats and frequently colonize bare sand where little else can grow. Keep in mind they are not gathering nutrients from the soil like farm crops. The fungus holds moisture the alga uses for adequate water for photosynthesis and food production to support both.

The third group is crustose and appears like a crust on the surface where it grows. They are often seen on gravestones. The three groups in the Great Lakes region have about 700 species comprising a miniature world. Like lichens, enjoy their beauty, and associated species like lichen moths.

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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