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Archive | Outdoors

Great places to target muskellunge in Michigan

Are you interested in targeting muskellunge this summer? Many anglers would place the four water bodies listed on their lists of top spots to visit.

1. Tahquamenon River in Luce County

From below Tahquamenon Falls all the way to Lake Superior produces great muskie fishing.

2. Thornapple Lake in Barry County

Muskies can be found on the east or west ends of the lake. Please note there’s a 50-inch minimum size limit on this lake.

3. Skegemog Lake in Kalkaska County

A good spot to focus on here is the edges of a deep hole that’s off the entrance to Elk Lake.

4. Lake St. Clair in St. Clair County

Lots of inlets and outlets on this lake provide ideal conditions for muskies.

If you harvest a muskellunge, don’t forget you have 24-hours to register it. This action is required and can be done online at Michigan.gov/registerfish, toll-free by calling 844-345-FISH (3474), or in person at any DNR Customer Service Center during normal state business hours with advanced notice of arrival.

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Coyote attacks dog in Ensley Township

by Lois Allen

Watch out for coyotes in the area.

An Ensley township couple were relaxing at home last week Thursday, July 19, when they heard  a commotion coming from their back yard. They were shocked to see a coyote mauling one of their two dogs, a Yorkie Poo, in broad daylight. 

The Castles, who live in Ensley township near Gould’s Mini Mart, have two dogs, a Yorkie Poo (Jack) and the other an Australian Shepherd (Ruby).

It was approximately 7 a.m., when they had let their dogs out into the back yard to do their “business.”

Jack, a Yorkie Poo, was a victim of a coyote attack last week.

Machell Castle said it was shortly after when she heard a bunch of “yipping” coming from the backyard. When she looked to see what was going on, she saw a large coyote with the Yorkie Poo in its mouth that was heading back into the woods. However, the Australian Shepherd, Ruby, was hot on its tail and the coyote eventually dropped the 12 pound Yorkie Poo.

After the coyote let loose of Jack, both dogs headed for the house with the coyote chasing them, literally on their tails. “I flung open the back door and they came running in,” said Machell.

It was then that the coyote retreated back into the woods.

Pictured here is one of Jack’s puncture wounds on his back left leg.

Thanks to Ruby’s bravery, Jack the Yorkie Poo survived the attack and was taken to the animal hospital to be treated.  “Ruby saved him,” said Machell. 

Jack’s injuries included approximately four puncture wounds on his back and leg, the largest on his back left leg. He is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery.

According to the DNR of Michigan, “…coyotes can be killed without a hunting license on private land by the landowner or designee if the coyote is doing or about to do damage to private property, pets, livestock, or humans…” To learn more about Michigan Coyotes go to the DNR website by visiting www.michigan.gov/wildlife found under the “Mammals” section.

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DNR seizes record amount of illegal crayfish

Michigan DNR conservation officers seized more than 2,000 pounds of live, illegal red swamp crayfish in 55 bags, the largest aquatic invasive species seizure by the DNR.

More than 2,000 pounds of live, illegal red swamp crayfish recently were seized by Department of Natural Resources conservation officers on July 13—the largest aquatic invasive species seizure by the Michigan DNR.

Growing from 4 to 7 inches in length, red swamp crayfish are dark red with bright red, raised spots on their claws and a black wedge-shaped tail that is a black or dark blue color underneath.

Red swamp crayfish are prohibited in both Michigan and Canada. They burrow and create shoreline erosion, creating instability. Additionally, they compete with native crayfish, reducing the amount of food and habitat available for amphibians, invertebrates and juvenile fish.

Conservation officers in St. Clair County were notified Friday, July 13, by U.S. Customs and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when a commercial hauler transporting red swamp crayfish was denied entry into Canada and would be returning to Michigan. The commercial hauler was stopped by Canadian officials at the Sarnia, Canada, border crossing in an attempt to leave the United States.

“Our officers have great working relationships with professional law enforcement partners across the U.S. and Canada. This is a fine example of how important those relationships are in protecting Michigan’s natural resources,” said Chief Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division.

Assisted by customs officials, DNR conservation officers stopped the truck and obtained 55 bags of live crayfish. After interviewing the driver, the officers learned the truck originated from Canada and made stops in Maryland and Arkansas to pick up cargo prior to attempting its return to Canada. The driver did not have appropriate records, other than a few purchase receipts. DNR Law Enforcement Division’s Great Lakes Enforcement Unit is conducting further investigation. It currently is unknown if any stops or sales were made in Michigan.

The first concern regarding red swamp crayfish in Michigan was in 2013, when conservation officers learned the illegal crayfish was being used as bait in southwest Michigan. The first live infestations in Michigan were detected and reported in 2017. Confirmed infestations include locations in southeast Michigan.

Native in southeast states of the U.S., red swamp crayfish are the most widespread invasive crayfish in the world, and often are used in classrooms as teaching tools and at food festivities such as crayfish boils. Any possession of live red swamp crayfish in Michigan is illegal. The DNR is working to increase awareness and reporting of the illegal crayfish, in addition to removing infestations from confirmed locations.

 

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Genes and inheritance

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Some male and female organisms look nearly identical. It is not easy to recognize a male and female robin apart. Is it a boy or girl cottontail hopping through the yard? Plants like wild strawberries have both sexes in one flower while others like willows are either male or female plants.

Male and female American Goldfinches look very different in summer but by winter look quite similar. It is the outward appearance we notice. What is hidden from view is the genetics. We can observe the results but the secrets for how genes and inheritance help species survive in nature niches is an ongoing discovery process. 

DNA sequencing has become popular for tracing personal family origins and is a tool for solving cold case crimes. As an ecological tool, molecular analysis aids understanding the evolution of species. 

DNA and RNA analysis has provided great advances toward understanding origins of species. It has also revealed new difficulties to decipher. When I first encountered the Northern Blue butterfly in Michigan, I confused it with Karner Blue butterfly. The two are nearly identical twins in appearance. 

Mo Nielsen immediately told me I did not make a Karner Blue discovery in the Upper Peninsula when I reported one. He said there is no wild blue lupine there that the Karner Blue requires. He instructed me to look closely at the wing pattern to see if it was a Northern Blue. I was unfamiliar with the Northern Blue but that is what I found. It was a breeding colony that confirmed the species as a Michigan resident. The Michigan DNR nongame program provided a grant for me to conduct life history research for this new Michigan species. 

I was not involved with the molecular analysis, but it was found the Northern Blue showed a closer relationship with the Karner Blues genetically than with the Northern Blues of western North America. Outwardly, Michigan Northern Blues look more like Karner Blues than they look like western Northern Blues. 

As scientific abilities become more advanced, we find separation between species is more difficult to assess. We like to think species are distinct entities that are clearly separated. They are not. A key feature that helps define species separations is ecological nature niche adaptations. Species adapt to utilize different food plants and micro-habitats that result to speciation. 

Many species are cryptic. Physically they look alike but are ecologically and reproductively separated. They share habitat but have developed isolating survival strategies that are different from the parent species. Specific isolating adaptations create new species but interbreeding during the process complicates analysis. 

Yellow-shafted and Red-shafted Flickers (woodpeckers) were considered separate species. We planted trees across the Great Plains and the two got together. They mate and produce fertile offspring. The two are now lumped as one species called the Northern Flicker. Interestingly where they live together, the yellow and red do not readily interbreed. This has caused some ecologists to think they should be considered separate sibling species. Others think they are one species with two color forms that reduces interbreeding based on appearance. 

We experience the same difficulty among humans where Danes, Germans, French, Hispanics, and other races live together. Our genes are fully compatible. There was a time when people thought each race was a separate species but DNA sequencing indicates our genetic differences are superficial and too minor to separate humans as different species. The differences are primarily cultural. We are one species that developed different physical adaptations that helped us survive in various climatic conditions. Cultural isolation helped define our races.

Science is supported by physical evidence. It often conflicts with what we want or choose to believe. Our cultural background helps define our behavior. Like flickers, some people like Karen (Norwegian) and me (German) intermixed our genes while others choose to limit relationships to their race and cultural history. 

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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A mama and her babies

Ed Bremmer, of Cedar Springs, dropped off this beautiful photo of a doe and her twin fawns. He said it was taken on the west side of Cedar Springs.

Thank you so much, Ed, for sharing it with us!

Do you have a wildlife or wildflower photo you’d like to share? Send it to news@cedarspringspost.com.

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Allegan State Game Area Butterfly Count 

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

A heat wave settled over the region with sunny skies and little wind. It was 81ºF when we began at 9 a.m. from the Allegan State Game Area Headquarters and 91ºF when we finished the count at 4:30 p.m. Eight participants paced activity and stayed well hydrated as we roamed to selected sites within the 7.5 mile radius count circle.

Oak savanna, marsh, swamp, river, field and forest habitat nature niches were explored in search of butterflies tied to specific plant species. Each species has specific plant requirements essential for larval development. Adults nectar for sugar solution at a variety of flowers. It appears we were a week early for some anticipated species. We saw 312 adults. A total of 32 species were flying (Table 1) and three larval species were found feeding on host plants. Silver-spotted skipper on black locust, spicebush swallowtail on sassafras, and viceroy on willow were munching their way to adulthood. 

A cold spring delayed butterfly activity early in the season. Several species are double brooded and the second brood should begin flight around the beginning of July. The delayed spring activity might be a reason some species were in fewer numbers than expected but we did well for the total species count. 

Consider joining the 2019 counts next July for the Allegan, Rogue River, Muskegon State Game Area counts as well as the Manistee National Forest count near Newaygo. Email me to be included on the contact list for next year’s dates. 

Visit the West Michigan Butterfly Association (WMBA) Web Site [http://graud.org/wmba.html] to see the results for the 2018 counts. Hopefully, all counts will be posted by August. 

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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Bat found in Kent County tests positive for rabies

This bat was captured last summer in Kent County.

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) has been informed that a bat captured in Kent County has tested positive for rabies. The bat was presented to the Kent County Health Department by residents who found the animal in their home. KCHD sent the bat to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) for testing. This is the first positive Kent County case this year. More than 25 bats from Kent County have tested negative in 2018. In 2017, there were two bats tested that were positive for the disease, according to MDHHS.

On July 2, 2018, MDHHS issued a news release urging Michiganders to protect their families and pets from rabies after noting an uptick in the amount of bats testing positive for rabies when compared to the same time period in 2017.

Any direct contact with a bat represents a potential exposure to rabies. It is critically important to capture the bat for testing if there is reason to believe a person may have been bitten or scratched by a bat. Do not release a bat if you find it in the room of a sleeping person, an unattended child, someone who is mentally impaired or an intoxicated individual as they may have been bitten without their knowledge

A captured bat in Kent County will be sent to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for testing. If the bat tests negative for rabies, no treatment is required. However, if a bat tests positive, or if the bat is not available for testing, the exposed person should receive the post-exposure prophylaxis for rabies.

To safely capture a bat, experts recommend that you wear leather gloves to avoid being bit. Place a box or a coffee can over the bat and then slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Secure it with a piece of tape and contact the Kent County Health Department at 616-632-7200 during regular business hours. If you know that you have been bitten or scratched by the bat and the exposure has occurred outside of normal business hours, seek medical attention but keep the bat.

While relatively rare in the United States, human cases of rabies are almost always associated with bats. Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system and is invariably fatal once symptoms appear.

“Bat encounters rise every year during warmer months,” says Adam London, Administrative Health Officer at KCHD. “We can’t stress enough how important it is to be able to perform tests on these animals. Unless you are certain that no one has been bitten by a bat you find in your home, please do not let it go.”

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Where’s the moth?

Sue Ruth sent us this photo of some flowers with a hummingbird moth hovering in the midst of them. Can you find it? She took the photo in Pierson Township, south of Howard City.

Thanks, Sue, for sending it to us!

Do you have a wildlife or wildflower photo you’d like to share? Please email it to news@cedarspringspost.com, along with some info about the photo. Also please note in the subject line of the email something like “wildlife photo.” We will print them as space allows.

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Waxy Bloom

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Hopefully all have enjoyed the beauty of Colorado Blue Spruce trees that are planted in Michigan to enhance yards and businesses. Blue spruces have a white wax secretion on new green needle growth that creates the blue we enjoy. It is not unique to blue spruces but the wax abundance is.

Waxy bloom secretion is common on plants and prevents evaporation desiccation on new growth. It is particularly important for blue spruces in their native western North America’s dry nature niche with low humidity. Needles exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide through the needle surfaces to survive. Pores called stomata, where gas exchange occurs, are concentrated on needle undersurfaces in tiny pits. These pitted micro-humidity chambers help prevent excessive drying in the tree’s arid habitat. 

Native plants and animals support healthy Great Lakes Ecosystem functioning. I am not a purist. Nonnative plants are used in gardens and along the road but are kept to a minimum. We enjoy non-natives as do a small number of insects, birds, and other taxa. By limiting non-natives, native species can support large populations of native animal populations. Non-native plants support few native animals and mowed lawns almost none.

Enjoy some non-natives and touch them. Rub your fingers on blue spruce needles to notice the blue changes to green. The wax rubs off allowing green to show without being modified by light passing through the white waxy bloom. Become friendly with trees, shrubs, and other plants you invited to live with you on your property. You hug your kids so don’t neglect the plants you adopted. 

We help, shape and guide the development of our children and grandchildren. Do the same for plants. Prune, shape, and water so they thrive. Non-native plants usually need extra attention, time, support, and work so keep them to a minimum. Plant native species because they do not need fertilizers or much work to survive.

Plants are not the only species with a waxy bloom. Common Whitetail Dragonflies will search your yard for lunch if you allow native plant growth in portions of your home habitat. Keep as much native landscape as possible and mow minimally. Field areas provide a large variety of spring and summer wildflowers that support biodiversity and beauty. They require less maintenance and expense. Mow wild areas once or a few times a year to prevent unwanted woody growth. Dragonflies will stop in for lunch. The “teenager” whitetail dragonflies will find good meals. Colorful species will rapidly zip about and occasionally land where you can view them well. 

As whitetails mature, they will secrete a white waxy bloom that turns the abdomen brilliant white. They are seen in yards but when mature, concentrate in wetlands protecting the best breeding habitat from other males. It is valuable to allow native wild vegetation to grow along stream and lake edges, and by wetlands where they support dragonflies, fish, birds, mammals and other wildlife we enjoy seeing. Weasels turn white in fall and the color helps them blend with winter’s snow. They do not produce a white waxy bloom but enjoy them anyway by providing wild places to thrive in your yard where they will eat mice, voles, and moles.

Explore the feel of leaves. Notice some have a thick waxy surface that is heaviest on the sun exposed surface and thin on the shaded lower surface where microscopic stomata concentrate. The thick wax coating is referred to as a cuticle instead of a bloom. It does not rub off and helps protect plants from being eaten. Many insect feeders chew or suck plant juices from young leaves or needles before they develop a thick cuticle.

The waxy bloom is thin and temporary on new growth. Take time to compare with older needles from previous years that are green with a thick cuticle. Summer’s new blue spruce growth has the bloom that entices us to plant this tree. As fun as it is, do not get carried away with rubbing off the bloom. Make sure you spend time with kids and grandkids that will enjoy the activity. They will remember it better than you. Simple activities in nature develop appreciation and love for the natural world that needs support to prevent habitat loss as our human population continues to grow. Our yards are critical for maintaining biodiversity for future 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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Dry conditions across the state increase the risk of accidental fires

As dry conditions persist over some parts of the state, Michigan Department of Natural Resources fire management officials are urging extra safety precautions be taken to prevent accidentally starting fires.

Even if the grass near you looks green, Michigan’s recent hot, dry weather has sucked most of the moisture from this year’s grass and completely dried last year’s growth, greatly increasing the risk of fire.

That means we should all take extra precautions to prevent accidentally starting fires, such as waiting to burn debris and not using all-terrain vehicles, lawn mowers or other outdoor machinery, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“The layer of decomposing leaves and grasses in the ground has dried out,” said Paul Rogers, fire prevention specialist with the DNR. “That means fires that do ignite will burn down into the soils layer, making it harder, and more time-consuming, to put the fire out.”

In very dry conditions, heat from even a lawn mower or the exhaust pipe of an all-terrain vehicle can ignite dry grass, Rogers said. Things like a trailer chain dragging on pavement also can create sparks.

The driest areas in the state currently extend from I-96 north to the Mackinac Bridge in the Lower Peninsula, and from M-35 east to Drummond Island in the Upper Peninsula. The dry area is expected to extend south to the I-94 corridor as the weekend approaches.

Several areas in the eastern Upper Peninsula have experienced fires this week, including a 32-acre fire in the Hessel area that is requiring extended mop-up efforts. There have been several other, smaller fires across the state.

There is currently no burn ban in effect. However, burn permits will not be issued in the northern Lower Peninsula or Upper Peninsula until significant rainfall is received, Rogers said. People in the southern Lower Peninsula must check with local units of government to see if it is safe before burning.

Campfires are still allowed. However, normal safety rules apply: keep water or sand on hand to put out the fire if needed, never leave a fire unattended and make sure to thoroughly extinguish all fires.

For more information on burn permits and whether they are being issued, visit michigan.gov/burnpermit or call 866-922-2876. Areas in the southern Lower Peninsula should call their local fire department.

To learn more about fire management in Michigan, visit michigan.gov/firemanagement.

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