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Survey: Michigan’s wolf population stable

A wolf is shown in the Upper Peninsula woodlands. The DNR’s latest survey has shown no significant change in Michigan’s wolf population.

A wolf is shown in the Upper Peninsula woodlands. The DNR’s latest survey has shown no significant change in Michigan’s wolf population.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife division officials said this week that the size of the state’s wolf population has not changed significantly since the last survey was conducted in 2014.

DNR wildlife researchers estimate there was a minimum of 618 wolves in the Upper Peninsula this winter. The 2014 minimum population estimate was 636 wolves.

“The confidence intervals of the 2014 and 2016 estimates overlap, thus we can’t say with statistical confidence that the population decreased,” said Kevin Swanson, wildlife management specialist with the DNR’s Bear and Wolf Program in Marquette.

Confidence intervals are a range of values that describe the uncertainty surrounding an estimate.

Swanson said, based on the 2016 minimum population estimate, it is clear that wolf numbers in Michigan are viable, stable and have experienced no significant change since 2014.

“Currently, deer numbers in the U.P. are at lows not seen in decades and we wondered if there would be a decline in wolf numbers as a result of this reduction in their primary source of prey,” Swanson said. “We also did not observe a significant difference in the number and average size of wolf packs as compared to 2014.”

This latest minimum wolf population estimate was compiled recently after surveys were conducted over the past few months, beginning in December. The wolf survey is completed by DNR wildlife division and U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services staff who search specific units for wolf tracks and other signs of wolf activity.

“While the survey is primarily a track survey, when available, we also use aerial counts of packs that contain radio-collared animals. In addition, the movement information we collect from the radio-collared wolves helps us interpret the track count results,” said Dean Beyer, a DNR wildlife researcher in Marquette. “Taken together, these methods allow us to estimate the minimum size of the wolf population. In 2016, approximately 63 percent of the Upper Peninsula was surveyed.”

After wolves returned naturally to the U.P. in the 1980s, through migration from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario, the population rebounded remarkably until recent years when growth began to level off.

Over the past few years, Michigan’s minimum population estimate has hovered between 600 and 700 wolves.

Since the winter of 1993-94, combined wolf numbers in Michigan and Wisconsin have surpassed 100, meeting federally established goals for population recovery. The Michigan recovery goal of a minimum sustainable population of 200 wolves for five consecutive years was achieved in 2004.

“Clearly, the Michigan wolf population has maintained levels surpassing these state and federal recovery goals for more than a decade,” said Russ Mason, DNR wildlife division chief.

In January 2012, citing wolf recovery in the region, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took gray wolves off the federal endangered species list in Michigan and Wisconsin and the threatened species list in Minnesota.

The ruling allowed Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin to manage wolves according to their wolf management plans. Michigan’s plan was crafted with the help of a panel representing a wide span of interests ranging from Native American tribes to trappers, hunters and environmentalists.

The 2008 plan, which the Department updated in 2015, allowed for lethal means to control a limited number of wolves each year where conflicts had occurred. Michigan law allowed citizens to kill wolves that were actively preying on their hunting dogs or livestock.

However, Michigan’s laws on wolf depredation and the ability of wildlife managers to use lethal means, including hunting, to control wolves was suspended in December 2014, after a ruling from the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

In a lawsuit challenging the federal delisting, the court ruling found in favor of the Humane Society of the United States, ordering wolves returned to federal protection. Wolves have since remained classified as an endangered species in Michigan and Wisconsin and threatened in Minnesota.

Because of the federal endangered species status, Michigan citizens may only legally kill a wolf in defense of human life.

After the court’s finding, Michigan, Wisconsin, some private groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service appealed the decision, filing their initial legal briefs in the case late last year. The court has not yet released a timeline of its deliberations.

Legislative efforts in the U.S. Congress have also been underway to try to again delist wolves in the Great Lakes Region.

“We have limited management options available to us at this time,” Mason said. “We sincerely hope that our ongoing appeal or current Congressional efforts will be successful in removing wolves from federal protection.”

Swanson said, “If federal protections are removed, Michigan and other involved states would have the ability to manage wolves in a sustainable manner, by utilizing sound scientific principles as we currently employ with other valuable game species, such as bear and bobcat.”

For more information about wolf management in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/wolves.

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Teen gets first turkey

OUT-First-Turkey-Ethan-RileyEthan Riley, 13, shot his first turkey on April 24. It weighed in at 18 lbs, 13.5 oz, and sported an 8-inch beard, and 3/8” spurs. Ethan is the son of proud parents Terilynn and Ryan Riley, of Pierson.

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Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Beyond belief

Ranger Steve

Ranger Steve

By Ranger Steve Mueller

The wonders of nature are often beyond belief. Constant amazement surrounds us with the antics of life. All sizes, shapes, colors, sounds, and smells take us to emotional highs that enrich our lives or lows that break our hearts.

Science is isolated from emotion and belief when used properly. Science accepts nothing about nature niches without the support of physical evidence from repeated experimentation.

A published study documented planaria could be taught to turn left to eat but to avoid turning right because they would get an electric shock. Planaria are small flat worms about one forth inch long and live under rocks in streams. I look under rocks in the creek at Ody Brook annually to enjoy the emotional uplift of seeing the worms and knowing stream conditions are still suitable for them.

In the study, “educated” planaria were ground up and fed to other planaria. The study reported flat worms that ate the “educated” planaria turned left to eat and avoided turning right. The scientist concluded planaria learned their behavior by eating “educated” planaria. Other scientists repeated the study to verify the findings but the results could never be duplicated. Science discarded the conclusions of the original scientific study. Science is self-correcting through repeatable, verifiable tests using controlled experimentation.

Many things in nature seem unbelievable but repeated tests often support conclusions. One thing people informally test annually in our yards is with robins, cardinals, and some other birds. The male birds fight their reflection in windows until they break their beaks or even die. Bird brains are not smart enough to know the reflection is not another bird and they try drive the other male from their territory.

TV shows try to portray the “ideal” scientific thinking devoid of emotional influence and devoid of making conclusions without adequate physical evidence. Shows like “Bones” and “Rizzoli and Isles” have scientists that do not make conclusions without adequate physical evidence. In the real world, scientific process requires peer reviewed analysis to help prevent erroneous conclusions from getting published. The rigors of science help keep beliefs from influencing scientific conclusions.

Belief is beyond scientific acceptability. Evidence supports climate change is greatly human influenced. Many people however accept or reject it depending on the conclusion they want. Science requires tentative conclusions based on physical evidence. Science conclusions are always tentative pending further study like in the planaria behavior study. People usually believe based on their perception without rigorous scientific experimental support. That is typical with politics and religion. No amount of physical evidence will usually convince people otherwise concerning politics or religion.

The question can be asked, should religion and politics be dismissed because they are not supported with adequate rigorous scientific conclusions? My answer is No. There is a place for multiple realities that impact our lives. Emotions and feelings are a real part of our lives and drive our moral behavior. Science does not include morals. It is about “How” the world works solely based on physical evidence. It is not about “Why” the world exists. Society is guided by melding logical reasoning of “How” with emotional feelings and morals taught during upbringing of “Why.” Religion is a “Why” reality. Faith depends on acceptance without physical evidence. Faith is believing without supportable physical evidence. Science and faith can complement each other for a sustainable future.

When something seems beyond belief, determine if it is scientifically supportable or is accepted on faith. Determine if decisions benefiting future generations should be made based on science, faith, or both. I suggest science and faith together will support a better future and should not be an either/or decision.

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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Fishing Tip: Northern pike tips & tricks to try

A good spring catch.

A good spring catch.

This Saturday, April 30, marks the opening of the inland walleye, pike and muskellunge seasons in the Lower Peninsula. Are you ready to try your hand at northern pike fishing?

Northern pike like to spend their time in the weedy shallows of both the Great Lakes and inland waters. In rivers they can be found around log jams or fallen timber. They are often taken with live bait (such as large minnows) or different kinds of artificial lures.

When fishing for northern pike, many anglers like to use a six to eight-inch wire or steel leader directly in front of hook or lure. Pike have large, deep mouths with extremely sharp teeth. They are known to engulf the entire bait or lure and sever the fishing line with their teeth when it is attached directly to the hook or lure. This leaves the angler watching as the fish swims away with their offering.

Some well-known northern pike waters include Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River and drowned river mouths along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Want to learn even more about northern pike in Michigan at www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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DNR to give folks a hand in their hunt for morels

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources provides an online interactive map that highlights the state’s 2015 wildfires and prescribed burns—each more than 10 acres in size—to help mushroom hunters in their quest for morels.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources provides an online interactive map that highlights the state’s 2015 wildfires and prescribed burns—each more than 10 acres in size—to help mushroom hunters in their quest for morels.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources provides an online interactive map that highlights the state’s 2015 wildfires and prescribed burns—each more than 10 acres in size—to help mushroom hunters in their quest for morels.

Morel mushrooms are often found in locations where large fires occurred the previous year,” said Jim Fisher, resource protection manager for the DNR Forest Resources Division. “Each spring we get calls from people who are seeking details on those sites to hunt morels. We’ve enhanced the features of this map to give our customers the information they are looking for in a mobile-friendly, easily accessible package.”

The DNR’s interactive Mi-Morels map provides forest cover type information, latitude and longitude coordinates and state-managed land boundary information. You can find it at www.michigan.gov/mi-morels.

Morel mushrooms commonly sprout in locations burned by wildfires or prescribed burns with a tree canopy; grass or sunlit open areas are less likely to produce the tasty fungi.

While the map may provide details on the cover type that was burned, it’s up to the user to investigate whether morel mushrooms are growing at any location on the map,” Fisher said. “Just because a spot is marked on the map, it doesn’t mean morels will be growing at the area identified. We’re providing a resource, but it’s up to the hunters to head out to the forest and see what’s available.”

The information and data in the map on burn locations, state forest cover type, and state-managed land boundaries are available for users to interact with and download via the DNR Open Data portal. This site gives residents and public land users of Michigan access to Michigan DNR spatial data and information.

The Department of Natural Resources is not responsible for the incorrect identification of morel mushrooms. For more information on safe mushroom hunting, visit the DNR’s website.

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Celebrate Earth Day

 

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Earth Day (22 April) focuses attention for protecting the community’s “Economic, Social, and Environmental triple bottom line” for present and future generations. Efforts have helped protect community economic sustainability, community health, and environmental integrity that allow continued productivity.

We should provide present and future generations with healthy living conditions. Perhaps the best way to accomplish this is to focus on getting the family involved in nature study. People often focus on litter pick up or removal of exotic species that are disrupting native ecosystems. That is important but first help family members discover the joy and wonder of the nature world. It will also strengthen family relationships.

Many unhealthy practices past and present have focused on taking an economic product from a region and abandoning a devastated landscape for a community to struggle with for decades. This is a White Pine legacy in Michigan where little concern for community economic, social, and environmental sustainability was applied. The businesses made massive money and departed with high profits leaving people and nature in a devastated landscape where eking out a living remains difficult in regions 100 years later.

The 19th century logging era in Michigan is one example. Tycoons extracted timber more valuable than the gold rushes in California or Alaska. Profits went to a few and abandoned the workers left in the wake when the trees and river systems were depleted. It is comparable to the economic Wall Street Crisis of 2007.

Forestry practices today are planned for more sustainable use. Clear cutting areas is best for regeneration for some trees and selective harvest is better for others. Modern forest timber harvest and stand protection practices focus on protecting wildlife habitat for sustained hunting, public wildlife viewing, wildlife population health, river quality for continuous fishing use, clean water, flood control, groundwater table stabilization, and other uses. Multiple use has gained support over taking one product and abandoning without concern for community sustainable health. There is continuous pressure from individuals and businesses to extract resources for their short term gain and leaving areas impaired. The push to staying with carbon based energy production has considerable foot dragging and political pressure to prevent change to renewable energy sources. The Keystone Pipeline controversy is a good example. Fracking bedrock is another.

People recognized the importance for prioritizing protection of ecosystems for a community’s economic, social, and environmental triple bottom line in the 1950’s through 1970’s. In the 1980’s after a general appearance of superficial health, people began to forget hard won successes and began working to eliminate programs and protections laws.

We need to be aware of the many successes not recognized by members in generations under 40 and many older people that forgot. The present political effort to eliminate the Clean Air, Clean Water, Endangered Species, and Wilderness Acts undermines sustainable community economic, social, and environmental wellbeing. There is a benefit when each of the triple bottom line components is supported. Addressing only one is unhealthy for people, nature, and a sustainable community.

Elect individuals at local, state, and national levels that support our economy, community, and the environment to allow a community to continue productively for present and future generation.

What are successes and concerns?

Our national park system is 100 years old this year.

Townships set land-use criteria for protecting water quality, agriculture, community development, cluster housing codes and minimal housing plot sizes. Electing the correct Drain Commissioner is one of the most important positions on local ballots.

We have the Clean Air, Clean Water, Endangered Species, and Wilderness Acts.

We have agencies charged with implementing enforcement of those acts but because they are politically driven and controlled, science is sometimes overridden by politics. This happened with the Flint water crisis.

We do not learn from experience of our forefathers very well and repeat many mistakes.

What can one person do?

Be the most important “nobody” instead of the most important “somebody.” Change the world where you live. Your greatest influence is on those you interact with personally to build support of a critical mass for a healthy future beyond ourselves.

Think globally and act locally for landscape protection. Help the human population reach balance with Earth’s carrying capacity to maintain nature’s ability to support our population and associated resource consumption (two child family is one example).

I am so humbled by the people of north Kent county that protect nature niches on their property.

Garden with minimal pesticides and herbicides (both residential and farmlands). Farmers seem to be ahead of residential land care practices in regards to pesticide and herbicide application restraint.

We have great successes but they are continuously challenged. I was told environmental education is no longer a priority in America when the Kent ISD closed the Howard Christensen Nature Center in 2005. Fortunately, HCNC continues as a 501 c.3 non-profit and needs your membership support. Of course, I currently have a mission through Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary to strengthen community awareness of the economic, social, and environmental triple bottom line to support community sustainability. Use Earth Day to understand challenges. BUT:

Remember the best way to protect a community’s health is to first spend time outdoors with family and friends exploring and enjoying discoveries in nature. Reinforce the inborn love for the wonders of nature that can become lost with limited exposure as children age.

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 arrests suspects in northern Lower Peninsula veneer log thefts

 

Investigation continues into thefts in Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties

Timber: One of the felled maple trees cut down with the bottom section removed. Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Timber: One of the felled maple trees cut down with the bottom section removed. Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Cut: A close view of one of the maple tree cuttings.

Cut: A close view of one of the maple tree cuttings.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers are continuing to investigate the theft of sugar maple logs from public state-managed lands in three northern Lower Peninsula counties.

Three males in their mid-20s, one each from – Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties – have been arrested and charged with 1-year misdemeanors or 5-year felonies for removal of forest products. Names are being withheld pending arraignments.

Prosecutors in Cheboygan and Charlevoix counties issued the arrest warrants. Officers expect more charges to be authorized as the investigation moves forward.

Late last year, conservation officers began receiving public complaints about large sugar maple trees being cut on state forestland. Only the thickest part of the trees—the lowest 8-12 feet—was taken most often.

In many cases, there were several valuable saw logs left on the site to rot in the woods. More than 100 logs were allegedly stolen.

“This is a clear case of thieves stealing what belongs to all of Michigan’s citizens,” said Sgt. Greg Drogowski of the Gaylord District office. “An analogy to the wasted timber left in the woods is that of a poacher illegally killing a deer and taking only the back straps (tenderloins).”

Investigators developed several suspects with the help of citizens and members of the timber industry. These suspects allegedly continued to steal veneer maple logs from state land. The logs were sold to various sawmills.

“Multiple sites were discovered and the total value of stolen timber is tens of thousands of dollars, with more sites being discovered,” Drogowski said.

Samples of the logs sold to mills were recovered as evidence. DNR foresters were able to help match these logs ato trees at the cutting sites.

With other evidence, witnesses and statements, officers were able to obtain the felony and misdemeanor arrest warrants.

Now that spring has arrived, more people are getting out into the woods. Conservation officers encourage citizens to report any locations where trees have been cut on state-managed land, within close proximity to trails and roads, most often with only the lower portion of the trees removed.

To report information on this case, contact Lt. James Gorno at 989-732-3541 or call the Report All Poaching hotline at 1-800-292-7800. Those providing tips may remain anonymous. The RAP line offers rewards to tipsters. Amounts vary depending on the incident being investigated and the value of the information provided.

Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.

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DNR seeks info on Turkey Tract vandalism

 

Last week, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the National Wild Turkey Federation gathered with other partners, volunteers and individuals to celebrate the opening of the first Turkey Tracts hunting area, located at Allegan State Game Area in Allegan County.

Sadly, the new Turkey Tracts kiosk, which is a large information station built by volunteers, thoughtlessly was vandalized and destroyed Friday night. It stood for only a few days.

“Vandalism on state game areas not only destroys the hard work of volunteers and partner organizations, but can hinder the ability to make improvements on the game area,” said Maria Albright, DNR wildlife technician. “Hunter license dollars may end up being spent making repairs from the destruction of public property instead of making improvements for all users to enjoy.”

The kiosk included helpful information for hunters visiting the Turkey Tract, such as maps of the area, project sponsors and information on turkey habitat management.

The destruction of the Turkey Tract kiosk is not the first case of vandalism to the Allegan State Game Area. Gates, protecting important wildlife habitat improvements from being damaged, have been torn out of the ground and sometimes even stolen completely.

“These gates are very costly to repair and replace,” added Albright. “Not to mention the cost of damage to wildlife habitat.”

Anyone with information regarding these incidents is asked to call the 24-hour DNR Report All Poaching (RAP) line at 800-292-7800. Information may be left anonymously.

Turkey Tracts are unique turkey hunting areas across the Lower Peninsula that provide great hunting opportunities for a variety of hunters, including youth, adults new to the sport, and seniors. Learn more about hunting turkey in Michigan at mi.gov/turkey.

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DNR: Keep Michigan’s wildlife wild

Baby rabbits are among the young wildlife often encountered by those getting out in nature. Photo Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Baby rabbits are among the young wildlife often encountered by those getting out in nature. Photo Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

 

Each spring and summer, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is flooded with calls as people across the state run into a common dilemma—they have come across a baby animal and desperately want to help.

Hannah Schauer, a DNR wildlife education technician, spends time talking with the public about why it is better to leave baby animals in the wild.

The vast majority of the time these wild animals do not need our help,” Schauer said. “Wildlife can survive on a day-to-day basis without help from humans.”

Survival adaptations

White-tailed deer fawns often are left alone by their mothers in an attempt to keep predators from finding them. Baby rabbits are among the young wildlife often encountered by those getting out in nature. Photo Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

White-tailed deer fawns often are left alone by their mothers in an attempt to keep predators from finding them.
Baby rabbits are among the young wildlife often encountered by those getting out in nature.
Photo Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Most wild critters have a few survival tricks up their sleeves. Take white-tailed deer, for example.

Female deer typically birth their fawns in May and June. A newborn fawn is unsure of its footing and is unable to keep up with its mother. So, the mother deer hides her small, spotted fawn in a secluded spot for safe keeping.

The mother deer then intentionally leaves her fawn alone to help increase its chances of survival. Beyond the spotted camouflage and the instinct to lie very still, fawns have an additional survival adaptation. Fawns are born with very little scent, making it challenging for predators to find them.

An adult deer, however, has plenty of scent to it, and—being a large animal—is fairly easy to spot,” Schauer said. “So, rather than hang around and draw attention to where she has carefully hid her fawn, the mother deer opts to graze elsewhere.”

The doe returns periodically to nurse her fawn and is usually not too far away. It doesn’t take long before the fawn is strong enough to keep up with its mother and then has a better chance of outrunning a predator. Fawns are rarely abandoned.

Wildlife concerns

DNR wildlife staff suggests that if you happen to find a fawn or other baby animal, please leave it in the wild.

Taking an animal from the wild is not only illegal, it is dangerous. A wild animal, especially a baby, may seem harmless, but they rarely are. If you bring a baby animal into your home and it actually survives, it will eventually grow up.

As animals grow, they will experience hormonal changes as well as physical and behavioral changes,” Schauer said. “Raccoons, for example, are known for exhibiting aggressive behavior as they age.”

An animal may act tame, but it is instinctively a wild animal and will act like one.

Besides aggressive and potentially dangerous behaviors, wild animals can carry diseases and parasites, many of which can be transmitted to your pets or to you or your children. The laws prohibiting possession of wild animals are in place to keep people, as well as the wild animals, safe.

Tougher rules

In some cases, the DNR must put even stricter regulations in place to look after the health of an entire species. Such is the case in central Michigan, where in May 2015 the state’s first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) was confirmed in a free-ranging, white-tailed deer from Ingham County.

The disease is a central nervous system affliction found in deer, elk and moose (cervids). It attacks the brain of infected animals, creating small lesions that result in death. Chronic wasting disease is transmitted through direct animal-to-animal contact or by contact with saliva,urine, feces, blood and carcass parts of an infected animal or infected soil.

Once it arrives, CWD can spread through the deer population and all deer infected with the disease will die. Because infected deer may not exhibit symptoms right away, you cannot tell just by looking at a deer if it is suffering from CWD.

Taking an unhealthy deer from the environment and attempting to rehabilitate it has the potential to increase the spread of CWD. Bringing infected deer into contact with other deer in rehabilitation centers, can risk contaminating those facilities. For that reason, rehabilitation of deer in Clinton, Shiawassee and Ingham counties in Lower Michigan is prohibited. As new cases of CWD are discovered, the list of counties where rehabilitation of deer is prohibited may grow. 

So far, CWD has not been found in the Upper Peninsula. To continue monitoring the situation, the DNR plans to ask hunters this fall to voluntarily submit deer heads for testing in the counties bordering Wisconsin.

In Lower Michigan, there is mandatory testing for deer harvested within the CWD Management Zone and voluntary testing occurring elsewhere for any hunter who wants to submit a deer head. To learn more about CWD and how you can help, visit mi.gov/cwd.

Wildlife rehabilitators

Ultimately, a wild animal’s best chance of survival is staying in the wild. This is especially true for baby animals.

Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may legally possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Unless you are licensed, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal in Michigan. The only time a baby animal may be removed from the wild is when you know the parent is dead or the animal is injured. However, a licensed rehabilitator must be contacted before removing an animal from the wild.

Licensed wildlife rehabilitators must adhere to the law and have gone through training on proper handling of injured or abandoned wild animals. These rehabilitators will work to return the animal to the wild where it will again realize its best chance for survival.

A list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators in Michigan can be found by visiting mi.gov/wildlife or by calling your local DNR office.

Look for #KeepMiWild on the DNR’s social media this spring and summer and share the importance of keeping wildlife in the wild.

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Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Howard Christensen Nature Center

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve

The Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC) has developed a cadre of community programs under the leadership of Dave Kieft. Weekend, spring break, and summer camps are part of the variety. Family events meet the interests for all family members. School programming is increasing.

Individual and family memberships provide opportunity for people to visit everyday of the week at no additional fee. Swamp boardwalks lead to where spring frog chorus is a highlight just before dusk. Learn about additional HCNC membership benefits at the office or web site.

One can slowly approach Vernal Pond near the Red Pine Interpretive Center and frogs will quiet. You might see their heads retreat beneath the surface. Stop, sit, and wait less than three minutes and a brave Spring Peeper will begin a single peep. Soon others will feel safe and a massive chorus will fill the air.

While you are sitting, cup your hands behind your ears to enlarge your sound catching ear pinnae. The sound will become so painfully loud you will unable to continue with hands cupped behind your ears. Rotate hands so the cup is facing behind you. The back of your hands in front of ears reduces a large amount of sound from reaching and hurting your vibrating eardrums.

When you leave Vernal Pond, discuss how valuable movable ear pinnae are for dogs, foxes, squirrels, deer, and other mammals. They allow gathering of specific directional sound. Mammals are able to determine exactly where danger might approach. Notice Vernal Pond has more frogs than nearby Tadpole Pond. Vernal ponds are more important for frog survival than permanent ponds and lakes.

Predators approach prey quietly but a rustle of leaves, a broken twig, or even brushing against a shrub can alert mammals because ear pinnae enhance sound. People cannot move ear pinnae but we can use our hands to demonstrate the effectiveness of movable pinnae.

It was always my expectation when director at HCNC to share space with creatures that make the nature center home. We maintained a single file pathway along the west side of Vernal Pond from beech tree to driveway. The east shoreline was reserved for frogs and other creatures with no human disturbance.

Green Frogs sat frozen like statues. On the west shore, frogs submerge as we approached or they would jump frightened into the pond. Some would stay motionless ready to escape. They blended well with shoreline vegetation. East shore frogs waited still and quiet until we left the pond.

Green Frogs begin singing much later in the season when temperatures approach 70 F. Wood Frogs are mostly done singing by early April. Spring Peepers and Western Chorus Frogs continue song through April. Unfortunately, Western Chorus Frogs have declined in our area. It is a reason to leave some pond borders free of disturbance for native species. We worked to help people recognize we are visitors in wildlife nature niches and encouraged living with nature instead of crowding animals from homes in ponds, streams, forests, fields, and our yards. Small vernal ponds are essential with fewer predators.

Seeing animals is difficult without entering their home but we can provide minimal disturbance that allows habitats to remain healthy. That is a primary reason for restricting activity to one half of Vernal Pond. It allows vegetation to grow to pond edge and provides frogs with healthy living space in appropriate arrangement for food, water, and shelter to meet survival needs.

Please become an HCNC member. Discover frogs by walking nature center trails maintained for school and family groups in wild habitats. Make real world connections that would otherwise be vicariously through books, digital screens, or stories about the natural world. Enjoy being outdoors with wildlife.

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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