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Showcasing the DNR 

 

Studying Michigan’s massasaugas, the state’s venomous rattler

By Bob Gwizdz, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The massasauga rattlesnake is Michigan’s only venomous snake. It is protected as a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Photo by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

If any creatures ever needed better public relations, it would be snakes.

They have been vilified since the earliest of Bible tales, and their overall reputation hasn’t improved markedly since.

But there are plenty of people who have more respect for snakes—especially those species not well-regarded.

In fact, Michigan has become an important laboratory for the study and preservation of one of them, the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, the only venomous viper that inhabits the state.

Massasauga rattlesnakes were listed as a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 2016 and are thereby protected animals.

By rattlesnake standards, massasauga rattlers are small, averaging about 2 feet long as adults, reaching a maximum of about 30 inches.

The term “massasauga” means “great river mouth” in the Ojibwe language and was likely given to these snakes because of the places the pit vipers are found.

They inhabit wetlands and feed upon small mammals such as mice and voles, frogs, and other snakes. They are ambush predators, remaining motionless and striking when they detect prey through heat, sound, motion or odor. They inject venom that destroys tissue and incapacitates the prey.

Eastern massauagas range from southern Ontario to Missouri and from central New York to eastern Iowa. There are a couple of subspecies found in the American southwest and into Mexico.

“Massasaugas are rare in Michigan, though more common than in most other parts of their range,” said Tom Goniea, a fisheries biologist and herptile expert with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “There are records of their existence in every county of the Lower Peninsula.

“They’ve never been found on the mainland of the Upper Peninsula, though they have been found on Bois Blanc Island, which is in Mackinac County,” Goniea said. “Like all reptiles and amphibians, they were once more widespread and numerous throughout the state than they are today.”

Habitat destruction and persecution have led to their decline.

“They’re really rare; very few people will ever encounter these animals in the wild,” Goniea said. “They’re pretty docile, not a particularly aggressive animal. In my 14 years as herptile specialist with the DNR Fisheries Division, I’ve averaged being notified of less than one bite a year.”

Rattlesnake bites, while rare in Michigan, can and do occur. Many bites are the result of people handling them, though people walking though tall grass in rattlesnake habitat near and around wetlands without adequate footwear or long pants could potentially be bitten.

Snakebites are less likely to occur when following some basic safety precautions (find out more at http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/emr/safety.cfm). Anyone who has been bitten should seek immediate medical attention.

“They can only strike about one-third to one-half their body length, which for a typical Michigan rattlesnake is 8 to 15 inches, so a person has to get really close to be in any danger,” Goniea said. “They are not going to lunge out and bite you from several feet away.”

There are no records of fatalities in Michigan since the post-World War II era that Goniea knows about.

Other snakes are often misidentified as massasaugas.

“Probably 95 percent of the calls we get from people who are sure they have a massasauga are verified with pictures as something else,” Goniea said.

Much of the focus of massasauga rattlesnake study in Michigan is at the Edward Lowe Foundation property in Cass County, where a viable population of the creatures inhabits the wetlands.

Mike McCuistion, vice president of physical resources at the foundation in Cass County, said staffers have found dead rattlesnakes on the roads of the property over the years, and because “conservation is part of the foundation’s charter,” the foundation decided to investigate them.

The foundation engaged a student studying reptiles to survey the area. He found one.

Later, a graduate student’s research involved studying how fire—such as controlled burns—impacted the snakes. He used the Lowe property as his control (non-burned) area, and he found a number of the rattlesnakes.

That information allowed the foundation to conduct controlled burns without affecting the snakes.

“We know where the snakes are and we know where the hibernacula (hibernation locations) are,” McCuistion said. “We can burn when the snakes are hibernating.”

The presence of the rattlesnakes inspired the foundation to get involved with the snake’s Species Survival Plan. The plan, largely a function of zoos and aquariums, is sort of an insurance policy for species—should they ever disappear.

Zoos that have massasauga rattlesnakes have been selectively breeding them for genetic diversity. These zoos would have a population of the snakes available.

The Lowe foundation agreed to host the annual meeting of the Species Survival Plan nine years ago in exchange for team’s cooperation in surveying the grounds annually for the snakes.

“The nice thing about this population is that it’s centrally located in massasauga range,” McCuistion said.

Over the course of the last seven years, the surveyors have identified more than 800 individual massasaugas on the property, with a stable population of about 150 adults.

Specimens are collected, aged, sexed, measured, weighed and photographed. Adults are implanted with PIT (passive integrated transponder) tags and all are returned to where they were found. The tags identify the snakes individually.

Penny Felski, herptile manager at the Buffalo Zoo and a member of the Special Survival Plan team, has been on every survey at the Lowe property since they started.

“The Buffalo Zoo has been working with this species since the 1960s, but our first successful breeding was in 2012,” Felski said. “It took a while to figure out the husbandry.”

Essentially, when potential mates are selected, the snakes are introduced in the fall and kept together until breeding has been witnessed. Young are born live the next summer. The female at the Buffalo Zoo has produced 13 offspring over the years. All are now at other zoos.

Eric Hileman, who recently earned his doctorate degree from Northern Illinois University for his work on eastern massasaugas and is now a quantitative biologist at Trent University in Ontario, said roughly 70 percent of adult massasaugas survive annually, but only 38 percent of newborns (neonates) survive their first year.

“I think freezing over the winter is the big problem,” Hileman said. “They don’t know how to do it.”

Unlike many other rattlesnakes, massasaugas hibernate alone, often using crayfish burrows for hibernacula.

Hileman said massasaugas have been known to live up to 20 years in captivity, which is up to 30 percent longer than they live in the wild.

For more information on the threatened status of the massasauga or for frequently asked questions about the listing, please visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service massasauga information page at https://www.fws.gov/midwest/Endangered/reptiles/eama/index.html

Identification and life history information, as well as snake safety tips, can be found at the Michigan Natural Features Inventory massasauga rattlesnake information page http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/emr/index.cfm.

To report sightings and learn more about the massasauga, please visit the Michigan DNR’s page on the species at http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-10370_12145_12201-32995–,00.html.
Learn more by about Michigan’s snake species by watching our “60-Second Snakes” videos at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz5W-co6itw&index=2&list=PLAt8-P23ZJgvCQGGbnCtdUfRYbqiws-F6.

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Symphony of Sight and Sound

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

The Cardinal flower. Photo by Dr. Thomas G. Barnes, Fish and Wildlife Service.

Symphony players have honed their music through eons of natural selection. Refinement continues with each generation of plants and animals. Individuals have physical advantages for species survival or have adaptations that are eliminated by predators, parasites, or failure to meet environmental conditions.

Enjoy the sight and sound of the life’s orchestra performing its changing symphony. You can walk among players or sit on a lounge chair with a cool beverage to experience more players than are imaginable.

The regional stage is set with an assemblage of plants on wet to dry soils where nutrients and water meet their needs along with varying amounts of light. The Cardinal Flower is one of the most beautiful flowers for my eye and has recently begun blooming. Each animal has favorites. The swamp milkweed is gorgeous and is more beautiful to many insects. It brings insects to the wetland stage better than cardinal flowers. Hummingbirds prefer the cardinal flower where we can enjoy their sound portion of the symphony.

Hummingbirds hover at the flowers with wings moving in a figure eight that allows them to hang stationary like a helicopter. Bees and Hummingbird Sphinx moths hover at milkweed flowers with their own unique buzz. Bees land and probe the unique flower structure with mouthparts that sometimes get trapped and held. One can find dead butterflies or other insects that were unable to break free.

Death is common for symphony players. Bird love songs often come from hidden locations that do not betray their presence and would expose them to predators. Their song announces breeding territory limits to prospective females that inspect male’s habitat suitability for rearing young. The singing male moves around the territory perimeter in earlier morning announcing to other males they are not welcome.

Each bird produces music in varying sized territory space that is adjusted to resource requirements. In the big woods at Ody Brook, Ovenbirds (a warbler) sing from low branches in the mature forest and build a Dutch oven shaped nest on the ground. Once in my lifetime, I found a well-hidden nest with the help of another naturalist.

Ovenbirds are abundant and heard throughout Michigan. Their music keeps rhythm with its repeated “teacher, teacher, teacher” song like our symphony’s drums. High above in tree tops, the Red-eyed Vireo sings its melody, “Here I am, where are you?” Like all orchestras players, species begin and end at specific times during the performance. Most birds make music during peak breeding season of May and June.

Sight, sound, and players change as one moves from forest to drier field and shrubland. Field Sparrows cannot be found in the mature forest but are loud musicians in open shrub habitat. They make introductory music notes followed by a trill that resembles a ping-pong ball bouncing on a table with accelerating speed as the ball loses energy with each bounce of less height. The Chipping Sparrow has a more evenly spaced trill without introductory notes. Close your eyes and recognize wild orchestra instruments in nature niches. You might not see the players but you can enjoy and recognize different sounds.

As summer progresses in forest, field, and wetlands, bird sounds become less frequent. Insect orchestra members increase the sight and sound beauty. Crickets of various species pick up the tempo. The Snowy Tree Crickets play a uniquely beautiful instrument. Cicadas have a tympanum at the base of their abdomen that resonates deafening volume. Katydid grasshoppers repeat their name during dark hours to attract mates.

Flowers and leaves feed insects, attract birds, predatory insects, and spiders that eat insects. The arrangement of color and species distribute players in nature like the stage for human orchestras. The multitude of players is greater than can be learned in a lifetime and they are dressed in interesting attire. Discover the magnificent sight and sound orchestra. To enjoy it, wild habitat is necessary. Less grass will allow more “nature,” save gas, and extend mower life. Spend more time hearing nature’s orchestra instead of a mower engine’s roar.

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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Catch of the Week

Alexei Morrissa-Jo Eadie is shown here fishing with her G-Pa, on Watermill Lake near Baldwin, with her new Barbie pole. She thinks it’s a keeper!

Congratulations, Alexei! 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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Shifting Sands

A sand dune at Silver Lake swallowed up a house in April. Photo from woodtv.com.

 

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Reading the landscape is a development skill taught in middle school Earth science. It is taught to preschoolers by parents. Young minds are open to learning.

The local news reported advancing sand dunes are burying homes. An Earth science lessen is easily forgotten without experiential learning. The dangers of building or buying a home too close to the big lake can be seen during family or school outings. It is a gamble to determine exactly which homes will get buried.

A trip to Lake Michigan’s shoreline dune complex for a swim will be a fun outing where one can see trees buried by moving sand at Hoffmaster State Park or in other parks. Some of the trees have adaptations allowing them to produce adventitious roots from tree trunks as their original roots get buried too deep to survive. The new roots give the tree continued life under tough circumstances.

At some future date, the sand dunes will shift and uncover tree trunks, exposing the roots developed from the growing trunk that was previously high in the air before being buried. If fortunate, the tree will have lived and died before sand is blown away to expose its skeleton.

One might refer to sand dunes as a living, moving, entity, but by reading the landscape, we discover they are not. Moving dunes bring life or death to species by the lake and will crush buildings. Contractors build and sell homes close to the shoreline. They arrive, construct and leave with a profit. The buyer that did not learn to read the landscape might lose their home to the crushing weight of sand depending on where the home was built.

The news showed a cottage that collapsed under the weight of moving sand. People were interviewed about nature’s destroying power. Owners are hiring bulldozer operators to move sand to save homes and resorts. The reporters hoped the home owners would win the fight against nature’s forces.

A fight is not necessary. If the people refused to buy homes close to shore or on shifting dunes, their homes would not be endangered. Many want the shoreline view and are willing to gamble their home’s future. The result is their home might be buried or washed into the lake. A Go-fund-me account has been established to help save homes because people cannot afford to hire contactors to keep moving sand.

Learning the school lessen might have resulted in choosing to live in a safer location. In the 1980’s I observed homes falling into Lake Michigan when high lake levels undercut foundations. I witnessed multi-million dollar homes fall into the Pacific Ocean as erosion undercut cliffs. The homes were too large to move and should not have been built close to the ocean.

Homes are built on barrier Islands along the Atlantic Ocean even though barrier islands are known to move and wash away. Classroom education is valuable but field trip experience is essential for learning to read the landscape. Book learning requires supplemental practical experiences to learn to read the landscape. That is the purpose of places like the Howard Christensen Nature Center and for parents to take families to natural areas.

I began as director at HCNC in 1986 when an Environmental Education Advocacy Council and School administrator agreement required some Kent ISD teachers to bring students to HCNC. I was told HCNC was securely funded by property taxes. As time passed, and shifting sands of education politics changed. I was told environmental education was no longer a priority in America after the early 2000’s presidential election. The Kent ISD stopped funding HCNC. An impact of that decision might result in students losing their homes to nature’s forces when they are grown. We are in a phase of political temperament again when many want to focus only on the present without considering the triple bottom line of economic, social, and environmental impacts for the future. Economic health cannot be sustained without social and environmental sustainability. Security in our personal nature niche depends on the shifting sands of politics and how well people learn to read the landscape to protect their wellbeing and investments.

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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Catch of the Week

It was a team effort for the four kids to bring in the 27.5-inch dogfish and 18.5-inch bass. Sienna and Eli Wolfe and Lincoln and Jaxson Trolla had to take turns fighting the fish to land while recently camping in Empire. Grandpa Wolfe was on hand to keep them calm.

Congratulations to Sienna, Eli, Lincoln, and Jaxson for a great 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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Lakes appreciation month: enjoy and protect Michigan’s lakes

Michigan is blessed with all types of waterbodies, including scenic locations without much civilization in site, like this view of Tahquamenon Natural Area between Newberry and Paradise in the state’s Upper Peninsula.

Michigan offers unique combination of four Great Lakes and 11,000 inland lakes

With Gov. Rick Snyder’s proclamation of July as Lakes Appreciation Month in Michigan, it›s the perfect time to encourage residents to enjoy and protect the state’s lakes.

Recreation on Michigan’s lakes—boating, fishing, birding, swimming and more on the water—leads to jobs throughout the state in support of a $7 billion recreational fishery, a $4 billion boating industry, and a major part of the state’s $38 billion tourism revenue.

Michigan’s 11,000 inland lakes and four Great Lakes provide a combination of water resources and recreational opportunities not available anywhere else. In his proclamation, Gov. Snyder recognized “the need to protect these resources for future generations,” stating that “lakes and shorelines are critical resources to Michigan’s environment and quality of life, providing sources of drinking water, irrigation, energy, commerce, recreation, scenic beauty, and habitat for fish and wildlife.”

“It’s important for everyone who uses and values Michigan’s lakes to do their part to protect them,” said Joe Nohner, inland lakes analyst for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “Our inland lakes face threats from declining water quality, invasive species, changing climate and unnatural shorelines that lack vegetation or woody habitat. There are simple steps each of us can take to protect the lakes we love.”

Fishing and boating go hand in hand as staple activities on many of Michigan›s lakes, making huge contributions to the state’s economy.

Here are just a few ways to show appreciation for these valuable natural resources:

Be a lake volunteer. Volunteer opportunities are available with programs across Michigan. Clean Boats, Clean Waters (http://micbcw.org/) is recruiting “volunteer heroes” to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by showing boaters how to inspect their boats, trailers and gear. Michigan’s Clean Water Corps supports volunteers engaged in water-quality monitoring through its Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program. Adopt-a-Beach volunteers remove litter from shorelines around the Great Lakes.

Protect your shore. Lakefront property owners can learn more from the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership about maintaining natural shorelines to improve fish and wildlife habitat and keep the water clean. Learn how to be recognized through the Michigan Shoreland Stewards program. http://www.mishorelandstewards.org/.

Prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Lakes Appreciation Month and Aquatic Invasive Species Awareness Week were kicked off by the 4th annual AIS Landing Blitz with outreach events at more than 60 boat launches, to raise awareness and prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species through recreational boating and related activities. When it’s time to head home from the lake, take steps to ensure aquatic invasive species don’t come with you:

  • Remove weeds, mud and debris from boats and gear, and drain live wells and bilges before leaving the landing.
  • Give boats and equipment at least five days to dry thoroughly before heading to a different body of water.
  • If that’s not possible, clean boats, water receptacles and gear with hot water or a diluted bleach solution before the next trip.

In short, remember to clean, drain and dry boats, trailers and gear after a day on the water. Concerned about aquatic invasive species? Consider inviting the free Mobile Boat Wash to a boat launch near you. https://www.michigan.gov/documents/invasives/Boat_wash_flyer_2017_554286_7.pdf or check them out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MobileBoatWash/.

Take a friend or a young person fishing. Fishing Michigan’s lakes provides an opportunity to spend quality time with someone, reunite a friend with a favorite hobby, or introduce someone to a new pastime. Whether it’s taking the boat to that favorite fishing hole or casting from a pier or quiet dock, fishing is a unique way to connect with the water.

Spend a day at the beach. A picnic or a day of swimming is a great way to get the kids outdoors in the summer. A sunset stroll along the shoreline can be a relaxing end to a perfect day. Looking for a place to take your four-legged best friend? According to bringfido.com, there are 27 dog-friendly beaches across Michigan.

Float your boat. If that boat is still covered and sitting on the trailer, or the kayaks haven’t yet left the garage, it’s time to hit the water. Take a cruise or paddle around the shoreline of your favorite lake to admire the waterfowl and flowering plants, or visit a new lake – with more than 1,300 public boating access sites around the state to choose from, it’s easy to plan a water-bound adventure.

The Lakes Appreciation Month proclamation was supported by the Michigan Inland Lakes Partnership, an organization that promotes collaboration to advance stewardship of Michigan’s inland lakes.

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Kyam Gorby, 7-year-old son of Nate and Lynn Gorby, caught a 14-inch rainbow trout at a private pond owned by friends of his Malmo grandparents.

“I’ve always wanted to catch one of these!” exclaimed Kyam.

Congratulations, Kyam, on a great catch!

 

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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Rogue River butterfly count 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

The weather was great with sunny skies and little wind. Eight participants enjoyed butterflies, learned identification and associations with nature niche habitats. Thirty species sighted on count day are listed in Table 1 with the number of individuals and participants. We began at the Howard Christensen Nature Center for our 30th count year at 9 a.m. Counting began at HCNC’s Welcome Center. The group car-pooled to various Rogue River State Game Area locations within the count circle.

We visited the highest elevation in Kent County at Fisk Knob where we anticipated “hill topping” Black Swallowtails but none were present. We know what species to expect based on normal flight dates but some species are not present because we either missed them or their flight schedule is different from our count date in a given year.

During the day, butterfly behavior is observed and described to help make the count a wonderful experience. Larval host plants are inspected for caterpillars or eggs. One Viceroy larva was found on aspen this year. The eight participants spent most time looking for adults and counting individuals.

The total number of species observed has varied over the 30 years from 18 to 43. Weather effects butterfly activity. Sunny days with little or no wind in the 70’s and 80’s is ideal. Adults often emerge from pupae following a soaking rain. I was surprised that a few species we normally find were not present. The flowering plants and apparently some butterflies seem to have delayed emergence this year. We had a cool spring but I expected the warm days in June would allow species to get back on schedule. Activity is closely linked with blooming of nectar sources.

Consider joining the 2018 counts next July. Watch the Nature Niche column for next year’s dates for the Allegan, Muskegon, and Rogue River State Game Area Counts as well as the Newaygo Count in the Manistee National Forest. Books and Internet web sites help learning but it is best experienced by exploring the real world. Time outdoors is enjoyable, healthy, and provides family time that creates wonderful memories. People can join for part of the day.

Other count results will be posted on the West Michigan Butterfly Association (WMBA) Web Site by August. Consider becoming a member of WMBA for $5/yr. A check can be sent to our treasurer Dennis Dunlap, 2599 W. Chester Dr., Zeeland, MI 49464 and his address is also posted on the web site (http://www.graud.org/wmba.html). The date for the Muskegon count is 22 July 2017 so there is still opportunity to participate. Visit the WMBA web site for location directions.

Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary is the last place we visit after diligently searching all day. I am always hopeful we will be able to find at least one species we have not discovered elsewhere during the day. This year we added the Appalachian Brown. During count week, which is the three days before and after count day, we saw two Harvesters, 1 Mourning Cloak, and 1 Hobomok Skipper at Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary. Those species and numbers of individuals are not included in the count day list. They are listed as an addendum to the report and turned in to the North American Butterfly Association.

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.

 

click link to download results: 2017 Rogue River Butterfly Ct.pdf

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Invasive red swamp crayfish found in Michigan

Red swamp crayfish, like the one pictured here, recently were discovered in Sunset Lake in Vicksburg (Kalamazoo County) and a retention pond off Haggerty Road in Novi (Oakland County).

The crayfish were found in two different locations

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently confirmed the presence of invasive red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) in Sunset Lake in Vicksburg, south of Kalamazoo (Kalamazoo County), and in a retention pond off Haggerty Road in Novi (Oakland County).

Reports of the crayfish at Sunset Lake came to the DNR from two separate landowners Thursday, July 13. DNR staff verified the reports during a survey of the area July 14, finding several crayfish in the grass in a local park and in shallow areas on the lake’s west side.

A citizen reported possible red swamp crayfish in the Novi retention pond Monday, July 17, after a child captured one in a dip net. DNR staff responded that afternoon and removed 111 specimens from the pond.

These two reports represent the first live detections of red swamp crayfish in Michigan. In 2015, discovery of a pile of dead red swamp crayfish at Kollen Park in Holland (Allegan County) led to an intensive trapping effort by the DNR in Lake Macatawa and portions of the Grand River. No live crayfish were found at that time.

What are red swamp crayfish?

Red swamp crayfish, also known as Louisiana crayfish, are deep red in color with bright red, raised spots covering the body and claws. They have a black, wedge-shaped stripe on the top of the abdomen. Between 2 and 5 inches in length, these crayfish resemble miniature lobsters. They are native to the Mississippi River drainage and the Gulf Coast and are the popular “crawfish” or “crawdads” used in southern cooking.

Why are they a concern?

Red swamp crayfish are a serious concern because of their ability to damage earthen structures and the threats they pose to the environment.

“Eradicating red swamp crayfish is very difficult,” said Nick Popoff, aquatic species and regulatory affairs manager for the DNR. “They dig deep burrows near lakes and rivers and can spread quickly over land.” Popoff said that such burrows, which can be more than 3 feet deep, can cause damage (through bank destabilization) to infrastructure such as dams, levees, irrigation systems and personal property. In Wisconsin, the only solution for one instance of a red swamp crayfish invasion was an extreme measure to pave over a pond.

Red swamp crayfish are considered invasive in Michigan because they compete aggressively with native crayfish species for food and habitat. They feed on plants, insects, snails, juvenile fish and other crayfish, disrupting the food chain for many aquatic species.

Red swamp crayfish can survive drought conditions and are known to migrate as much as approximately 2 miles over land in search of habitat. They are very fertile, with females laying up to 600 eggs at a time and reproducing up to two times in a year.

How did red swamp crayfish get here?

Sources of the two infestations are not known, but according to Popoff, live crayfish may have been brought from southern states for use as bait or for human consumption. Red swamp crayfish also are sold in some states as personal or classroom aquarium pets, and release of those pets is one way invasive species are spread.

“Red swamp crayfish are a prohibited species in Michigan, which means it is unlawful to possess, introduce, import, sell or offer them for sale as a live organism, except in special circumstances, including providing specimens to the DNR for identification,” said Popoff.

What is being done?

Department staff will continue survey and removal efforts on Sunset Lake and its tributaries to determine the size and extent of the infestation. Staff will be out during the daytime and evening hours setting nets and crayfish traps and using electrofishing equipment to capture and remove the crayfish. Connecting water bodies including Austin, Barton and Howard lakes will be surveyed in the coming weeks. Survey and removal efforts are ongoing at the Novi location.

How can people help?

“These two cases show the importance of citizen involvement in the fight against invasive species,” said Popoff. “Alert citizens noticed something unusual and reported it to the DNR, allowing us to initiate a quick response to each situation.”

Residents and visitors to the Sunset Lake area are asked to try to capture any red swamp crayfish they find and place them in a container in the freezer, then report the location of the find to the DNR at 269-685-6851, ext. 0, or by email to herbsts1@michigan.gov.

Sightings of red swamp crayfish in the Novi area or elsewhere in Michigan should be photographed and reported with the date and location of the find to herbsts1@michigan.gov.

For more information about red swamp crayfish and other invasive species of concern in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/invasivespecies.

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Fishing tip: Fishing with crankbaits

 

From the DNR

Many anglers love to fish with crankbaits (also known as plugs), a type of hard-bodied fishing lure. Below are some criteria to think about when selecting a crankbait.

Body Shape

Fat-bodied crankbaits that are shorter will displace more water and create more vibration. Many anglers prefer this type of crankbait when fishing in dark water or at night.

Thin-profile crankbaits glide through the water with minimal resistance. This option is great when fishing clear water and targeting species that are sight feeders.

Buoyancy

Crankbaits with less buoyancy are better suited for water with minimal cover and clean bottoms while those with more buoyancy are better for fishing around cover.

Crankbaits can be a great lure option when targeting walleyes, bass or muskellunge (among other species). Consider trying one out during your next fishing trip!

 

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