web analytics

Archive | Outdoors

DNR has new online form for reporting fish kills

 

Winter weather can create conditions that cause fish and other aquatic creatures to die

To simplify the public’s ability to report fish kills, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently developed an online form for reporting fish kills in quantities larger than 25 fish. A fish kill of this size could have more factors involved that need further DNR investigation. The new Sick or Dead Aquatic Species form can be found in the DNR’s Eyes in the Field application at michigan.gov/eyesinthefield.

Information requested in the form includes waterbody and location (both descriptive and latitude-longitude coordinates), observation details, and any available photos showing the fish kill. Close-up photos showing any external disease signs such as bloody patches, unusual wounds or odd coloration are particularly helpful to DNR staff as they try to determine the cause of the issue and its seriousness. Entered reports and associated images automatically are forwarded to fish health staff for quicker evaluation and action.

“In the past, the public has notified DNR staff by phone or email about a fish kill,” Whelan said. “While this input is hugely valuable and desired, it was not the most efficient way for us to get reports about fish kills and often delayed response. We have designed a simpler way for the public to get involved as our eyes and ears using the DNR’s Eyes in the Field.”

The DNR reminds everyone that after the ice and snow cover melts on Michigan’s lakes this winter, it may be common to discover dead fish or other aquatic creatures. Severe winter weather can create conditions that cause fish and other creatures such as turtles, frogs, toads and crayfish to die.

“Winterkill is the most common type of fish kill,” said Gary Whelan, DNR fisheries research manager. “Given the harsh conditions of winter with thick ice and deep snow cover, fish kills may be particularly common in shallow lakes and streams and ponds. These kills are localized and typically do not affect the overall health of the fish populations or fishing quality.”

Shallow lakes with excess aquatic vegetation and mucky bottoms are particularly prone to winterkill. Fish and other aquatic life typically die in late winter, but may not be noticed until a month after the ice leaves the lake because the dead fish and other aquatic life temporarily are preserved by the cold water.

“Winterkill begins with distressed fish gasping for air at holes in the ice and often ends with large numbers of dead fish that bloat as the water warms in early spring,” Whelan said. “Dead fish and other aquatic life may appear fuzzy because of secondary infection by fungus, but the fungus was not the cause of death. The fish actually suffocated from a lack of dissolved oxygen from decaying plants and other dead aquatic animals under the ice.”

Dissolved oxygen is required by fish and all other forms of aquatic life. Once the daylight is greatly reduced by thick ice and deep snow cover, aquatic plants stop producing oxygen and many die. The bacteria that decompose organic materials on the bottom of the lake use the remaining oxygen in the water. Once the oxygen is reduced other aquatic animals die and start decomposing, the rate that oxygen is used for decomposition is additionally increased and dissolved oxygen levels in the water decrease even more, leading to increasing winterkill.

Posted in OutdoorsComments (0)

The Great Backyard Bird Count

 

A blue jay. Photo by Rose Pogoda, Sioux Lookout, ON, Canada Great Backyard Bird Count 2017

Every February, count for as little as 15 minutes in your own backyard to help expand our understanding of birds.

From Audubon.org

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a free, fun, and easy event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at birdcount.org. Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from beginning bird watchers to experts, and you can participate from your backyard, or anywhere in the world.

Each checklist submitted during the GBBC helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing, and how to protect them and the environment we share. Last year, more than 160,000 participants submitted their bird observations online, creating the largest instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations ever recorded.

The 21st annual GBBC will be held Friday, February 16, through Monday, February 19, 2018. Please visit the official website at birdcount.org for more information and be sure to check out the latest educational and promotional resources.

“This count is so fun because anyone can take part—we all learn and watch birds together—whether you are an expert, novice, or feeder watcher. I like to invite new birders to join me and share the experience. Get involved, invite your friends, and see how your favorite spot stacks up,” said Gary Langham, Chief Scientist.

Bird populations are always shifting and changing. For example, 2014 GBBC data highlighted a large irruption of Snowy Owls across the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes areas of the United States. The data also showed the effects that warm weather patterns have had on bird movement around the country. For more on the results of the latest GBBC, take a look at the GBBC Summary at http://gbbc.birdcount.org/2017-gbbc-summary/and be sure to check out some of the images in the 2017 GBBC Photo Contest Gallery.

On the program website participants can explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting during and after the count. Be sure to check out the Explore a Region tool to get an idea of what you can expect to see in your area during the next GBBC.

For questions and comments, please contact the National Audubon Society or Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

National Audubon Society
citizenscience@audubon.org

Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Inside the US: (800) 843-2473
Outside the US: (607) 254-2473)
gbbc@cornell.edu

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments (0)

Hidden mountain lion

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Warnings signs encourage people not to hike alone in Zion National Park because a mountain lion might kill a lone hiker. I read about the occasional person being killed by a mountain lion. In a mountainous area near Denver, a woman had a home daycare where a cougar tried to take a child from her fenced backyard. The woman sprang into attack on the lion that grabbed a child. She successfully fought off the animal with bare hands. Neither she nor child suffered life-threatening injuries. Not all stories end as well.

A cougar researcher employed by the forest service lived in Alaska with her parents. From their home, she cross-country skied a regular route. Predators pay attention to such behavior as part of their hunting strategy. They plan ahead in anticipation for where they can secure prey.

Evidence of the young woman’s death indicated she suddenly picked up her pace before being taken from behind. It must have been horrifying for her parents to find her when she did not return home. Her father mourns the loss deeply but said she died researching the species she loved. They do not fault the cat for its nature niche life style and said their daughter agreed. 

I reluctantly share such stories for fear they will frighten people from being outdoors. It gives people a reason to want large predators removed from wild places. In the case of the daycare, homes were built in wild country. It is still extremely rare for lions to attack people but it is an everyday occurrence for people to be killed in car collisions. We should fear being in car more than being taken by a lion. 

Safe hiking precautions are advised in lion country. One of those precautions is to travel in groups instead of solely like the girl in Alaska. I like long solo hikes. When alone any mishap could be life threatening. Traveling in groups is always safest. I follow most safety guidelines except when it comes to solo hiking. 

Karen drove me to a remote area in Zion National Park where I departed on a 10-mile hike through wilderness to the Virgin River. A sign advised against hiking alone because lions inhabit the area. The sign is meant to protect the park service as well as the hikers. There have been no lion attacks on people or pets in the park. 

When hiking alone in the backcountry, I need to be especially cautious. My senses must be on high alert. I must be ready for the unexpected at all times. For the lion country hike, I carried my hiking staff for safety more than for balance. When I approached trees near the trail, I looked for a hidden cougar waiting to pounce from above on a lone hiker. I was not fearful, anxious, or worried. I was pleased to be where I needed to use my senses to the fullest. It was wonderful to be a part of nature instead of being apart from nature. 

My hike did not end in tragedy. My greatest fear was that if a lion killed me, the lion would be killed because I made myself available for its meal. The lion has more right in its home than I do. My death would be my fault and responsibility if a cougar attacked because I hiked alone. I feared putting the lion’s life in danger.

Keep in mind that you are safer hiking alone in lion country than driving to it or even to the grocery to get your meal. It is more likely you will be killed or injured traveling to wild country in your vehicle than while enjoying the splendor of the outdoors on foot. Hidden mountain lions should not be feared. Hike with another person or in groups to reduce vulnerability to all dangers.  

When I worked at Bryce Canyon National Park, our youth summer crew camped in a remote area where they worked. They got water from the pond where a lion visited to drink. They enjoyed seeing and hearing the lion. There was never a conflict incident. 

Head to lion country for a safe hike. Hopefully, you will survive the more dangerous road trip getting there.

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.

Posted in Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments (0)

Fall fish-stocking creates more angling opportunities

Fish were stocked at 76 different locations around the state last fall. Photo courtesy Michigan DNR.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced the totals from its 2017 fall fish-stocking efforts. The DNR stocked nine different species totaling 834,175 fish that weighed nearly 11.5 tons. Fish were stocked at 76 locations throughout the state.

“It was another outstanding fall fish-stocking season that will provide enhanced opportunities throughout Michigan,” said Ed Eisch, DNR fish production manager. “When added to our successful spring and summer stocking efforts, that brings the total for 2017 to more than 26.4 million fish put into Michigan’s waters.”

The number and type of fish stocked varies by hatchery as each facility’s ability to rear fish differs because of water supplies and temperature. In Michigan, there are six state and three cooperative hatcheries that work together to produce the species, strain and size of fish needed by fisheries managers. These fish must then be delivered at a specific time and location for stocking to ensure their success. Most fish in Michigan are stocked in the spring.

Fall fish stocking in 2017 consisted of nine species that included brook trout, brown trout, coho salmon, lake trout, Eagle Lake and steelhead strain rainbow trout, lake sturgeon, walleye and muskellunge.

*Harrietta State Fish Hatchery (west of Cadillac) stocked 33,698 fall fingerling Wild Rose strain brown trout weighing 1,625 pounds at one location.

*Marquette State Fish Hatchery (near Marquette) stocked 65,615 fall fingerling and adult brook and lake trout that weighed a combined 4,371 pounds. These fish were stocked at a total of 52 locations.

*Oden State Fish Hatchery (near Petoskey) stocked 135,683 fall fingerling Eagle Lake rainbow trout that weighed 1,577 pounds and three Black Lake strain lake sturgeon weighing 37.5 pounds. Oden stocked four locations with these fish.

*Platte River State Fish Hatchery (west of Traverse City) stocked 134,000 fall fingerling coho salmon weighing 8,466 pounds. These salmon were stocked in Medusa Creek Imprinting Pond in Charlevoix County.

*Thompson State Fish Hatchery (near Manistique) stocked 302,442 fall fingerling steelhead that weighed 3,623 pounds. Thompson stocked six locations.

*Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery (west of Kalamazoo) stocked three species of fall fingerlings in 2017. These included 150,764 fall fingerling steelhead weighing 2,047 pounds at two locations. Wolf Lake also stocked 1,365 Northern strain muskellunge fall fingerlings that weighed 155 pounds and were stocked at three sites. Lastly, 10,606 Muskegon strain fall fingerling walleye that weighed 1,004 pounds were stocked at six sites.

*Several DNR Fisheries Management Units (Northern Lake Michigan, Lake Erie and Southern Lake Huron) also stocked fall fingerling walleye in 2017. The Northern Lake Michigan Management Unit stocked 2,929 Bay De Noc strain fall fingerling walleye weighing 232 pounds, while the Lake Erie and Southern Lake Huron management units stocked 7,250 Muskegon strain fall fingerling walleye weighing 135 pounds.

The DNR welcomes visitors to its state fish hatcheries and interpretative centers to witness firsthand the fish-rearing process and to learn about Michigan’s waters. For more information, visit michigan.gov/hatcheries.

To find out if any fish were stocked in your favorite fishing spot, visit the DNR’s fish stocking database at michigandnr.com/fishstock/.

Posted in OutdoorsComments (0)

Birding tour of Ottawa County set for Jan. 31

Participants in the Jan. 31 birding tour might get a rare opportunity to see a harlequin duck that has been spotted on Lake Macatawa since December.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Ottawa County Parks and Recreation will lead a guided caravan birding tour of coastal Ottawa County Wednesday, Jan. 31, beginning at 10 a.m. and concluding at approximately 2 p.m.

No signup is necessary. The tour will begin from Hemlock Crossing Nature Education Center, located at 8115 West Olive Road in West Olive. After a brief introduction, the tour will proceed to Holland State Park, Port Sheldon and Grand Haven State Park, with the itinerary adjusting for preferred open-water areas and bird concentrations.

Michigan bird conservation coordinator Caleb Putnam of Audubon Great Lakes and the DNR, other DNR staff members and Ottawa County Parks naturalist Curtis Dykstra will be on hand to answer questions about wildlife management, habitat projects under way at state and county parks, and hunting opportunities.

The tour will focus on open-water pockets with concentrations of waterfowl and gulls. Participants should expect to see thousands of waterfowl, including common and red-breasted mergansers, common goldeneyes, several species of gulls, and with luck, a rarity such as a black-legged kittiwake or harlequin duck (one of each has been present at Lake Macatawa since December).

Participants should dress for very cold temperatures, snow/rain and high winds, and should bring binoculars and spotting scopes if possible. The trip leaders will have a small number of scopes available for those who do not have them.

The Recreation Passport ($11 for Michigan vehicles, $5 for Michigan motorcycles) is required for vehicle entry to all 103 Michigan state parks. Michigan residents can purchase the Recreation Passport by checking “YES” when renewing license plates at a Secretary of State branch office, self service station or online.

Those who didn’t check “YES,” or are visiting in a nonresident vehicle, can purchase a window sticker at the park’s visitor contact station. Please note that when purchased on-site, a $5 processing fee is added, bringing the cost to $16. Nonresidents pay $32 for an annual pass or $9 for a day pass. The Recreation Passport is valid until the next vehicle plate renewal date. For details, visit www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments (0)

Old Books

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

My bookshelves are filled with old books. Authors shared riveting human connections with animals. I grew up at the edge of a city and ventured to wild country two blocks away. That countryside had scattered fallow farm fields nestled among active croplands in a flat open landscape that stretched for miles. 

I read fiction stories about dogs, a boy, and their adventures in the wild but my experience was hunting quarry in the fallow farm fields. The quarry was butterflies, frogs, and a lone big tree that could be climbed. I resorted to fictional books for connections with large wild creatures that did not live in my neighborhood.

This duck is known as a surf scoter. The male’s strong head pattern earns the species the hunters’ nickname of “skunk-head coot.” Photo from audubon.org.

By middle school age, I was reading non-fiction about animals and developed a sense of purpose to share the world with them rather than usurp it from them. I had yet to become a naturalist or spend time in truly wild places. By age 15, I was working during the summer at a Boy Scout camp, living in a tent, and exploring wild woodlands at the scout camp. 

The world of discovery unfolded as I followed animal trails, stumbled upon deer bedded in bracken ferns, and found a skeleton that challenged me to determine what caused the animal’s death. I still have that deer skull and bones I found in a bog in 1962. I determined it got mired in the muck and could not free itself. It is a prized possession I often show visitors. 

Early connections with nature developed mostly through exploratory adventures. As my curiosity expanded, I needed help. Books became important. I bought my first nature field guide when I was 15. It was a late start. My exploration was limited to places I could reach by walking or biking. I had an opportunity that many kids did not. Our family took a trip to western national parks when I was eight and again when I was twelve. 

It was on one of those trips I decided to become a park ranger. I needed to absorb as much nature niche knowledge as possible. I did not know how to study wildlife. New books have the latest information and field guides have improved in many ways. The newest books are concise with great photographs but many do not retain the flavor of old books that have detailed observational descriptions written by early authors. 

I was told recently that books are a thing of the past because technology has made the information available electronically. I disagree; books are not a thing of the past. Most old books by nature writers are not available like popular novels for MP3 players or other electronic means. Old natural history works that can be held in hand contribute a foundation for present day books. They can often be found inexpensively for sale online.  

I just read a great new engaging book titled “American Wolf” about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone, but old books like Adolph Murie’s about wolves are indispensable and not available electronically. Old books give us perspective for how our current knowledge developed. They offer extensive descriptions of animal behavior and the author’s personal relationships with their surroundings. 

Perhaps authors had long hours by campfire light to write details of the day’s events. Today, we have daylight 24-hours a day in lighted rooms if we want. We can lodge in motels and seek entertainment after dark. We do not need to spend hours by firelight writing. Motels, TV and internet were not available to Lewis and Clark as they worked their way west describing species and recording detailed descriptions of the landscape. 

Edmond Way Teale, Sigurd Olson, Ann Zwinger, Henry Beston, John Muir, John Burroughs, Ernest Thompson Seton, are some authors that will take you on journeys like you have never experienced. Old books take you into historic wild places. Henry Beston’s wrote about the skunk coot in The Outermost House. I could not find the old name in recent books. I have an old 1904 bird guide that pictures them. They are now known as surf scoters. Old books are not a thing of the past. They are a connection to the past and are a wonderful read. Let their stories take you into the wild country.

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.

Posted in Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments (1)

Ice Fishing with Chip Lear 

Dave Slager, pro staff member of Stopper Lures.

by Jack Payne

Chip Lear, of Leech Lake in Minnesota, spends considerable time on the ice. Often Chip will be on the ice in November and continue thru March. In addition, he has his own web site newsletter (Fishing the wild side.net).

“Each lake is different and unique from another lake, thus one must adapt to the changes and that is what makes fishing fun,” said Lear. Chip further stated that when panfish are the target he looks for vegetation. 

Vegetation must be alive and healthy. Dead vegetation has limited drawing power. “Electronics are a must and I really don’t care what type of unit you have, just be able to read weeds, sand and fish,” said Lear.

Walleye and pike anglers should look for the edges of good vegetation, humps, islands, points and turns. Panfish anglers will need to search out deep water haunts once the vegetation dies or when the pressure pushes the fish outward. Keep in mind that the fish have a tendency to move to the good flats at low light conditions and drift out over open water that is adjacent to the food shelf during the midday hours.

 “I firmly believe in being mobile, fish fast, and fish hard and that the angler who cuts the most holes will often land the most fish”, said Lear. His daily game plan is hitting the ice and cutting a series of holes across a good looking weed flat all the way out, perhaps 30 feet from the deep edge of the weeds.

In addition, Lear loves to fish with a few friends. One group starts shallower than the other, a few anglers can scope out the deep points, humps, mud flats and such, while the other anglers work a good looking weed flat. With 2 to 4 anglers working as a team, locating the fish is much easier.

Another major part of his fishing is carrying at least two rods, three is better. He wants a rod rigged with a fast falling drop decent such as a Tungsten Skandia Pelkie, Tapiola or the Moon series teardrops. Another rod rigged with a lead teardrop such as a Moon Shad, Moon Glow, Slim Glitter and such.

Also, carry a few body styles in horizontal or vertical or round shapes. Different figurations and shapes will change the fall rate and the motion of your bait. Chip is on the plastic scented bandwagon. Any scented plastic bait that is super thin and vibrates in the water is his first choice. His reason is that he can control the action of the lure much easier this way than when using just livebait. Stopper Lures has the Whip R Snap and the Whip R Knocker plastics that I enjoyed good success with. I add some Pro Cure Ice scent to the plastics. Now, this does not mean that you can’t add a spike or a wax worm. Tough conditions always pulls me towards the real deal, most likely a confidence and past experience thing.

Some days the lead teardrops tipped with a spike will seal the deal. Imagine a piece of cake stuffed in front of your nose and you tell the hostess that you are full. If they leave it within an eye smell distance you most likely will snatch a sample. This is what you are trying to do on inactive fish with lead.

One other bait that should be a must carry is some type of neutral or near neutral lure. A lure that you can dangle and dance ever so slowly will trigger the most stubbornness of fish. Try a Hackle Jig, an Ice Spider or the Ice Ant from Stopper Lures. Lay that bait on their nose and let it flutter and stop. Entice hem enough times and you should get a response. 

Just remember to continue trying something different every 5 or 10 minutes if what you are doing is not producing. Early hours fish the flats, midday hit the edges or suspended fish, mix in fast drop baits with a slower drop lead bait. Try both plastics and live bait side by side. Last, try to fish with a partner and be mobile.

Posted in OutdoorsComments (0)

Winter fun

Friends Eli Gunderson and Javen Gee had some winter fun recently while ice fishing on a lake in Solon Township. Not only did they catch this beautiful northern pike on a tip up, they also enjoyed a bonfire to help keep them toasty warm. 

Thanks so much for sharing your photo with us!

Do you have a winter fun photo you’d like to send us? Email it to news@cedarspringspost.com along with some information about who is in the photo, what’s happening, and when and where it was taken. Also include what city/township you live in.

 

 

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments (0)

Winter Bird Sightings

by Range Steve Mueller

 

What species were present or absent during the Grand Rapids Audubon Bird Count on 30 Dec 2017? No gulls were seen. Only two other years during the 31 years I have coordinated the count were gulls absent in the Kent County Count area. Carolina Wrens have become regular since the turn of the century but were only seen 7 times between 1953 and 2000. 

Both the White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows were rare sightings during the 1900s but the white-throated has been sighted most of the past ten years. I suspect some sightings might have been misidentifications like the 15 Chipping Sparrows sighted in 1992. It is highly unusual for one Chipping Sparrow to be here in the winter and 15 is not likely. 

Evening Grosbeaks were seen most years between 1970 and 1990 but were absent before and after those decades. Red-winged Blackbird populations were high during the 1960s and their numbers have declined dramatically since. I conducted a spring blackbird nesting survey in 1970 and have never again seen the density of nests I found then.

Bird populations fluctuate for many reasons. Blackbirds have been sprayed with a chemical used to cause death so they do not compete with humans for crops. Climate change is impacting bird distribution and altering survival chances. Seasonal winter weather fluctuations (different from climate change) that are warm, cold, snowy, or dry influence bird annual distribution.
Fifty-six species were seen (Table 1) by 41 field observers and 2 bird feeder watchers. One Winter Wren and one Eastern Towhee were recorded during count week. The three days before and after count day are reported separately from count day species. Count week sightings document winter presence in the area but are statistically evaluated differently from count day sightings.

Total individuals sighted was 6,161. That is down considerably from last year’s 9,342 and almost half the number sighted (11,246) two years ago. Travel conditions and weather were unexpectedly good. Only light snow fell in the morning and the sky cleared for the afternoon. 

We experienced 80 percent cloud cover in the a.m. and 20 percent in the afternoon. Temperature was between 7 and 15 F. A steady NW wind was 8-18 mph. Snow cover depth was 4 to 12 inches. Moving Water was partly open and still water was frozen.

We totaled 65.5 hours in vehicles traveling 529 miles. We spent 14.25 hours on foot, covering 16.75 miles and 9 hours at feeders. A combined total of 545.75 miles were on foot and driving. Groups totaled 88.75 hours of daytime birding. There were 16 birding parties in the morning and 10 in the afternoon, with two feeder watchers.

In the predawn, 11 miles were traveled during one and half hours looking for owls.  

Wittenbach/Wege Agri-science and Environmental Education Center (WWC) co-hosted the count with Audubon. We appreciate use of the facility as our base station. Visit and enjoy the WWC trails. 

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.

Posted in Outdoors, Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments (0)

Changing weather conditions prompt ice safety reminder

 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers, snowmobilers and other outdoor enthusiasts to exercise caution on the ice, especially as temperatures fluctuate across the state.

The recent deep freeze has given way to a warming trend, which affects the integrity of ice. In addition to temperature changes, DNR conservation officers say other factors determine the strength of ice, and that outdoor enthusiasts should know the warning signs.

“Don’t assume the ice is safe just because a lake or stream looks frozen,” said Lt. Tom Wanless, DNR recreational safety programs supervisor. “There are several factors that can determine the strength of the ice. Understanding and recognizing these factors, as well as using common sense and caution, will allow you to have a more enjoyable outdoor experience and to make it home safely.”

According to Wanless:

You can’t always determine the strength of ice simply by its look, its thickness, the temperature or whether the ice is covered with snow. New ice generally is stronger than old ice. While a couple of inches of new, clear ice may be strong enough to support a person, a foot of old ice riddled with air bubbles may not.  

Clear ice that has a bluish tint is the strongest. Ice formed by melted and refrozen snow appears milky, and often is porous and weak.

Ice covered by snow always should be presumed unsafe. Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows the freezing process, making the ice thinner and weaker.

If there is slush on the ice, stay off. Slush ice is only about half as strong as clear ice and indicates the ice no longer is freezing from the bottom.

Be especially cautious in areas where air temperatures have fluctuated. A warm spell may take several days to weaken the ice. But when temperatures vary widely, causing ice to thaw during the day and refreeze at night, the result is a weak, spongy or honeycombed ice that is unsafe.

The DNR does not recommend the standard “inch-thickness” guide used by many outdoor enthusiasts to determine ice safety. A minimum of 4 inches of clear ice is needed to support an average person’s weight, but since ice seldom forms at a uniform rate it is important to check the thickness with a spud and ruler every few steps.

Deep inland lakes take longer to freeze than shallow lakes. Ice cover on lakes with strong currents or chain-of-lakes systems also is more unpredictable.

Ice near shore tends to be much weaker because of shifting, expansion and heat from sunlight reflecting off the bottom. If there’s ice on the lake but water around the shoreline, proceed with caution. Avoid areas with protruding logs, brush, plants and docks as they can absorb heat from the sun and weaken the surrounding ice.

Wanless said that anyone walking onto a frozen lake or river should wear a life jacket, wear bright colors, carry a cellphone and bring a set of ice picks or ice claws. He advises against taking a car, truck or snowmobile on the ice.

If you do break through the ice, Wanless offered the following tips:

Try to remain calm.

Don’t remove your winter clothing. Heavy clothes won’t drag you down, but they can trap air to provide warmth and flotation. This is especially true with a snowmobile suit.

Turn your body toward the direction you came from, as that ice is probably the strongest.

If you have ice picks or ice claws, dig their points into the ice while vigorously kicking your feet and pull yourself onto the surface by sliding forward on the ice.

Once out of the water, roll away from the area of weak ice. Rolling on the ice will distribute your weight to help avoid breaking through again.

Get to shelter, warm yourself, change into dry clothing and consume nonalcoholic, noncaffeinated drinks.

Call 911 and seek medical attention if you feel disoriented, have uncontrollable shivering or notice any other ill-effects that may be symptoms of hypothermia.

To learn more about staying safe while on the water or in the woods, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/recreationalsafety.

Posted in OutdoorsComments (0)

advert
Advertising Rates Brochure
Kent Theatre

Get the Cedar Springs Post in your mailbox for only $35.00 a year!