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Winter free fishing weekend

OUT-Winter-Free-fishing-weekend

February 14-15

The Department of Natural Resources wants to remind everyone the annual Winter Free Fishing Weekend is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 14, and Sunday, Feb. 15. That weekend, everyone—residents and non-residents alike—can fish Michigan waters without a license, though all other fishing regulations still apply.

Michigan has celebrated the Winter Free Fishing Weekend every year since 1994 as a way to promote awareness of the state’s vast aquatic resources. With more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams, and 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan and fishing is a perfect match.

“Michigan’s winter months offer excellent opportunities to enjoy our state’s great outdoors, and fishing is a popular option for all ages,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “The Winter Free Fishing Weekend is an easy, low-commitment way for anglers of all experience and skill levels to explore and enjoy Michigan’s world-class natural resources and one of our state’s most beloved outdoor traditions.”

To encourage involvement in the Winter Free Fishing Weekend, organized activities have been and continue to be scheduled in communities across the state. These activities are coordinated by a variety of organizations including constituent groups, schools, local and state parks, businesses and others. A full list of these events can be found online at www.michigan.gov/freefishing.

The website also offers online tools to help those interested in planning and promoting local events.

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Carry On

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

 

As I begin a happy and joyous new year, I have been contemplating years past. A poem I wrote, in 1972, carries an important idea, from when I was a young man. The idea holds true as I age. I remain functional and hopefully productive despite a new normal, and experimental cancer treatments received at the University of Chicago hospital twice weekly. Though the cancer is not curable, it is treatable. I fully expect to thrive for many years and continue as a productive citizen for human and non-human communities.

The coming year is bright and full of cheer. Plans for enhancing life at Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary are many. Plans for maintaining and enhancing nature niche conditions for fellow species are reason enough to “Carry On” myself. How we live in neighborhood nature niches that we share with life on Earth is vital for the wellbeing of future human generations. It is impossible to live, much less thrive, without other species that maintain a healthy biosphere.

Carry On

A person’s body is only a means

to carry his ideas into the world.

Death should return his body to the soil

while his ideas live on in others.

A person’s philosophies need be passed on

and not his picture or mummy.

Embalm me not, destroy my body,

but put my thoughts to use.

Though people like recognition,

their names are on the books,

It’s of no value to my cause

to memorize my name.

Continue where I leave

so my goals might be achieved.

October 9, 1972

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.616-696-1753

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Changes to Master Angler program for 2015

 

The Department of Natural Resources recently announced that, effective Jan. 1, 2015, multiple changes have been made to Michigan’s Master Angler program, which allows anglers to submit large fish they have caught for recognition. The program has been in place since 1973.

The Master Angler program recognizes two categories of catches: catch-and-keep and catch-and-immediate-release. Previously, the catch-and-keep category was determined by the weight of the fish caught, but that requirement has been removed and replaced with a length requirement. Now recognition in both categories will be awarded based on an established minimum length for each recognized species. Verified entries will receive the Master Angler patch. Only one patch will be awarded for both catch-and-keep and catch-and-immediate-release entries. No more than one patch per species will be awarded to each angler per year.

“Eliminating the weight requirement for part of the Master Angler program really helps to streamline both the application and the verification process – especially as anglers will no longer have to find a certified scale to have their catch weighed,” explained Lynne Thoma, the program’s coordinator. “We hope this change will make it even easier for anglers to have their large fish recognized.”

In addition to the change to the category criteria, some changes were made to the submission procedures. A witness signature is no longer required and each application must have a color photo submitted with it. Anglers can now submit their applications in hard-copy or electronic formats.

Please note, state-record fish still are recognized by weight and still require identification by a DNR fisheries biologist.

The 2015 Master Angler entry application is available online at www.michigan.gov/masterangler.

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Cherry Crop Pest Management

OUT-Cherries

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Cherries and plums for our Christmas festivities depend on crop production. Michigan has an important cherry orchard industry. We eat cherries throughout the year and I particularly like Traverse City Pie Company cherry pies.

The American Plum Borer is a micro moth that few people ever see but it feeds on cherry and plum trees. It is the most important pest of these trees in Michigan. Natural control species such as birds, spiders, beetles, ants, and wasp parasitoids are important for maintaining pest control.

Legislation has been introduced to revise the definition of “conservation” regarding biological diversity to remove key provisions regarding restoration, distribution and the “continued existence” of native species and communities. It would prevent biodiversity from being considered when managing natural resources. Biodiversity is fundamental to healthy functioning nature niches. It is beyond my comprehension and the scope of the article to address political motivations that undermine maintenance of healthy ecosystems. By the time this article is printed the vote will likely have occurred.

The focus here is on the American Plum Borer, Euzophera semifuneralis (Walker), a Pyralid moth and other species that control it. Like so many aspects of the natural world, very little is known about the moth’s biological control despite it being the most important pest of the cherry and plum trees. A change in how we harvest cherries is one reason it is an important pest. About 40 years ago we shifted to hydraulic tree shakers from human manual pickers. The mechanical harvesting by machines instead of humans causes cracking and tearing of the bark.

The moth lays eggs that hatch and enter through the bark injuries. Caterpillars feed on the thin cambium that produces new tissue for transporting food, water, and nutrients. Trees usually die within five years if the insects are too abundant. To control the insect, pesticides are used but pesticides used are being discovered as harmful to us. They are increasingly restricted to safeguard our health. That makes a case for maintaining natural biodiversity of native species to help control the insect that takes food from our tables.

A variety of birds including the Northern Flicker and other woodpeckers were commonly found probing the bark in spring and summer for moth larvae. White-breasted Nuthatches and other birds search the tree wounds and bark for larvae and over-wintering hibernators.

The most common parasitoid eating the moth larvae is a tiny ichneumon wasp. Parasitoids are different from parasites in that they kill their prey. They feed inside the caterpillar on non-vital tissues at first and later eat vital organs causing death. A true parasite does not kill its host. A mosquito is a good example of a parasite on us.

Crab spiders species were found preying on the moths. A beetle, nematode roundworms, fungi, and ants are important natural controls. Many natural control species await discovery. Often when pesticides are used, the natural control species are more severely reduced than the pest species because they are not as abundant. The pest species is then able to reproduce more rapidly in the absence of natural controls and create increased economic harm.

Two things that would help keep cherries on our tables would be to reduce the mechanical damage to tree bark by tree shaker machines and to maintain natural biodiversity so native species are able to continue their ecological role in the food web. One might think it would have minor impact for politicians to prevent scientists and land managers from using best practices to maintain biodiversity but their action can be devastating. Details about the biological control of the American Plum Borer can be found in a scientific paper written by David Biddinger and Tim Leslie in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of The Great Lakes Entomologist journal.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. 616-696-1753.

 

 

 

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Celebrate the New Year 

The Easter Redbud is one of the free trees you receive for joining the Arbor Day Foundation. Photo courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation.

The Easter Redbud is one of the free trees you receive for joining the Arbor Day Foundation. Photo courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation.

With 10 free flowering frees from the Arbor Day Foundation

 

Residents of Michigan can ring in the New Year with 10 free flowering trees by joining the Arbor Day Foundation any time during January 2015.

By becoming a part of the nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation, new members will receive two Sargent crabapples, three American redbuds, two Washington hawthorns, and three white flowering dogwoods.

“These beautiful trees will give your home in Michigan lovely flowers with pink, yellow and white colors,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “These trees are perfect for large and small spaces, and they will provide food and habitat for songbirds.”

The free trees are part of the Foundation’s Trees for America campaign.

The trees will be shipped postpaid at the right time for planting, between February 1 and May 31, with enclosed planting instructions. The 6- to 12-inch tall trees are guaranteed to grow or they will be replaced free of charge.

Members will also receive a subscription to the Foundation’s bimonthly publication, Arbor Day, and The Tree Book, which includes information about tree planting and care.

To become a member of the Foundation and to receive the free trees, send a $10 contribution to: Ten Free Flowering Trees, Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, NE 68410, by January 31, 2015. Michigan residents can also join online at arborday.org/january.

 

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Annual Christmas Bird Count

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Join others for the Christmas Bird Count on 3 Jan 2015. Experienced birders will help identify about 60 species during the National Audubon, Michigan Audubon, and Grand Rapids Audubon Club sponsored Christmas Bird Count. Meet at the Wittenbach/Wege Agri-science and Environmental Education Center (WWC) across the road from Lowell High School.

We assemble at 7:30 a.m. and are searching various count circle sections by 8 a.m. Spend the morning or the whole day. There is no charge to participate but the National Audubon welcomes an optional donations. A lunch will also be provided for $5 for those that desire or people can brown bag their lunch.

This is my 28th year coordinating the Kent County event. Plan to discover birds in their winter nature niches and celebrate the diversity of life that abounds during the winter. About 60 people gather and divide into small groups to explore various areas with section leaders. The count area has a 7.5-mile radius surrounding the Honey Creek and Two Mile Roads intersection.

It is a mystery what species will arrive to compliment our regular winter residents. Some people are surprised that American Robins and Eastern Bluebirds are regulars each winter. Their primary winter diet is berries found in wetlands. Birds from more northern areas might arrive if food is scarce farther north or if weather is particularly harsh. Other species like the Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, and Song Sparrow might linger here instead of heading south if winter conditions are mild. Many species of waterfowl will be expected on open water.

The Grand Rapids Audubon Club and WWC invite families for this free family event for part or all day. Previous bird knowledge or experience is not necessary. To enhance a great birding experience we carpool. The WWC is located at 11715 Vergennes Rd across the street from Lowell High School. The co-sponsoring WWC has a great facility where you will see many live mounts of birds displayed. The hiking trails are open for hiking every day of the year. We hope to see you on January 3, 2015.

Come dressed in layers that can be removed or added as temperature changes. We are in and out of cars at many locations. Bring binoculars and bird books if you have them. People will share if you do not. Call me ahead of time with questions or just show up on count day.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. 616-696-1753.

 

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Weekly fishing tip

OUT-muskellungeGetting too cold to catch muskellunge? Never!

Everyone knows muskellunge are a difficult species to catch, but as the temperatures cool does it get even harder to find them? Not so according to some anglers!

In the fall many anglers use larger lures and slow the speed of their presentations. They will often search for them in shallower and warmer water and take advantage of this fish’s larger appetite that comes prior to winter’s arrival.

Want even more insight on targeting muskellunge – during all times of year? Check out their page on the Michigan Fish and How to Catch Them website.

This tip was adapted from Michigan Outdoor News.

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Federal court order returns wolves to endangered species list

The gray wolf. Photo from the Encyclopedia Britannica online (Britannica.com)

The gray wolf. Photo from the Encyclopedia Britannica online (Britannica.com)

Ruling suspends Michigan’s lethal control laws and permits

A federal court judge has ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately return wolves in the Great Lakes region to the federal endangered species list, making it illegal for Michigan citizens to kill wolves attacking livestock or dogs.

Under endangered species status, wolves may be killed only in the immediate defense of human life.

Two state laws allowing livestock or dog owners to kill wolves in the act of depredation were suspended by the ruling.

Additionally, lethal control permits previously issued by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to livestock farmers to address ongoing conflicts with wolves are no longer valid; permit holders have been contacted regarding this change.

The return to federal endangered species status also means DNR wildlife and law enforcement officials no longer have the authority to use lethal control methods to manage wolf conflict.

However, non-lethal methods—such as flagging, fencing, flashing lights and guard animals—may still be used and are encouraged. Compensation for livestock lost to wolves continues to be available through the DNR and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Citizens in need of assistance with problem wolves should contact their local DNR wildlife biologist or DNR wolf program coordinator Kevin Swanson at 906-228-6561.
Friday’s federal court order came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to remove wolves in the Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment from the federal endangered species list in January 2012. The ruling affects wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“The federal court decision is surprising and disappointing,” said Russ Mason, DNR Wildlife Division Chief. “Wolves in Michigan have exceeded recovery goals for 15 years and have no business being on the endangered species list, which is designed to help fragile populations recover, not to halt the use of effective wildlife management techniques.”
The DNR will work closely with the Michigan Attorney General’s office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine the full impact of this ruling on the state’s wolf management program and identify next steps.

“In the meantime, the Wildlife Division will continue updating the state’s wolf management plan, which includes the use of hunting and other forms of lethal control to minimize conflict with wolves,” Mason said. “Although the federal court’s ruling prevents the use of these management tools for the time-being, the Department will be prepared for any future changes that would return wolves to state management authority.”

For more information about Michigan’s wolf population and management plan, visit www.michigan.gov/wolves.

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DNR’s fire program celebrates 100 years

Historical photo depicts a pull-behind water unit connected to hand lines for fire suppression.



Historical photo depicts a pull-behind water unit connected to hand lines for fire suppression.

Historically, it’s the years with the large wildfires that garner the most public attention. For example, in 2012—the year of the Duck Lake fire—497 fires burned 23,814 acres.

In 2014, Michigan set a new record when it came to wildfires—a record low. This past fire season, 167 fires burned 550 acres across the state.
“The record low numbers for wildfires can be attributed to damp weather conditions,” said Paul Kollmeyer, who oversees the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ wildfire suppression and prevention efforts.
In addition to the wet weather conditions keeping fire numbers low, Kollmeyer said the DNR’s work to spread fire prevention messages has been key in helping to reduce the number of wildfires caused by people.

DNR fire tower near Arnold, Mich., circa 1965.

DNR fire tower near Arnold, Mich., circa 1965.

“Nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by people,” he said. “Our strategy has always been to get an educational prevention message out to folks of all ages. Through our efforts most people now take extra steps to be careful with fire. They also understand that they need to check if the DNR is issuing burn permits before they burn leaves and yard debris.”
Spreading the fire prevention message across the state requires a lot of boots on the ground at schools, parades, fairs and other events. The DNR has 68 fire officers deployed at 48 stations across the state who, in addition to suppressing wildfires on public and private land, join their friend Smokey Bear to remind folks to be careful with fire.
“Fire officers are required to have diverse job skills,” Kollmeyer said. “They might be interacting with elementary school kids one day and building a firebreak the next day. Their jobs require a lot of specialized training. It’s a job that has evolved a lot over the past 100 years.”

The historic low number of wildfires corresponds to another historic event in Michigan: 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of William J. Pearson being appointed as the state’s first full-time forest fire officer. Pearson developed the state’s fire control organization, starting with the aid of a few game, fish and forest wardens and some part-time assistance from a handful of temporary patrolmen, lookouts and fire wardens.
He also developed a system of lookout towers and telephone lines for spotting and reporting fires. These tools and techniques gradually evolved into the fire suppression organization the DNR has today.

Prior to 1914, forest fire suppression and prevention was handled by the timber industry, funded by a fee assessed on their ownership acreage paid to the Northern Forest Protective Association. By 1907, the Legislature authorized the employment of “not more than 10 district deputy game, fish and forestry wardens to employ firefighters, impress labor and enforce the fire laws.” But it was the appointment of Pearson in 1914 that really got the ball rolling. That year, there were 935 fires reported that burned 408,765 acres. The private fire associations began to fall by the wayside as the state stepped up fire prevention and suppression efforts. Tactics for fighting fires began to change at that time, too. When World War I began in 1914, horses were still being used to haul cannons and other heavy equipment; by the end of the war, tanks and other mechanized equipment had proved their value in navigating difficult terrain and began to be incorporated into firefighting tactics replacing horse drawn plows, axes and shovels. This was a turning point in the way Michigan battled wildfires back then and mechanized firefighting remains the most efficient means to combat wildfires today.

“The reason we don’t have million-acre fires anymore like we did in the 1800s is because we have mechanization and a road system to quickly respond with off-road firefighting equipment operated by skilled fire officers,” Kollmeyer said. But it didn’t happen overnight. In 1923, 1,336 fires burned 466,474 acres. Two years later, 3,887 fires consumed 733,750 acres. And in 1930, there were 4,690 fires reported, burning 290,300 acres. But gradually, both the number of fires and the destruction they wreaked were reduced.

A big change occurred in 1944, when Smokey Bear was adopted in a national campaign to engage the public in fire prevention.
“We still message with Smokey’s help, even after 70 years,” Kollmeyer said. “Our fire program is not just about fighting fires, it’s about preventing fires, too. People have changed and their mindset has changed.”
But the mission of fire officers hasn’t. “Fire officers were originally hired for prevention and coordination,” he said. “That hasn’t changed.”

Prescribed fire designed to enhance wildlife habitat or reduce hazardous and invasive vegetation has become a large portion of a fire officer’s duties in recent years.
“This year in Michigan, there were more acres of beneficial prescribed burn treatments than what we responded to for wildfires,” Kollmeyer said. “We conducted 105 burns for 10,488 acres to enhance wildlife habitat, improve forest regeneration, to control invasive plants and to reduce the risk of wildfires.”

When not actively suppressing fires, fire officers spend a lot of time training—maintaining their skills as well as developing new ones. “We cooperatively train rural fire departments in wildfire fighting techniques, maintain equipment and assist with the development of new equipment,” explained Dana Pelton, a DNR forest fire officer supervisor in Gaylord. “Additionally, we write plans outlining parameters that will provide the desired results for upcoming prescribed burns.”
Fire officers will also assist with other forestry activities—marking timber for sale, treating diseases and removing hazardous trees (such as at Belle Isle in Detroit this year), she said. A background in forestry is helpful for fire officers, but it isn’t the only attribute the DNR looks for when recruiting. Ability to communicate with the public, make presentations and mechanical aptitude all come into play.

“It’s a multi-faceted job,” Pelton said. “There’s a lot more to it than just driving around a fire truck.”
And, of course, fire officers will continue to work on enlightening the public to the dangers of wildfires. “You never know about the fire you prevented, but that’s the way we like it,” Pelton said. “And for those that aren’t prevented—we’ll be ready.”

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DNR officers seek info on Baraga County moose poaching

 

Conservation officers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources are seeking information regarding the illegal killing of a bull moose that occurred in late November in Baraga County.

The moose carcass was discovered on Saturday, Dec. 13. Based on evidence collected at the site, officers believe the moose was killed in late November along Heart Lake Road near Petticoat Lake Road in the Three Lakes area. Logging is occurring along the road and road hunting violations have been reported in the area, according to officers involved in the investigation.

A cash reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible. Anyone with information related to this case, or any other fish, game or natural resources violation, is asked to call the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800; the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division at the Marquette Customer Service Center at 906-228-6561; or may report the information online at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers. Information may be left anonymously.

Michigan currently does not have a moose hunting season, and moose are protected under state law. Penalties for poaching a moose include up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, restitution of $1,500, and a mandatory loss of all hunting privileges for four years.

For more information about the Upper Peninsula’s moose population, visit www.michigan.gov/moose.

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