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Tag Archive | "Department of Natural Resources"

Wildlife officials ask hunters to help  eliminate chronic wasting disease 

DNR wildlife pathologist Tom Cooley and Julie Melotti test deer at the MSU Wildlife Disease Lab as a result of a CWD-positive deer found in Meridian Township./

DNR wildlife pathologist Tom Cooley and Julie Melotti test deer at the MSU Wildlife Disease Lab as a result of a CWD-positive deer found in Meridian Township./

From the Michigan DNR

The 2015 Michigan deer season is the first being conducted following a finding of chronic wasting disease in a free-ranging deer in Michigan. The disease was first detected in an Ingham County white-tailed deer this past spring.

Wildlife officials are optimistic, however, that CWD can be eliminated in Michigan and are asking for hunters’ assistance.

So far, public response has been “overwhelmingly positive,” said Chad Stewart, the Department of Natural Resources deer and elk specialist.

“Most people right now are on board with what we are doing,” he said. “They seem to understand the regulatory changes we’ve made. Not everyone likes them, but they understand them.”

DNR summer interns Anthony Klein and Kurt Wolf collect deer carcasses along I-69 and U.S. 127 in Dewitt Township, Clinton County.

DNR summer interns Anthony Klein and Kurt Wolf collect deer carcasses along I-69 and U.S. 127 in Dewitt Township, Clinton County.

In April, Meridian Township police dispatched a 6-year-old female deer that was exhibiting signs of neurologicaldisease. An initial screening at the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Disease Laboratory identified the deer as a CWD suspect. Soon, the National Veterinary Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the DNR’s suspicion: Michigan became the latest state to have found CWD in its free-ranging deer herd.

CWD is a type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The disease is an always fatal affliction for cervids—deer, elk and moose—that attacks the brain, causing lesions, which leads to emaciation, loss of fear of humans, loss of body control, drooling and, ultimately, death. It is not caused by bacteria or virus but by prions, which are mutated proteins. It is spread by animal-to-animal contact with saliva, urine, feces, blood or infected soil. There is no treatment for CWD in deer. The ailment has never been shown to cause illness in humans. For more than two decades, CWD has been present in free-ranging populations of mule deer and elk in Colorado. During this time, there has been no known occurrence of a human contracting any disease from eating CWD-infected meat.

Because of the occurrence of CWD in other states, the Michigan DNR has been vigilant about testing for the disease. Since 1998, tens of thousands of free-ranging deer have been tested in the state. The Meridian Township deer marked the second time CWD was identified in Michigan. In 2008, a single deer was found to be CWD-positive in a captive cervid facility in Kent County.

With the most recent finding, the DNR immediately instituted a policy that called for reducing deer numbers in the area of the infected deer and testing all deer—those taken by federal animal damage control officials as well as road kills—from the area for CWD.

In July, a 2-year-old buck found less than a mile from the initial CWD-positive female tested positive. In August, a 5-year-old CWD-positive female was found in close proximity to the other two. Genetic testing showed all three positives were related. Finding deer with CWD within the same extended family is not uncommon.

Wildlife officials are encouraged that so few additional CWD-infected animals have been found and that those found were closely related.

“When we found the first one, we didn’t know what we would find,” Stewart said. “Given that that deer was symptomatic—it obviously had the disease for some time—we expected to find additional animals. It’s encouraging that the ones we’re picking up are from the same family group and relatively close to where we found her. But we still have a long road ahead of us.”

Last week, a suspect positive deer was found in DeWitt Township, which is still pending final testing.

Prior to deer season, the DNR established a CWD Management Zone consisting of Ingham, Clinton and Shiawassee counties, as well as a nine-township Core CWD Area (also known as Deer Management Unit 333). The nine townships—Lansing, Meridian, Williamstown, Delhi, Alaiedon and Wheatfield in Ingham County; DeWitt and Bath in Clinton County; and Woodhull in Shiawassee County—have stringent regulations relating to possession of deer.

It is illegal to salvage a deer killed by a motor vehicle, and no rehabilitation of deer will be allowed within DMU 333. Hunters who shoot deer in the core area are required to bring the entire carcass to one of three DNR check stations within 72 hours. The DNR will retain the head for testing; if it’s a trophy-caliber animal, the DNR will work with the hunter to make sure the trophy is not marred but the necessary tissue is made available for testing.

Once the deer has been checked, it may be processed. All leftover parts should be disposed of in the garbage, a landfill, or the dumpster provided by the DNR at check stations.

Negative test results will be posted online at www.michigan.gov/dnrlab within a week after the head has been submitted for testing.  Hunters with deer that test positive will be notified by telephone. And although human health effects have not been documented for people eating CWD-infected deer, the DNR recommends that only healthy animals be consumed.

Hunters are reminded that there is no baiting or feeding of deer allowed in the three-county CWD Management Zone. Nose-to-nose contact of deer can spread the disease. Hunters who travel out of state to hunt deer, elk or moose are reminded that there are restrictions on bringing carcasses back from states or provinces where CWD has been found. Only deboned meat, antlers, hides and skullcaps that have been cleaned of all brain or muscle material may be brought into Michigan.

Any hunter who has been notified by out-of-state authorities that a deer, elk or moose they brought into Michigan tested positive for CWD must contact the DNR’s Wildlife Disease Lab within two business days and provide details. The DNR can dispose of any meat from a CWD-infected animal.

Extensive testing of deer from the CWD-infected area is ongoing. As of Nov. 13, of the 1,403 deer tested in DMU 333—and another 337 in the three-county area—only three have been determined to have chronic wasting disease, with a fourth suspect positive waiting final testing.

All 141 tested from other counties have been negative. Hunters who harvest deer outside DMU 333 and are concerned about CWD may submit their deer for testing at any DNR check station. (A list of check stations is available at www.michigan.gov/deer).

For more information on CWD in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/cwd.

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Be an ethical hunter: buy a license before you go out 

OUT-deerAnd don’t loan kill tags

From the Michigan DNR

Conservation officers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources urge deer hunters to engage in an ethical hunt: buy a license before going out and don’t loan kill tags.

Every deer hunting season, DNR conservation officers encounter individuals engaged in unethical hunting practices and tackle many cases of individuals buying a hunting license after harvesting a deer or loaning kill tags to a friend or relative.

“Each year, we see cases of individuals waiting to buy licenses until after they have shot a deer,” said Dean Molnar, assistant chief of the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. “We remind all hunters that you must buy your license before you go out to hunt and have it in your possession when afield. Buying a license is not only the ethical and responsible thing to do, it is the law. Harvesting a deer without a license is poaching.”

Deer poaching in Michigan carries a restitution payment of $1,000 per deer, a $200 to $1,000 fine and jail time up to 90 days. In addition, a violator’s hunting privileges are suspended for three years. Under the new law that took effect last year, antlered deer are assessed an additional $1,000 in restitution plus the standard $1,000 for illegally killing any deer. In addition, deer with eight points but not more than 10 are $500 a point, while deer with 11 points or more are assessed a penalty of $750 per point.

Additional years of hunting privileges will be revoked for violators, depending on the number of points on the illegally harvested deer. Michigan also participates in the Wildlife Violator Compact, which includes hunting revocation in participating states.

Another unethical practice encountered frequently each hunting season in Michigan is the loaning of kill tags to an unlicensed individual who has harvested a deer.

“Loaning kill tags is among the top violations we see while on patrol, and is often done for friends or relatives who are from out of state to avoid paying the nonresident license fee,” said Molnar. “Kill tags must be validated and attached immediately to your harvested deer and visible for inspection. It is unlawful to loan out or borrow kill tags.”

For more information on deer hunting in Michigan, go to www.michigan.gov/deer.

To report a natural resource violation, please call the Report all Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/rap.

Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. To learn more about the work of conservation officers, visit www.michigan.gov/conservationofficer.

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Pheasant season offers growing opportunities for hunters


With pheasant hunting just under way, the Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters that there are a growing number of opportunities to take part in this treasured Michigan tradition.

Pheasant hunting season runs Oct. 10-31 in the Upper Peninsula in Menominee County and portions of Iron, Marquette, Dickinson and Delta counties; Oct. 20-Nov. 14 in the Lower Peninsula; and Dec. 1-Jan. 1 in selected areas of Zone 3 in the southern Lower Peninsula. The bag limit is two male pheasants daily, with four in possession. A base license is required to hunt pheasants.

“A few years ago Outdoor Life magazine rated Michigan’s Thumb among the top 10 places in the country to go pheasant hunting, which points to the fact that pheasant hunting is still alive and well in our state,” said Al Stewart, DNR upland game bird specialist. “The DNR and our partners are making progress toward creating more quality pheasant hunting opportunities with the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative, a collaborative effort to revitalize Michigan pheasants.”

The Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative aims to create small-game hunting opportunities, increase wildlife populations, improve hunter satisfaction and help Michigan’s economy. Landowners can get involved – and can get technical and financial assistance—by forming cooperatives to create and enhance pheasant habitat.

“It has been exciting to see what the MPRI coalition of partners has been doing over the last few years to improve pheasant habitat, pheasant numbers and pheasant hunting in southern Michigan,” said Bill Vander Zouwen, Pheasants Forever representative and Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative Coalition co-chair. “For example, the DNR bought 917 acres and improved thousands of acres on state game areas, Pheasants Forever provided 75,000 acres of habitat, the U.S. Department of Agriculture farm programs provided nearly 100,000 acres of habitat, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helped landowners improve close to 3,000 acres. I am really looking forward to seeing what the next five years will bring.”

The best counties for pheasant hunting are in south-central Michigan to mid-Michigan and into the Thumb. There are some localized concentrations of birds elsewhere, based on habitat availability. Stewart advises hunters to look for warm-season grasses, especially idled farm fields. Late-season hunters can have success in cattails and shrub lands adjoining picked agricultural fields.

Hunters may be interested in the recently published 2015 Michigan Ring-Necked Pheasant Status Report. The report, along with more information on pheasant hunting and the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative, can be found at mi.gov/pheasant.

The DNR asks hunters to help monitor pheasants and quail in Michigan by becoming a “hunter cooperator” and filling out a survey form, which provides important information about the status of these game birds. The form should be returned by Oct. 28 for the early season, and by Jan. 5 for the regular season.

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Help DNR find tagged small mouth bass

The DNR is looking for information on tagged smallmouth bass anglers catch on Lake Michigan (similar to the one pictured here).

The DNR is looking for information on tagged smallmouth bass anglers catch on Lake Michigan (similar to the one pictured here).

The Department of Natural Resources is requesting help from anglers in an ongoing study of smallmouth bass in northern Lake Michigan.

Central Michigan University (CMU) and the DNR have been tagging smallmouth bass in the Beaver Island Archipelago since 2005, at Waugoshance Point (Wilderness State Park) since 2009, and in parts of Grand Traverse Bays since 2014. Anglers are asked to report the whereabouts of these tagged smallmouth bass by providing information on capture, capture location and tag number to the DNR via michigandnr.com/taggedfish/tags. If anglers release tagged fish, please do not remove the tag and just report the requested information on the website as indicated.

“Northern Lake Michigan is recognized as one of the top bass fishing destinations in the country, and tagging studies help to provide the scientific basis for management of this world-class fishery,” said Dave Clapp, Charlevoix Fisheries Research Station manager. “Thanks to the efforts of many contributing anglers who’ve reported information on captured smallmouth bass, we have greatly expanded our knowledge of the northern Lake Michigan fishery.”

Since 2005, more than 7,000 smallmouth bass have been caught, tagged and released back into Lake Michigan. Each smallmouth bass has a unique number on its tag, allowing for the tracking of its individual movement and growth. Returns of tagged smallmouth bass have provided insights into movement and nesting habitat within the Great Lakes.

These studies also have demonstrated that smallmouth bass have increased in size and number, compared to 20 or 30 years ago. Smallmouth bass in northern Lake Michigan are among the fastest-growing of this species in North America. Ongoing support from anglers allows the DNR and CMU to continue to expand their knowledge of Great Lakes smallmouth bass populations and fisheries.

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DNR urges caution when using fireworks 

To help prevent wildfires, the Department of Natural Resources urges people to place used fireworks, including sparklers, in a bucket of water after they’ve gone out. When thrown on the ground while they’re still hot, fireworks can cause grass fires that can spread to become wildfires. 

To help prevent wildfires, the Department of Natural Resources urges people to place used fireworks, including sparklers, in a bucket of water after they’ve gone out. When thrown on the ground while they’re still hot, fireworks can cause grass fires that can spread to become wildfires.

Warm weather and family gatherings can make the Fourth of July a fun time with great memories. But before you celebrate, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is asking residents and visitors to make sure they understand the importance of fireworks and campfire safety.

“With folks filling state parks, campgrounds and backyards to celebrate the Fourth of July, it’s vital that precautions are taken prior to lighting campfires and setting off fireworks,” said Dan Laux, DNR fire prevention specialist. “You can have fun while celebrating with friends and family, even if you’re being safe and making sure your property and our natural resources are protected. The best way to avoid the risk of starting a wildfire this holiday weekend is to attend public fireworks displays and leave the lighting to the professionals.”
The National Fire Protection Association estimates that local fire departments respond to an average of 19,700 fires caused by fireworks each year. For those planning to use fireworks, the DNR suggests keeping these safety tips in mind:

  • Sparklers can reach 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to melt gold. Always place sparklers in a bucket of water when they have gone out; when thrown on the ground, they can cause grass fires.
  • Point fireworks away from homes and keep them away from brush, grass and leaves.
  • Chinese lanterns can stay airborne for 20 minutes and reach heights up to 1 mile high before coming down in unplanned locations. The open flame has the potential to start fires.
  • Soak all fireworks in water before throwing them in the trash.
  • Laux said that in addition to fireworks safety, people should keep the following things in mind when enjoying their campfires:
  • Use fire rings in nonflammable areas when possible.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended.
  • Keep a water source and shovel nearby.
  • Place roasting sticks in a bucket of water when not in use.
  • Completely extinguish fires before turning in for the night. Douse with water, stir and douse again to make sure no embers are left.

“Fireworks and campfires are a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July, but you’ll enjoy the holidays much more knowing that your family and your property are safe,” Laux said. “Fire prevention is everyone’s responsibility.”
For more fire prevention information and safety tips, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.

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DNR’s annual frog survey marks 20th year


The Department of Natural Resources announced this week that its 20th annual statewide Frog and Toad Survey would begin this spring. Michigan’s survey is second only to Wisconsin’s in longevity.

The DNR Wildlife Division coordinates and analyzes data for the survey, while volunteers throughout the state conduct the field work for the survey. These annual survey efforts help biologists monitor frog and toad abundance and distribution in the state.

“We have collected a large, valuable data set to help us evaluate Michigan’s frog and toad populations,” said Lori Sargent, the DNR’s survey coordinator. “We’re now able to start watching trends and thinking about how to slow down some of the species’ declines.”

For example, Sargent pointed out that over the past 19 years Michigan has seen a decline in Fowler’s toads and mink frogs, two species that have a limited range in the state, unlike most of the other species that occur statewide.

Declining populations of frogs, toads and other amphibians have been documented worldwide since the 1980s. Studies suggest amphibians are disappearing due to habitat loss, pollution, disease and collection.

Volunteer observers conduct the surveys along a statewide system of permanent survey routes, each consisting of 10 wetland sites. Observers visit these sites three times during spring, when frogs and toads are actively breeding, listening for calling frogs and toads at each site, identifying the species present and making an estimate of abundance.

“We could still use some new volunteers in all parts of the state,” Sargent said. “Please consider joining us for a fun, educational time every spring and adopt a route. The continued success of the program is dependent on strong volunteer support.”

Those interested in volunteering should contact Lori Sargent at SargentL@michigan.gov or 517-284-6216 and provide their name and address.

More information on the Frog and Toad Survey and other projects supported by the Nongame Wildlife Fund is available at www.michigan.gov/wildlife.

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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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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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Firearm deer harvest down from last year

The 2014 firearm deer season wrapped up Nov. 30, and challenging conditions and lower deer numbers in some areas likely have led to fewer deer being taken this year. Each year the Department of Natural Resources generates preliminary estimates of the firearm deer harvest shortly after the season closes. Those estimates are later replaced by a rigorous assessment of harvest and participation over all deer seasons using an annual hunter mail survey.

The 2014 firearm deer season harvest appears to have decreased in all regions this year, but particularly in the Upper Peninsula. Experiences can differ widely within regions. DNR biologists estimate that, compared to 2013, the harvest was down approximately 30 to 40 percent across the Upper Peninsula, decreased perhaps as much as 10 percent in the northern Lower Peninsula, and was down about 5 percent in the southern Lower Peninsula.

Deer populations in the Upper Peninsula are down after two severe past winters. The DNR significantly reduced antlerless quotas prior to this season and has invested in habitat improvement and research assessing the role of predators, habitat and weather conditions in driving U.P. deer abundance. The 2014 deer season forecast indicated hunters should expect to see fewer deer in the region, and some locations also saw more than 40 inches of snow accumulation before the firearm season opened, making hunting access challenging and driving deer to migrate out of such areas earlier than normal.

“The number of deer brought to our check stations declined as much as 60 percent in some locations, though hunter success was somewhat better in areas with higher deer densities,” noted Upper Peninsula Regional Supervisor Terry Minzey. “Winter severity has moderated since then, but we’ll continue to monitor conditions and regional deer populations through the months to come.”

Deer harvest did not decline so dramatically in the Lower Peninsula. “The tough winter last year did not impact deer populations below the bridge as it did in the Upper Peninsula,” noted Ashley Autenrieth, Wildlife Division deer biologist for the northern regions. “But reduced antler size this season indicated deer condition was affected.”

Concentrations of standing corn that provide secure cover for deer contributed to adverse hunting conditions in some locations. Brent Rudolph, Wildlife Division research specialist, also shared that “department research in one southern Michigan study area indicates deer numbers are still only slowly rebounding following an extensive outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease several summers ago.” The research project is being conducted in collaboration with Michigan State University, with assistance from many hunter volunteers, and also has received financial support from Safari Club International.

Rudolph also stressed the importance of cooperation with Michigan’s hunter harvest survey, what he called “a vital tool for Michigan’s deer program, and another important way in which data provided by hunters contributes to our information base.”

Hunters who do not receive a survey in the mail but who wish to provide their hunting and harvest information may visit www.michigan.gov/deer and select the “Complete a Deer Harvest Survey Online” link. Hunters should only provide this information once they have completed all of their 2014 deer hunting activities.

For more information about hunting opportunities or deer management in Michigan, go online to www.michigan.gov/hunting or www.michigan.gov/deer.

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Do not move firewood between state parks 

Lethal tree infection caused by transport of firewood


Oak wilt outbreaks are increasing in Michigan and the Department of Natural Resources has conducted treatment at several state parks to halt the spread of the disease.

Oak wilt is an introduced disease that causes rapid death of infected trees. The fungus is easily transported by beetles from infected wood to nearby wounded trees. Trees cannot be cured of oak wilt, and once a tree is infected the disease can rapidly spread to neighboring trees through underground root graft connections. The loss of large numbers of oak trees in parks can be dramatic, both for the park visitor experience and the ecology of the natural habitat.

“The likely cause of the oak wilt outbreak at Michigan state parks is the movement of infected firewood into campgrounds,” said DNR natural resources steward Heidi Frei. “Campers and other park visitors can help prevent the spread of the oak wilt fungus by not moving firewood between campgrounds.”

DNR Parks and Recreation Division staff has been working the last several years to stop the spread of oak wilt at Michigan state parks throughout the state, including P.J. Hoffmaster, Otsego Lake, Interlochen, Warren Dunes and Hartwick Pines state parks; and Fort Custer, Rifle River, Waterloo, Brighton, Pinckney and Island Lake recreation areas.

Treatments in 2014 included using a vibratory plow fitted with a special blade (designed and fabricated at the DNR’s Forest Fire Experiment Station in Roscommon) that severs grafted tree roots, isolating healthy trees from infected trees. Treatment also included the application of fungistats, which inhibit the growth and reproduction of fungi, and which have been used in areas declared critical dune habitat.
“If left unchecked,” Frei said, “oak wilt will continue to spread and result in large pockets of standing dead oak trees, which may be hazardous to park visitors.” Some parks, such as P.J. Hoffmaster, have experienced considerable losses. More than 100 large red oaks, including the most picturesque grove of red oaks in the campground, have been killed by oak wilt.
For more information on oak wilt prevention and stewardship, visit www.michigan.gov/foresthealth or contact Heidi Frei at 517-202-1360 or freih@michigan.gov.

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