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Tag Archive | "DNR"

Tips for a safe, enjoyable hunting season


As the Nov. 15 firearm deer season opener nears, Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers encourage hunters to brush up on safety tips and hunting regulations to ensure a safe, enjoyable experience.

“Firearm deer season is a special time of year in Michigan,” Cpl. Dave Painter said. “It brings family and friends together in celebration of our state’s great outdoor heritage. Staying safe, knowing the laws and being good stewards of our resources will help hunters have a memorable outing.”

Painter reminds hunters that a mandatory deer check is in place within certain areas of the state due to the confirmation of chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurological disease found in deer, elk and moose. Hunters harvesting a deer in these CWD areas must bring it to a DNR check station within 72 hours. Visit mi.gov/deercheck for a map and list of check stations.

Regardless of where deer are harvested in Michigan, the DNR encourages all hunters to voluntarily take them to the nearest check station to help with disease surveillance. In addition, big-game hunters who travel outside of Michigan should be aware of new regulations restricting the importation of harvested cervids. 

Painter also offered the following general safety tips:

  • Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
  • Keep your finger away from the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you are ready to fire.
  • Keep the safety on until you are ready to fire.
  • Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
  • Be certain of your target, and what’s beyond it, before firing.
  • Know the identifying features of the game you hunt.
  • Make sure you have an adequate backstop. Don’t shoot at a flat, hard surface or water.
  • Unload the firearm before running, climbing a fence or tree, or jumping a ditch.
  • Wear a safety harness when hunting from an elevated platform.  Use a haul line to bring the unloaded firearm up and down the raised platform.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages or behavior-altering medicines or drugs before or during a hunt.
  • Always wear a hat, cap, vest or jacket of hunter orange, visible from all sides, during daylight hunting hours, even if hunting on private land. The law also applies to archery hunters during firearm season.
  • Make sure at least 50 percent of any camouflage pattern being worn is in hunter orange.
  • Always let someone know where you are hunting and when you plan to return. This information helps conservation officers and others locate you if you become injured or lost.
  • Carry a cell phone into the woods. Not only does it let you call for help if necessary, but newer phones emit a signal that can help rescuers locate you. Also consider downloading a compass or flashlight app.
  • Program the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) line (800-292-7800) in your phone contacts so you can alert conservation officers to any natural resources violations you may witness.

“These are simple, common-sense tips that can help prevent accidents and save lives,” Painter said. “The DNR encourages all hunters to review the Michigan Hunting and Trapping Digest for other essential information before taking to the field.”

Michigan conservation officers are elite, highly trained professionals who serve in every corner of the state. They are fully commissioned peace offers with authority to enforce the state’s criminal laws. Learn more at  www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.

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New state record cisco caught


Michael Lemanski holding his state-record cisco (formerly known as lake herring).

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirmed last week that a new state-record had been set for the fish known as cisco (formerly known as lake herring). This marks the second state-record fish caught in 2017.

The fish was caught Friday, June 9, at 10 a.m. by Michael Lemanski of Florence, Wisconsin, on Lake Ottawa in Iron County in the western Upper Peninsula. Lemanski was still-fishing with a homemade jig. The fish weighed 6.36 pounds and measured 21.8 inches.

Jennifer Johnson, a DNR fisheries biologist in Crystal Falls, verified the record.

Robert Rogers, of Hartford, Wisconsin, set the previous state-record for cisco (lake herring) in 1992, when he caught one while trolling the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. That fish weighed 5.4 pounds and measured 25 inches.

“Although this fish was caught in June, we only recently verified it as a state record,” said Gary Whelan, the DNR’s fisheries research manager. “The reason for the delay stemmed from the fact we wanted to ensure this fish was not a hybrid between a cisco and a lake whitefish. These fish look extremely similar so we gathered DNA from the fish to test its compatibility with what we know about cisco. That test, done by Michigan State University, proved to be a match.”

State records are recognized by weight only. To qualify for a state record, fish must exceed the current listed state-record weight and identification must be verified by a DNR fisheries biologist.

To view a current list of Michigan state-record fish visit  michigan.gov/staterecordfish.

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Black bears and humans: What you should know


A sow and two black bear cubs investigate a grassy area where garbage has been left. Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

By Kevin Swanson and John Pepin

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

For many people, the opportunity to see a Michigan black bear in the wild is an amazing experience.

Black bears are Michigan’s only bear species. These animals prefer large hardwood or pine forests, intermixed with wetlands, and they can be colored black, brown or cinnamon.

Males live in areas that can be larger than 100 square miles, while females—which give birth to an average of two to three cubs every other winter—stay in smaller areas ranging from 10 to 20 square miles. Adult female black bears typically weigh 100 to 250 pounds.

Bears have sharp claws on their padded feet, used for climbing trees and searching for food, like tearing open rotted stumps and trees for insects.

Many wildlife watchers have a natural curiosity about bears, and the chance to see bears from a safe distance, especially when a sow is accompanied by cubs, often produces moments most people don’t soon forget.

Anglers, campers, hikers and others enjoying the outdoors in Michigan may also encounter a black bear. Typically, bears will run or walk away from humans if they become aware of their presence.

However, in some instances, bears do not run. In these cases, an adult male Michigan black bear—which can weigh more than 400 pounds and stand 5 feet tall—can present an imposing obstacle.

“When bears stand their ground, people should do the same thing,” said Kevin Swanson, a wildlife specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ bear and wolf program. “In these kind of encounters, you should make loud noises and back away from the bear slowly, giving the bear plenty of room to leave the area. Do not run from a black bear or play dead if one approaches.”

In rare cases, black bears can attack. If they do, fight back with a stick, a backpack, similar available items, or your bare hands. 

Fatal black bear attacks are extremely rare. According to the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota, black bears have killed 61 people across North America since 1900. Bear experts there say your chances of being killed by a domestic dog, bees, or lightning are vastly greater.

According to the Center, “Most attacks by black bears are defensive reactions to a person who is very close, which is an easy situation to avoid. Injuries from these defensive reactions are usually minor.”

In Michigan, while cases of black bear attacks—like that of a 12-year-old girl who was attacked and injured while jogging at dusk in Wexford County in 2013—remain rare, reports of bear nuisance complaints are relatively common.

DNR bear nuisance complaints in the Upper Peninsula tallied a bit over 100 for each of the past two years, down from the peak of nearly 250 in 2004.

However, in the northern Lower Peninsula, bear complaints in 2016 numbered over 200, a new record for the region. Previously, complaints had peaked in 2003 in that part of the state at more than 160.

Numerous factors affect bear complaints, including available food sources and public attitudes toward bears over time as population numbers increase.

Many black bear nuisance complaints involve encounters between humans and bears, that were prompted by human behavior.

“Black bears eat plants and animals and seek out a number of different food sources, such as sedge, juneberry, blueberry, acorns, beechnuts, and animal protein that includes insects and occasional deer fawns,” Swanson said. “Bears also have big appetites, an excellent sense of smell and can remember the locations of food sources from one year to the next.”

Problems typically occur when humans feed black bears, intentionally or unintentionally. Bears eat foods left near campsites, garbage, or foods left out for pets or wild birds.

“The best way to avoid issues with black bears is to never feed them,” said Brian Roell, a DNR wildlife biologist in Marquette. “It is very important that bears maintain their natural fear of humans. Bear problems are far more likely to occur when bears become used to finding food provided by humans.”

A DNR information flier on Michigan black bear details some helpful tips for avoiding conflicts with bears around homes and camps:

  • Never intentionally feed bears.
  • Remove potential food sources, like bird feeders, from your yard. Do not feed wild birds in the spring, summer and fall, when bears are most active.
  • Keep pet food inside or in a secured area.
  • Keep garbage and odor at a minimum by removing trash often and cleaning the can or other container used for garbage.
  • Keep garbage in a secured area or in a secured container with a metal, lockable lid until it is picked up or taken away.
  • Keep grills and picnic tables clean.
  • Bee hives (apiaries), fruit trees and gardens can be protected from bears by electric fencing.

There are additional tips for hikers and campers:

  • Keep a clean camp, limiting food odors and garbage.
  • Food and toiletries should never be kept in tents. Store these items in air-tight containers in a vehicle trunk or suspend food in burlap or plastic bags or backpacks from trees. Hang these bags or backpacks 12 feet off the ground, 10 feet away from the tree trunk and 5 feet from the nearest branch.
  • Always cook at a distance from your campsite and wash dishes and utensils shortly after eating.
  • Don’t sleep in clothes that have cooking odors or blood on them.
  • Store garbage as you would food. Burning or burying garbage attracts bears.
  • Travel in groups and make noise when hiking to avoid surprising a bear.
  • Carry bear spray.

“All of us who live and enjoy the outdoors in bear country share the responsibility of not doing things that will intentionally or unintentionally attract bears and create the potential for bear problems,” said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer. “As human and black bear populations grow in some areas, the possibility of human-bear interactions becomes more likely, making this shared responsibility even more important.”

Get more information on Michigan black bears at www.michigan.gov/bear.

See part 2 of this story in next week’s paper.

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DNR to hold town hall meeting on chronic wasting disease Wednesday in Montcalm County


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will hold a town hall meeting on chronic wasting disease Wednesday, Oct. 25, 6 to 8 p.m. in the Ash Foundation Building, located within the Montcalm County Fairgrounds at 8784 Peck Road in Greenville, Michigan.

Earlier this month, the DNR announced that a free-ranging deer in Montcalm County’s Montcalm Township tested positive for chronic wasting disease. Michigan first discovered CWD within a free-ranging deer in May 2015. Since that time, the DNR has tested more than 15,000 free-ranging deer, and 10 have tested positive for the disease.

At the meeting, Dr. Kelly Straka, DNR wildlife veterinarian, and Chad Stewart, DNR deer specialist, will provide information on the disease, its effects on deer and deer populations, and how the DNR has responded to the discovery of the disease. There will be plenty of time for questions.

The DNR hopes many hunters and concerned citizens will attend, especially those who hunt or reside in Douglass, Eureka, Fairplain, Maple Valley, Montcalm, Pine and Sidney townships in Montcalm County, and Oakfield and Spencer townships in Kent County. Local DNR staff members will be available to answer questions related to hunting in the area, including topics like mandatory deer checks, deer processing and new regulations.

“We have been receiving many phone calls from hunters,” said DNR field operations manager John Niewoonder. “We hope this meeting will help to clear up any misinformation and help hunters know the new check station locations and, in general, how they can help.”

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals.

To date, there is no evidence that chronic wasting disease presents any risk to non-cervids, including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling venison. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals. Within seven days of submitting a deer head for testing, hunters will be able to find out the test results for their deer.

Learn more about chronic wasting disease at michigan.gov/cwd

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Montcalm County deer tests positive for CWD


With archery deer hunting season underway, DNR urges all hunters to take harvested deer to area check stations

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is encouraging hunters not to feed and bait deer in Kent and Montcalm Counties after a deer taken by a youth in Montcalm Township tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. A nine-township core area is also being created within the two counties with special regulations.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed Wednesday, October 4, that a 3-1/2-year-old female deer taken during Michigan’s youth deer hunting season in September has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease.

The animal, harvested in Montcalm Township in Montcalm County, is the 10th free-ranging deer in Michigan found to have chronic wasting disease. The youth hunter who harvested the deer opted to take the animal to a Department of Natural Resources deer check station and then submitted the animal for testing—steps the DNR strongly encourages hunters across the state to take during the 2017 deer hunting seasons.

“Because this family decided to bring their deer to a DNR deer check station, state wildlife managers were able to gain important information about chronic wasting disease in mid-Michigan,” said Dr. Kelly Straka, DNR state wildlife veterinarian. “As we move through the archery and firearm seasons, voluntary deer testing will be critical not only within the currently affected areas but also throughout the south-central Lower Peninsula and the entire state.”

With Wednesday’s confirmation of chronic wasting disease in the Montcalm County deer, DNR Director Keith Creagh has signed an interim order (effective Oct. 4, 2017, through March 29, 2018) outlining next steps as governed by Michigan’s CWD Response and Surveillance Plan. The order:

  • Creates a nine-township Core Area that includes Douglass, Eureka, Fairplain, Maple Valley, Montcalm, Pine and Sidney townships in Montcalm County, and Oakfield and Spencer townships in Kent County. Within the Core Area specifically:
    • Institutes mandatory registration of deer at a check station within 5 miles of the new Core CWD Area, within 72 hours of harvest, starting Nov. 15. (Available stations currently are at Flat River State Game Area and Howard City.)
    • Removes antler point restrictions for the restricted tag of the combo deer license within the nine-township Core Area.
    • Allows antlerless deer to be tagged using the deer or deer combo license(s) during the firearm, muzzleloader and late antlerless seasons.
    • Institutes mandatory submission of the head for testing of a road-killed deer within 72 hours of pick-up.
    • Allows disease control permits, effective immediately, for landowners with five or more acres within the nine-township Core Area.
  • Bans the feeding and baiting of deer in Kent and Montcalm counties, effective Jan. 2, 2018, and encourages hunters not to bait and feed in these areas immediately.

The DNR will work with the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to make the order permanent, adjusting as needed in response to the evolving situation.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals. Susceptible animals can acquire CWD by direct exposure to these fluids, from environments contaminated with these fluids or the carcass of a diseased animal.

Some CWD-infected animals will display abnormal behaviors, progressive weight loss, and physical debilitation; however, deer can be infected for many years without showing internal or external symptoms. There is no cure; once a deer is infected with CWD, it will die.

To date, there is no evidence that CWD presents any known risk to non-cervids, including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling venison. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.

Since May 2015, the DNR has actively conducted surveillance for CWD. To date, more than 14,000 deer have been tested since the first positive case was found, with 10 cases of CWD confirmed in free-ranging white-tailed deer identified in Clinton, Ingham and (now) Montcalm counties.

As additional deer have tested positive for CWD within Michigan, the DNR has put specific regulations in place. Currently, there are two CWD Core Areas, which are deer management units (DMUs) 333 and 359. To review regulations related to those areas, visit michigan.gov/cwd.

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Michigan DNR wildfire fighters help battle western blazes


Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildland firefighters are on the scene in Montana to help with fires around the state. Michigan personnel on loan in Montana include two three-man engine crews and an incident management team. Photo by Michigan DNR firefighter Cory Mallory.

Helicopters fly over a burning hillside in Montana recently as firefighters work to control a grass fire. Two Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildland fire engines staffed by two three-man crews as well as an incident management team are in Montana now helping with fire suppression efforts. Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Surrounded by smoke, constantly watching the wind and trying to tamp down fast-moving flames, Michigan Department of Natural Resources firefighters using two specially equipped fire trucks have been helping battle grass and forest wildfires in Montana since mid-July.

They may do what firefighters call “black lining”—purposely burning a strip of grass to deprive an approaching wildfire of fuel and stop it in its tracks.

Or they may “wet line”—dousing combustible materials in the path of a fire to keep a blaze from spreading.

Or they might, during a breather from work, do what any of us would: whip out cell phones to shoot a quick video as a low-flying tanker plane releases a belly full of water over a hot spot of burning trees, brush or grass.

“Statistically, it’s the grasses that are the most dangerous. They move fast and burn quick,” said Ben Osterland, who led one of two three-man teams that drove the Michigan fire engines to Montana.

Fires have consumed more than half a million acres across Montana so far this season, and Michigan wildland firefighters are playing critical roles in helping put them out. The engines remain in Montana and a third set of crews rotated into the fire zone this week.

In mid-July, Osterland and Cory Mallory each led an engine team, driving the massive, four-wheel-drive vehicles from Michigan to Montana on a 20-hour trek at speeds that maxed out around 64 miles per hour to work long days and live under sometimes primitive conditions.

“Montana absolutely loved our people and they love our trucks,” said Lee Osterland, who also worked on an incident management team in Montana this summer. “It’s a really good opportunity to help another state out.” Michigan firefighters also are serving in Oregon and Washington state now and spent time in Arizona and British Columbia earlier this summer.

The four-wheel-drive fire vehicles are equipped with brush guards and a winch. They carry 800 gallons of water as well as a pump and two reels of hose.

When laying a wet line, the driver may drive slowly along while another firefighter walks alongside, spraying water, and the passenger sprays water from nozzles controlled from inside the cab. Then they set a fire between the wet line and the advancing fire.

“You burn the fuel in front of the fire, so you are essentially fighting fire with fire,” Mallory said.

Firefighters might stay in hotels if the blaze is close to a big-enough city, but they often camp near the site or even sleep in their trucks.

“Where I was, we slept in the dirt,” Ben Osterland said. “We were in tents every night. Some nights, we were on the night shift and we would sleep during the day, when it was the hottest.”

For several days in a row, his crew ate only prepackaged military meals; they also went 10 long days without a shower. But living conditions weren’t the hardest part, he said.

“We were away from cell phone service and you could go days without talking to anyone back home,” he said.

“At the same time, you meet a lot of great people when you’re out there. I’ve created a lot of friendships from those trips. I have met a lot of great people.”

Mallory also says the hardship is worth it, especially when you’re talking to a rancher whose cattle might go hungry if the fire spreads.

“You know you’re making a difference,” he said.

As they work in other states, Michigan firefighters gain valuable experience and earn additional certifications. For example, Mallory started his firefighting career as a key man – a temporary, on-call firefighter – during the Upper Peninsula’s Duck Lake Fire in 2012. Since then, he has worked fires in Georgia and Missouri as well and earned certifications to become a crew leader.

“I was a little nervous when I first got out there, I didn’t know what to expect,” Mallory said of being a crew leader. “But when you work with a team you can trust, it gives you peace of mind.”

The Department of Natural Resources is fully reimbursed for all costs associated with sending firefighters on out-of-state blazes. Learn more about DNR firefighting efforts at michigan.gov/firemanagement.

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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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DNR confirms presence of a cougar in Lower Peninsula


This photo was submitted to the DNR from a Haslett resident. The cougar is just behind the mailbox on the right side of the road.

Photo taken in Bath Township, Clinton County

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the presence of a cougar—also referred to as a mountain lion—in Bath Township, Clinton County. This is the first time the presence of a cougar has been verified by the DNR in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

On June 21, 2017, a Haslett resident took a photograph of an animal from his vehicle in Bath Township near the DNR’s Rose Lake State Wildlife Area. The individual reported that he spotted a large cat in his headlights as the animal attempted to cross a road. He captured the photograph as the cougar turned back from the road into an area of thick vegetation.

The picture was made available to the DNR June 26. A field investigation ensued. DNR biologist Chad Fedewa and biologists from the DNR’s Cougar Team reviewed the photo and visited the site where it was taken, determining that the animal in the photo was a cougar.

“Even with this verification, questions remain, especially regarding the origins of the animal,” said Kevin Swanson, DNR wildlife specialist and member of the agency’s Cougar Team. “There is no way for us to know if this animal is a dispersing transient from a western state, like cougars that have been genetically tested from the Upper Peninsula, or if this cat was released locally.”

Cougars originally were native to Michigan, but were extirpated from Michigan around the turn of the century. The last time a wild cougar was legally taken in the state was near Newberry in 1906. Over the past few years, numerous cougar reports have been received from various locations throughout Michigan. Until this time, all confirmed sightings or tracks have been in the Upper Peninsula. Since 2008 a total of 36 cougar sightings have been documented in Michigan’s U.P. To date, the DNR has not confirmed a breeding population of cougars in Michigan.

Cougars are protected under the state Endangered Species Act and cannot be harmed except to protect human life.

Interested landowners within the area of the recent Clinton County sighting may wish to place trail cameras on their properties. The DNR encourage citizens to submit pictures of possible sightings for verification. Observations should be reported at mi.gov/eyesinthefield. If you find physical evidence of a cougar such as scat, tracks or a carcass, do not disturb the area and keep the physical evidence intact. Please include any photos with your report.

The odds of encountering a cougar in the wild are very small, and attacks on humans are extremely rare. Should you encounter a cougar:

  • Face the animal and do not act submissive. Stand tall, wave your arms and talk in a loud voice.
  • Never run from a cougar or other large carnivore. If children are present, pick them up so they cannot run.
  • Do not crouch and get on all fours.
  • If attacked, fight back with whatever is available. DO NOT play dead.
  • Report the encounter to local authorities and the DNR as soon as possible.

To learn more about cougars, visit mi.gov/cougars.

 

 

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Back to the nest: Falcons return to Michigan bridges


DNR wildlife technician Brad Johnson examines the wing of a peregrine falcon chick after successfully attaching a leg band June 23. The bird was one of three that hatched at a nest box on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge this year. (MDOT photo) 

Peregrine falcons have returned to the Portage Lake Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock again this year—the same nesting spot, but this year with a choice between new and familiar nests.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) installed two nest boxes at the Lift Bridge in 2012—one each on the north and south bridge towers. A pair of falcons discovered the nesting site the next spring and has raised a total of 12 chicks there. But, in recent years, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has noticed the boxes were showing signs of wear. Enter some enterprising high school students.

“(DNR wildlife technician) Brad Johnson asked if we would be interested in building a pair of peregrine falcon boxes,” said Baraga Area Schools industrial arts teacher John Filpus. The idea turned into a multi-class project.

“There were a few classes that participated in the design and construction of the nest box,” Filpus said. “Our AutoCADD class worked developing a blueprint for the design of the box based on pictures of others built. Some students in Baraga’s wood shop and construction trades class built the box.”

Filpus said it took the students about a week to learn a little background about falcons and how nest boxes are built, then design the initial blueprint of the box. Building the box took an additional two weeks, with classes working one to two hours per day.

One box was deployed on March 17, just days before the nesting pair returned this spring. The second will be installed before the next nesting season. The new boxes feature tough construction, a trap door in the rear, and a roof that folds down across the front of the box to prevent chicks from falling out during banding operations.

Webcams, viewable at http://pasty.com/nestbox.html, also have been installed in cooperation with the Copper Country Audubon Club to allow people to watch potential nesting activity at both boxes.

“We went ahead and partnered with Pasty.com, an internet service provider in the area,” said Phil Quenzi of the Copper Country Audubon Club. “They provided some of the equipment. Audubon bought the cameras, and the DNR and MDOT helped us out and allowed us to put the cameras on the bridge. The feedback so far has been pretty positive. At this point we don’t have a count of the people who visit the site, but it seems like there are quite a few, locally and from elsewhere, that visit the site. And we’ve gotten a lot of good comments.”

At the other end of the Upper Peninsula, another pair of peregrine falcons successfully nested on the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge, hatching four chicks this year.

“This site has hatched 24 falcon chicks since 2010, when we put in the nest box and started counting,” said International Bridge Engineer Karl Hansen, “There were more before that but we don’t know the number.” Hansen said a falcon cam for the International Bridge is also planned.

The chicks at the International Bridge were banded by a DNR team on June 19, while the Lift Bridge birds were banded on June 23. They were also named. The Baraga AutoCADD students and MDOT employees settled on naming the Lift Bridge birds Hank, Esther, and Bridgette. In recognition of Canada’s 150th anniversary, this year’s International Bridge bird names honor Canada’s first two men and first two women in space: Marc, Roberta, Steve, and Julie.

Karen Cleveland, a wildlife biologist with the DNR, said biologists try to band as many peregrine falcon chicks as they can at nest sites in Michigan. These color-coded metal bands stay on the falcons’ legs through their entire lives and give researchers a way to find out how long they live, where they travel, and whether they are able to raise chicks of their own.

“Michigan lost its peregrine falcons in the 1960s and 1970s due to the use of DDT and other environmental contaminants,” Cleveland said. “Since conservation efforts started in the mid-1980s, the number of peregrine nests has slowly increased. Now there are about 40 falcon pairs actively trying to nest statewide, with one to two new pairs discovered most years.”

The peregrine falcon has now been removed from the federal endangered species list, but is listed as an endangered species in Michigan, protected by state and federal law. Peregrines have adapted to city habitats, nesting on tall buildings, smokestacks and bridges around the world. Studies have found the birds in this region tend not to nest in the same area where they were hatched, but spread out across the Midwest.

“The restoration of peregrine falcons to Michigan has truly been the result of the work of the DNR with multiple other partners” Cleveland said. “Whether it’s MDOT providing nest boxes on their bridges or more traditional conservation groups, like the National Park Service or Michigan Nature Association, protecting nesting sites on cliffs and ledges, their efforts have helped this species succeed.”

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Saginaw County man sentenced in illegal deer baiting case


Sugar beets are shown spread over a field where illegal baiting took place in November 2016.

A Saginaw County man was fined heavily, ordered to serve jail time, probation, and community service, and had his hunting privileges revoked when he was sentenced recently for deer hunting violations he committed during the fall 2016 firearm deer hunting season. Dexter James Sysak, 40, of Merrill, Michigan, was convicted by a District Court jury in April of multiple hunting violations, dating back to Nov. 29. He was sentenced June 21.

“Sysak had taken a dump truck of sugar beets and two dump trailers of corn and placed them on his hunting property,” said Michigan Conservation Officer Joseph Myers, who investigated the case. “The actual measure of bait was impossible to count but was estimated at two-and-a-half tons.”

Myers said conservation officers were alerted to a complaint of over use of bait via an anonymous tip to the DNR Report All Poaching hotline (800-292-7800) on Nov. 27.

The following day, officers went to the area, which turned out to be an old golf course—property owned by Sysak near the Gratiot-Saginaw county line. Myers said he found access to the site using a county road easement.

“I saw a hunting blind on the right and I could see an orange object through the trees,” Myers said. “It was a grain trailer full of corn with the door broken off and about 100 gallons of corn on the ground.”

Corn was spread over a wide area. Myers said he kicked a hard object while walking, which was a sugar beet.

“There was a 150-yard cobblestone road of sugar beets making a J-shape around the blind,” Myers said. “It looked like an individual had drove onto the property and just dumped the sugar beets out of a truck.”

With no name on the blind and no one at the site, Myers didn’t know who owned the land or the property. He decided to return the next day, Nov. 29.

“There was a truck parked there. I walked up to the blind and there were four individuals in the blind,” Myers said.

Myers said he saw Sysak pick up a hunter orange vest as Myers approached the blind.

After interviewing Sysak, Myers determined the bait, far in excessive of the 2-gallon limit, had been in the area for some time.

“Sysak also admitted to me that he had taken a 9-point buck over the illegal bait, making it an illegal deer,” Myers said. “I seized evidence and cited the suspect.”

Myers said Sysak showed him the gun he used and where he shot the deer from. He also told Myers which meat processor the deer had been taken to—a place just a couple miles down the road.

Myers contacted the processor and recovered the deer meat and antlers.

Sysak pleaded not guilty.

A jury trial was held April 28 in District Court 65B in Ithaca in Gratiot County, where Sysak was found guilty by the panel of six jurors on all three charges against him. Those misdemeanors included an over limit of bait, failing to wear hunter orange and taking a deer by an illegal method.

Myers said Sysak admitted the facts necessary to prove the case during his testimony at trial. He also admitted he had rented a dump truck to place the bait on the property.

Sysak was sentenced June 21 to serve 45 days in jail, fined roughly $15,000, including $6,500 reimbursement for the deer and ordered to serve 90 hours of community service to the DNR once his jail sentence is served. He was banned from all DNR activities during his 2-year probation term. All sport license privileges were revoked through 2022.

The meat from the deer will be given to needy families in the community.

There were extensive terms set for Sysak’s probation. If any of those terms are violated, it will be grounds for Sysak serving up to 1 year in jail and potential lifetime revoking of his hunting license privileges.

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

Learn more about Michigan conservation officers at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.

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