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Tag Archive | "DNR"

Snowmobiler drowns in Lincoln Lake



Joseph Brown died last Wednesday evening, February 13, when his snowmobile dropped into open water on Lincoln Lake. Photo from gofundme page.

An evening snowmobile ride on Lincoln Lake with a friend turned into tragedy when one of the riders drove into open water.

A 911 call came into Kent County Dispatch on February 13 at approximately 10:25 p.m. reporting a snowmobile accident on Lincoln Lake in Spencer Township. The caller reported he was on the lake on a snowmobile riding with another person who was on a separate snowmobile. The caller believed the other rider went into open water. 

Multiple fire departments along with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office responded to the area immediately. The caller was on unstable ice and was rescued by Cannon Fire Department’s hovercraft. The hovercraft was then used to search for the missing rider. The Sheriff’s Office also deployed a drone with a Forward Looking Infrared Camera to search the lake. They were not able to locate the missing rider or his snowmobile after several hours and finally called off the search. 

The search resumed at daylight on February 14. Joseph Brown, 29, of Spencer Township, was found near the bottom of the lake, not far from where his friend was rescued.

Sgt. Joel Roon said that the recovery was challenging because the water was dark, cold, and very deep—about 50-60 feet. It was near where Cedar Creek flows into Lincoln Lake. “There’s a lot of moving water under there and it’s a recipe for dangerous conditions,” he said.

Roon said it looked like Brown made an effort to get to the ice shelf because they found some of his clothing. “We believe he tried some things ice fishermen would do like shed his shoes and bulky clothing.” He noted that it looked like he made it 15-20 feet before going under. 

Roon said the snowmobile probably would not be recovered right away. He said the DNR would get involved because of the fluids in the sled, and currently it was too dangerous to try to remove it.

A gofundme account has been set up to assist with funeral expenses. Go to https://bit.ly/2GV1Qzg to donate.

A benefit is also being held this Saturday, February 23, at 3 p.m. at the Trufant hall. Dinner $5 a plate, 50/50 raffle tickets, and a live auction. Live band High Risk will be playing as well. 

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Love fishing?


Fish for free at state parks Feb. 16-17

The first of two annual Free Fishing Weekends will take place Feb. 16-17. Twice a year, residents and out-of-state visitors can enjoy two back-to-back days of free fishing fun throughout Michigan, no license needed (though all other fishing regulations apply).

From the start, state parks have been a big part of Michigan’s fishing tradition. Add a few state park stops to your itinerary while you are out enjoying some of the best world-class fishing available anywhere!

During #MiFreeFishingWeekend, the DNR also waives the regular Recreation Passport entry fee for vehicle access to state parks. Several parks will host free-fishing events perfect for the whole family.

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DNR reports weekend of deadly snowmobile crashes



A group of snowmobilers riding right in Gogebic County on a cold day during the winter of 2017-2018. Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers continued their safety and enforcement patrols last weekend, a deadly weekend that claimed the lives of five snowmobilers in a single day.

Police agencies in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula investigated the deaths Friday of two snowmobilers in Gogebic County and one each in Luce, Alger, and Kalkaska counties.

This winter, six snowmobilers have died in the U.P. and three in Lower Michigan. The statewide snowmobile fatality total for the entire winter of 2017-2018 was 15, with 10 of those fatalities occurring north of the Mackinac Bridge.

“This recent rash of deadly crashes illustrates the critical importance of snowmobile safety,” said Lt. Ryan Aho, a DNR district law supervisor in Marquette. “Many fatalities occur because of drinking and driving, high speed or carelessness, all of which are preventable actions.”

The DNR is partnering with the Michigan Snowmobile Association and others on a “Ride Right” safety campaign this winter.

In contacts with officers, public service announcements and press materials, riders are being reminded to ride on the right side of the trail, at a safe speed and sober. Snowmobilers are also being asked to anticipate, and yield to, trail groomers.

The thrust of the campaign urges riders to ride right so they can make it home safely to their families.

“There are a lot of factors that could play into the high number of fatal snowmobile crashes we’ve had during this early part of the winter,” said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer. “But whether it’s because of good snow concentrating riders in certain parts of the state, unfamiliarity with local trails or speed, recklessness or alcohol, all of these things underscore the importance of riding safely and riding right.”

DNR conservation officers were on patrol on both ends of the U.P., writing tickets and providing safety tips to riders. They had conducted similar patrols the weekend prior in Ontonagon and Houghton counties, which resulted in numerous tickets being issued and three riders jailed for driving under the influence of alcohol.

On Friday, five officers conducted a group patrol in South Range in Houghton County.

“Conservation officers talked with snowmobilers, checked registrations and trail permits, looked for equipment violations and tested snowmobiles for noise level emissions,” Aho said.

From about 100 contacts, officers issued 20 warnings to riders for improper trail permit and registration display. Eight tickets were issued, half of which were for registration violations, with the remainder for noise emissions exceeding the 88-decibel limit. One officer assisted a rider whose snowmobile caught fire a few miles north of the group patrol.

The following evening, five conservation officers patrolled as a group in Keweenaw County, on Gratiot Lake Road Trail No. 3.

In this effort, about 250 contacts were made, with 30 warnings and three tickets issued for improper trail permit or registration display. A total of 15 tickets were written, including eight for noise emission violations, two for careless operation of a snowmobile and one each for driving with a suspended license and no sled registration.

On Sunday, the patrol in the western U.P. continued in Ontonagon County, including along Lake Gogebic where two riders died Friday in a head-on crash near Lake Gogebic State Park.

Conservation officers contacted three separate groups of snowmobilers who had been ice fishing coming off Lake Gogebic. All the groups’ members had legal possession limits.

In all, officers made about 100 contacts in the patrolling effort, resulting in 10 warnings for fail to display/attach trail permits or improper registration display. Five tickets were written for registration violations, another five for failure to display or attach trail permits, two for noise violations and one for careless operation.

“Over the course of the weekend, we had 450 contacts with riders,”Aho said. “We issued 60 warnings and wrote three dozen tickets.”

On the eastern end of the U.P., cold weather and lake effect snow had limited visibility for snowmobilers, including conservation officers. Group patrols continued, though cold weather shortened some of the riding time for officers.

“Snow dust from sleds coming and going, along with blowing snow, diminished visibility on a very busy weekend for snowmobiles,” said Lt. Skip Hagy, a DNR district law supervisor in Newberry. “People drive way too fast for conditions. It showed in the personal injury and fatal accidents we had this past weekend.”

A sound meter patrol was conducted Saturday in Grand Marais in Alger County. However, no sound violation tickets were issued. Conservation officers had contact with 578 riders, with 41 verbal warnings issued, along with 16 tickets for registration and trail permit violations.

Conservation officers assisted with the fatality Friday in Luce County where a 71-year-old rider struck a tree. Two officers patrolling in the eastern U.P. Thursday had 55 contacts with riders. They issued four warnings and two tickets.

DNR safety and enforcement patrols will continue throughout the winter.

To find out more about snowmobiling in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/Snowmobiling.

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DNR welcomes new director


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced appointments for several state agencies, including Daniel Eichinger, who joins the DNR as the department’s new director.

Daniel Eichinger, 
new DNR director

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced appointments for several state agencies, including Daniel Eichinger, who joins the DNR as the department’s new director.

Eichinger most recently served as executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the nation’s most effective state-based conservation organization. In that role, he led MUCC’s return as a driving force for conservation and our outdoor heritage. Under his leadership, MUCC revamped its organizational structure, grew membership and launched new programs to connect people with nature.

From 2007 to 2012, he worked in various capacities with the Department of Natural Resources, first as legislative liaison, where he was heavily involved in passing the innovative Recreation Passport to fund state parks. Later, he helped establish the first Policy and Regulations Unit for the agency’s Wildlife Division.

Gov. Whitmer called Eichinger “a trusted leader in the conservation of Michigan’s abundant natural resources and outdoor heritage” and someone who “has the broad experience needed to bring innovative ideas and also successful implementation of conservation efforts and recreation opportunities here in the state.”

Eichinger, who holds bachelors and masters degrees in fisheries and wildlife from Michigan State University, as well as a masters of public administration, is eager to get started in this new role.

“Conservation is a team sport,” he said. “I look forward to working with our partners to continue the thoughtful stewardship of the extraordinary natural and cultural resources that so deeply define us as Michiganders.”

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Youth small game hunt in Belding Jan. 19


Looking to get your young hunter out this winter? Join us for a youth small game hunt Jan. 19 at the Flat River State Game Area in Belding.

Photo courtesy of the DNR.

This free event will be held at the Belding Sportsman’s Club, located at 10651 Youngman Road. Breakfast will start at 7:30 a.m., and lunch will also be provided. Raffle prizes will be available for youth hunters.

All parties must have at least one hunter under the age of 17. Preregistration is required before Jan. 15. Please call 616-794-2658 to save a spot.

This event wouldn’t be possible without the great partnership between the Department of Natural Resources, Mid-Michigan United Sportsmen’s Alliance, Belding Sportsman’s Club, Michigan Squirrel Dog Association and QDMA of Montcalm County.

We hope to see you there!

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Showcasing the DNR: Reflections on 2018


For the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 2018 has been busy. The DNR, with the help of many partners, has made great strides in its ongoing efforts to take care of the state’s natural and cultural resources and provide outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities.

Here are a few highlights of how the DNR spent 2018.

Brandonn Kramer poses with his state record black buffalo, taken while bowfishing on the Grand River in Ottawa County this past May. Fourteen state-record fish have been caught in Michigan in the last 10 years, pointing to the abundance and health of our fish populations. Photo by the Michigan DNR.

Providing quality outdoor recreation opportunities

The DNR continued its work to ensure excellent opportunities for hunting and fishing, both of which contribute billions of dollars to the state’s economy each year. 

Fourteen state-record fish have been caught in Michigan in the last 10 years, pointing to the abundance and health of our fish populations. 

The DNR stocks more than 25 million fish each year, in more than 1,000 locations across both peninsulas. Forty percent of all recreational fishing in Michigan depends on stocked fish.

In 2018, the DNR expanded the recently created Fishing Tournament Information System – a statewide, online registration and reporting tool that makes it easier for tournament managers to meet the requirement of having all bass fishing tournaments registered – to include all bass and walleye tournaments. To date, the system has received more than 2,000 bass tournament registrations and results reports.

The DNR is continually improving habitat on the 4.5 million acres of public hunting land it manages. Hunters can explore seven managed waterfowl areas, 19 grouse enhanced management sites (known as GEMS) that allow walk-in hunting, and more than 180 state game and wildlife areas. These locations also offer abundant wildlife watching opportunities.

So far this year, hunters have contributed almost $200,000 to wildlife management by purchasing Pure Michigan Hunt applications that give them a shot at a prize package valued at over $4,000, as well as licenses for elk, bear, spring and fall turkey and antlerless deer, and first pick at a managed waterfowl area. The application period ends at midnight Dec. 31. 

 In 2018, the DNR has been intensely focused on mitigating impacts from chronic wasting disease on Michigan’s white-tailed deer population. Photo by the Michigan DNR.

Michigan’s 103 state parks continue to provide the scenic spaces, natural resources and access to outdoor recreation opportunities that attract tens of millions of people every year. 

With 12,500-plus miles of state-designated trails and pathways – one of the largest, interconnected trail systems in the country – Michigan is known as The Trails State. This trails system offers plenty of social, economic and health benefits, catering to a variety of users, including bicyclists, hikers, ORV riders, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, horseback riders, paddlers and others. 

The system also includes the Iron Belle Trail, Michigan’s signature hiking and biking trail extending more than 2,000 miles from the far western tip of the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in Detroit.

There was renewed interest sparked in 2018 in the Iron Belle Trail Fund Campaign, marked by an event in Ann Arbor where more than $10.5 million in private donations was announced. 

“Quality outdoor recreation resources and opportunities mean a lot to the people who use and value them, and to the communities they serve,” DNR Director Keith Creagh said. “The Iron Belle Trail offers so many beautiful places where people make memories, improve their health, and recharge their energy. The state and our many partners are on an ambitious timeline to get the remainder of these connected miles in place.”

To date, the DNR and partners have built and engineered more than 100 miles of new trail to complete completed the Iron Belle Trail’s 1,422 miles of existing hiking and biking trails, with just over 600 remaining to be connected. 

In October 2018, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation announced a $100 million investment of parks and trails in Southeast Michigan, including segments of the Iron Belle Trail. 

With the creation of a new State Water Trails program, the DNR announced this month that eight waterways, totaling 540-plus miles flowing through more than a dozen counties, have been selected as the first state-designated water trails in Michigan. 

DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson said that water trails are an increasing trend in Michigan and nationally, as interest in paddle sports and other water-based recreation continues to grow.

Water trails feature well-developed access points, often are near significant historical, environmental or cultural points of interest and often have nearby amenities like restaurants, hotels and campgrounds.

“These state-designated water trails will encourage close-to-home outdoor recreation and healthy lifestyles while boosting local economies, giving even more reason to call Michigan The Trails State,” said Paul Yauk, the DNR’s state trails coordinator.

The DNR’s staffed shooting ranges, located in southern Michigan state parks and game areas, made improvements to accommodate a growing number of shooting sports enthusiasts. Updates this year included expanding parking, adding new handgun shooting stations and installing a well to provide potable water, with construction of new accessible parking and walkways planned at three ranges in 2019.

Looking to get outdoors in 2019? Check out michigan.gov/dnrcalendar.

Taking care of Michigan’s woods, waters and wildlife

The “Good Neighbor Authority” allows state natural resource agencies to assist the U.S. Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management on timber and watershed restoration projects across the country.In 2018, the DNR increased its Good Neighbor Authority efforts from the previous year, preparing 2,400 acres for timber sale and producing 38,500 cords of wood from the four national forests in Michigan – the Huron and Manistee national forests in the Lower Peninsula and the Ottawa and Hiawatha in the Upper Peninsula.

This state/federal partnership will grow to more than 7,500 acres in 2019.

In 2018, oversight of the state’s Registered Forester program transferred to the DNR from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The move was part of a restructuring process for this voluntary program that encourages higher standards for Michigan’s foresters.

Changes to the program include an up-to-date online database and a new complaint review process.

“The new program is the ideal source for landowners to find highly qualified foresters to help them manage their forest land,” said Deb Begalle, chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. 

Nearly two-thirds of Michigan’s 20 million acres of forest are privately owned; the state manages an estimated 4 million acres of public forest. 

The DNR also manages 360,000 acres of state game areas. At game areas throughout Michigan, DNR staffers have been harvesting timber to create early successional forest habitat.

The selective cutting of mature pine and aspen stands encourages the growth of young forests, which provide vital habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock, deer, elk and golden-winged warblers.

“This important work may look destructive while in progress, but the result is outstanding habitat for many game and non-game wildlife species,” said DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason.  

Late in 2018, in partnership with Pheasants Forever and the Hal and Jean Glassen Foundation, the DNR launched its new Adopt-A-Game-Area program, which encourages individuals and organizations to sponsor grassland habitat projects on state-managed lands they use and value. 

“Grasslands give important benefits to both wildlife and people. In addition to providing habitat and food resources for many wildlife species, grasslands also improve water and air quality,” said Al Stewart, DNR upland game bird specialist. 

Stewart said grassland pollinators, like bees and monarch butterflies, help to generate crops that keep the country fed. Throughout Michigan, many grasslands are being converted to agriculture and development. Grasslands now are one of the rarest habitat types in the world.

Expanded support of this program, through sponsorships, will provide valuable nesting, brood-rearing, foraging and winter habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including deer, turkeys, pheasants, ducks, rabbits, songbirds and pollinators.

This year, the DNR has been intensely focused on mitigating impacts from chronic wasting disease on Michigan’s white-tailed deer population. This fatal disease has been found in free-ranging deer in Clinton, Dickinson, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent, and Montcalm counties. 

Following public engagement meetings and surveys, hunting regulations were changed for the 2018 deer hunting seasons to address concerns of CWD. The DNR also provided additional staffed deer check locations as well as drop boxes for hunters to submit their harvested deer for testing. More than 30,000 deer were checked and tested this year. 

The coming year will see continued efforts to maintain the health of Michigan’s deer herd. For the latest information and updates on chronic wasting disease, visit michigan.gov/cwd.

The DNR also keeps a close eye on the health of Michigan’s fish, working continuously with Michigan State University’s Aquatic Animal Health Lab to be at forefront of disease identification, but also regularly analyzing groups of wild fish to test for diseases and performing fish health inspections at state hatcheries and on hatchery-reared fish.

In 2018, the DNR’s Office of the Great Lakes completed restoration of historical environmental impacts on the Menominee River, started the Saginaw Bay Fish Reef restoration project and made strides in implementing goals established in the Michigan Water Strategy.

The OGL staff also worked in communities to protect coastal resources, helped establish an alliance of Great Lakes island communities and facilitated the development of shared harbor visions in waterfront communities. 

As it has each year since its introduction in 2014, the Invasive Species Grant Program – implemented by the Michigan departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Environmental Quality and Natural Resources – provided roughly $3.6 million in 2018 for projects designed to prevent, detect, eradicate and control invasive pests on the land and in the water.

Because of this grant program, more than 285,000 acres of land and water have been surveyed for invasive species; more than 18,000 acres have been treated for invasive terrestrial and aquatic plants; and millions of people have been reached with educational information about invasive species.

“It’s clear that Michigan’s Invasive Species Grant Program is accomplishing many of the goals set for the program at the very start,” said Creagh. “The fight to stop, contain and eradicate invasive species from Michigan’s woods and water is critical to the long-term protection of these valuable natural resources, and this grant program is helping in that fight.”

Protecting the state’s natural resources and citizens

Located in every county of the state, Michigan conservation officers are first responders who provide lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. They are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by enforcing Michigan’s laws and regulations.

“A conservation officer has chosen to not only protect our people and local communities as first responders – they have devoted their career to being front-line defenders of our natural resources,” said DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler.

As community first responders, several conservation officers were involved in lifesaving actions during 2018, including saving a woman from drowning, rescuing people involved in snowmobile and kayak accidents and those stranded in Lake Huron and on the edge of a cliff overlooking Lake Superior. As a result, eight conservation officers received the Michigan DNR Lifesaving Award.

The DNR Conservation Officer Academy graduated 24 new conservation officers in 2018. The new officers were selected from nearly 500 applicants to be a part of Recruit School No. 9 – the DNR’s 23-week training academy based in Lansing.

“Our division selects the most highly qualified candidates to receive additional training that no other law enforcement agency in the state offers,” Hagler said. “Our officers are molded into quality people who are embedded within the communities they serve.”

As Michigan’s oldest statewide law enforcement agency, the DNR Law Enforcement Division continues to expand its abilities to protect our natural resources. The 252 officers budgeted for the 2019 fiscal year is an all-time high.

Connecting people with the outdoors

Since the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, over 1,000 educators have received the DNR’s free wildlife curricula for their classrooms, information that helps give students an understanding of Michigan’s wildlife and their habitats. Kindergarten through high school educators can get these resources for use in the second half of the school year. Featured species include waterfowl, black bears and elk. 

The DNR recently – after two years of mapping and reviewing the condition of the state forest roads it maintains across both peninsulas – completed an initial inventory used to create interactive maps showing where ORV use is allowed on these roads. The maps will be available online at michigan.gov/forestroads and updated each spring. 

Look for an early 2019 “Showcasing the DNR” story detailing the efforts to map state forest roads, a resource to help people get out and enjoy Michigan’s public forests.

The DNR’s work in providing GIS products and services gained national recognition at the annual Esri User Conference, when the department earned a Special Achievement in GIS Award for its innovative application of mapping, data analytics and thought leadership.

“Within the past 20 years, the DNR has implemented an enterprise GIS system to support the growing needs and challenges of caring for Michigan’s natural resources and connecting the public to those resources,” said Dave Forstat, DNR GIS manager and chief data steward.

“As web GIS has become more prevalent, we’ve leveraged the benefits of increased communication and data accuracy to provide customers with the best possible data on trails, water, minerals, trees, wildlife, fish and other areas.”

This includes online tools – like the Open Data Portal, interactive maps, story maps and customized apps – aimed at connecting outdoor enthusiasts and natural resources professionals with the information they need.

This is just a brief glimpse of a year in the life of the DNR. More information about the department’s broad range of work to ensure healthy natural resources and outdoor recreation is available on the DNR website, redesigned in 2018 to make it easier to use, at michigan.gov/dnr.

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DNR investigating elk poaching incident


Michigan conservation of cers in the northern LowerPeninsula are investigating the illegal killing of two bull elk, north of Atlanta.

The carcasses of the two animals were discovered Saturday off Montmorency County Road 622, near Roth Road. The location is about 7 miles north of Atlanta, just south of Clear Lake State Park.

“Both elk were shot, likely sometime around Nov. 15,” said Lt. James Gorno, a district law supervisor with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in Gaylord. “If anyone saw anything or has any information that would as- sist with the investigation, we’d like to hear from them.”

Tips may be left anonymously, and monetary rewards of- ten are offered for information that leads to the arrest of violators.

To contact investigators, please call the DNR Law En- forcement Division at the Gaylord Operations Center at 989-732-3541 or call or text the 24-hour Report All Poaching line at 800-292-7800.

Michigan conservation of cers are fully commissioned state peace of cers who provide natural resources protec- tion, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by pro- viding general law enforcement duties and lifesaving oper- ations in the communities they serve.

Learn more about Michigan conservation of cers at michigan.gov/conservationof cers.

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DNR game camera records cougar in Gogebic County


This mountain lion was caught on a Michigan Department of Natural Resources game camera Oct. 1 in Gogebic County. Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

A game camera set up as part of an ongoing state deer movement study has captured images of a cougar in the Upper Peninsula’s Gogebic County, about 9 miles north of Ironwood.

The images were reviewed and verified by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources cougar team.

Since 2008, the DNR has confirmed 38 cougar reports, with all but one of those occurring in the Upper Peninsula. These reports include multiple sightings of the same cougar, not 38 individual animals.

So far, there remains no conclusive evidence of a Michigan breeding population of mountain lions. Cougars are an endangered species in Michigan protected by law.

“This latest confirmed report illustrates just how rare cougars are in the Upper Peninsula,” said Brian Roell, a DNR wildlife biologist in Marquette. “This is the first time we’ve ever caught a cougar on more than three million game camera images we’ve collected in our studies since 2009.”

DNR researchers use game cameras in their Quantifying Upper Peninsula Deer Movements and Abundance, predator-prey and bear studies. The deer movement study alone uses 50 game cameras in the western U.P., including the one in Ironwood Township that caught the images of the cougar at 7:15 p.m. on Oct. 1.

A graph shows the number of confirmed Michigan cougar reports in recent years.

The three daylight photos on the game camera show the mountain lion walking past, from right to left. Biologists noted there was no tracking collar on the cougar. No identification of whether the animal was a male or female was possible.

Michigan cougar confirmations have been derived from trail camera video, photographs, tracks, scat, or in the case of two male cats poached, carcasses.

Previous genetic testing on tissue samples from those two cougars poached in the U.P. showed the two animals likely came from a population found generally in South Dakota, Wyoming and northwest Nebraska.

“This genetic research lines up with what we’ve presumed previously, that cougars found in the Upper Peninsula are males dispersing from this population east of the Rocky Mountains,” said Kevin Swanson, a DNR wildlife management specialist with the department’s Bear and Wolf Program. “These males dispersed from the main population are looking to establish new territories.”

Researchers investigated the potential population of origin for the two cougars using a database that includes samples from cougar populations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oregon and Florida.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, cougars were once the most widely distributed land animal in the Western Hemisphere but have been eliminated from about two-thirds of their historic range.

At one time, cougars lived in every eastern state in a variety of habitats, including coastal marshes, mountains and forests. They were native to Michigan, but were trapped and hunted from the state around the turn of the 20th century.

To learn more about cougars in Michigan, visit michigan.gov/cougars.

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Largemouth bass virus re-emerges 


Largemouth bass virus affects the fish’s swim bladder, making it difficult for them to swim correctly. Photo from Michigan DNR.

After a 15-year hiatus, largemouth bass virus has re-emerged in a new northern Lower Peninsula water. This virus has been confirmed as a factor in a fish kill in Cedar Lake in Alcona and Iosco counties, Michigan, with additional lakes in the area being examined. This virus previously affected adult largemouth bass in the early 2000s in southern Michigan lakes.

Largemouth bass virus is one of more than 100 naturally occurring viruses that affect fish and is closely related to viruses found in frogs and other amphibians. Its origin and how it is spread are unknown, but anglers are considered a likely path for transmitting the virus through the movement of live, infected fish from one water to another, or by using contaminated and uncleaned gear or boats in uninfected waters. LMVB is not known to infect humans, and infected fish are safe to eat as long as the fish is thoroughly cooked.

LMBV usually causes fish kills during periods when fish are most stressed. Potential stressors include very hot weather, intensive recreational fishing, and possibly aquatic weed or other treatments made during hot weather. Anything that can be done to minimize stress on fish will reduce the effects of this virus and subsequent fish deaths.

There are few outward signs that a fish has LMBV. The virus has been found in lakes with no reports of disease or mortalities of fish. Affected fish usually appear normal, although they may be lethargic, swim slowly and be less responsive to activity around them. Dying fish often are seen near the surface and have difficulty remaining upright. Upon internal examination, infected fish usually have bloated and yellowish swim bladders.

“Largemouth bass virus appears to infect other related fish species, including smallmouth bass, bluegill and black crappies, but to date is only known to kill largemouth bass,” said Gary Whelan, the DNR’s fisheries research manager. 

“The disease typically kills large adult fish and die-offs affect approximately 10 to 20 percent of these fish in a given lake.”

LMBV cannot be eradicated from lakes, nor can infected fish be treated. The best way to halt the virus is by anglers and boaters properly cleaning their equipment and doing their part to prevent the spread:

  • Clean all fishing equipment between trips.
  • Do not move fish or fish parts from one body of water to another.
  • Handle bass gently if you intend to release them.
  • Don’t keep bass in live wells for long periods of time if you plan to release them.
  • Minimize the targeting of largemouth bass during very hot weather
  • Report dead or dying adult largemouth bass, particularly when they are in numbers of 25 or more. Reports can be made online at michigan.gov/eyesinthefield.

For more information on fish diseases, visit the DNR’s website www.michigan.gov/dnr. 

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State-record hybrid sunfish caught in southwest Michigan


Joel Heeringa of St. Joseph, Michigan, caught a new state-record hybrid sunfish July 9, 2018, on Lake Anne at Grand Mere State Park (Berrien County). The fish (confirmed as a hybrid sunfish by University of Michigan fish experts) weighed 1.8 pounds and measured 11.7 inches.

Michigan has a new state-record hybrid sunfish, out of Lake Anne in Grand Mere State Park in Berrien County. Joel Heeringa, of St. Joseph, Michigan, caught the fish July 9, while still fishing with a crawler. The record fish weighed 1.8 pounds and measured 11.7 inches.

Brian Gunderman, a DNR fisheries unit manager for southern Lake Michigan, verified the record. Because the fish was believed to be a hybrid, additional identification was required, delaying final confirmation. University of Michigan fisheries experts also examined the fish and confirmed it was indeed a hybrid sunfish. 

According to Gunderman, Michigan has several sunfish species in Michigan that can hybridize with each other. This group includes native species such as bluegill, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, and warmouth. It also includes redear sunfish (native to the southern United States), which he said were stocked in a number of lakes in southern Michigan during the 1990s-early 2000s. 

“Hybrid sunfish commonly occur in nature, and we catch hybrids during most of our lake surveys in this region of the state,” he explained. “Hybrid sunfish (usually male bluegill and green sunfish female crosses) also are produced in private fish hatcheries for stocking in ponds. There is a common misconception that hybrid sunfish are infertile. Hybrid sunfish are fertile. However, about 80-90 percent of hybrid sunfish are males, so it is rare for two hybrids to mate with each other. They are more likely to spawn with a purebred of one of their parent species.”

Gunderman said the new state record definitely was a hybrid sunfish, but it is not possible to conclusively identify the parent species without genetic testing. “The external characteristics were consistent with a bluegill/green sunfish hybrid. For the purposes of our State Record and Master Angler programs, all types of hybrid sunfish are lumped into one category.”

The previous hybrid sunfish state record actually was a tie between two fish: one caught May 28, 1988, by Daniel Manville on Arbutus Lake in Grand Traverse County and one caught June 1, 1988, by Lloyd Jarman, Jr. on Doan’s Lake in Allegan County. Both fish weighed 1.44 pounds.

State records in Michigan 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.

For more information, visit michigan.gov/masterangler or contact Brian Gunderman at 269-685-6851, ext. 145.

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