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Tag Archive | "Michigan Department of Natural Resources"

Showcasing the DNR: Saving Michigan’s bats


Red bats are one of the nine species of bats found in Michigan. Photo by Michigan DNR.

By Hannah Schauer, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

 

Maybe you’ve noticed fewer bats active during those warm, buggy summer evenings and wondered why?

This situation is not unique to Michigan. In fact, many places throughout North America have seen declines in bat numbers.

The reason for the reduction in numbers for many species of bats is a fungus named Pseudogymnoascus destructans—responsible for a disease called white-nose syndrome that is killing bats in parts of America and Canada.

Many insect-eating bats survive winter by going into hibernation, during which they lower their body temperature and fat deposits accumulated during autumn months are used to sustain them.  

Places where bats hibernate, such as caves or underground mines (known as hibernacula), are ideal environments for this fungus, as it thrives in cold, damp conditions.

The fungus disrupts hibernation, causing bats to prematurely and repeatedly awaken, quickly depleting their fat reserves and diminishing their body condition.

“Bats weakened by the loss of fat reserves are unable to replenish themselves due to lack of insects to eat in winter and die before spring,” said Dan O’Brien, veterinarian at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Disease Laboratory. “Infected bats often exhibit abnormal behavior such as flying during daylight hours or gathering outside of caves in cold weather.” 

The disease is called white-nose syndrome because of a white powdery appearance on exposed skin, like the muzzle and wings, of affected bats.

White-nose syndrome was first documented during the winter of 2006-2007 in New York. It was confirmed in Michigan in early 2014.

Transmission of the fungus associated with white-nose syndrome primarily occurs through bat-to-bat contact but can also be transmitted by humans visiting infected caves and mines without decontaminating their shoes and equipment.

While there is no evidence that white-nose syndrome is infectious to humans, the loss of large numbers of bats may have an indirect impact on people.

Bats are a primary predator of nighttime insects and large-scale losses of bats may lead to an increase in insect populations, some of which cause crop damage or spread diseases. 

Efforts to help Michigan’s bats

“The DNR has been on the leading edge of bat conservation and research for a long time,” Bill Scullon, DNR Wildlife Division field operations supervisor, said. “Working with partners and researchers is as critical as ever in the battle to save our bat species from white-nose syndrome.”

One such effort is the gating of entrances to important bat hibernacula to minimize human disturbance to hibernating bats. Custom steel structures are designed and put up to ensure public safety while allowing the bats to come and go freely from the hibernacula. 

“These gates have been built on both public and private lands,” said DNR wildlife biologist John DePue. “Some of these gated sites house large populations of bats in the winter and are important locations to protect.”

Michigan is also one of the few states that participates in field trials of potential treatments to combat white-nose syndrome.

Researchers and students from Western Michigan and Ball State universities, working with the DNR, have been applying an organic compound—derived  from shellfish, called chitosan—to bats and the inside of hibernacula. This chitosan compound appears to help bats combat the effects of white-nose syndrome.

Additionally, in some of Michigan’s hibernacula, University of California, Santa Cruz researchers have been treating sites with chlorine dioxide. Treatment is applied to the site when bats are not present to reduce the number of spores that cause white-nose syndrome.

“Chlorine dioxide is used to kill all the fungal spores throughout a mine during the summer, before bats return for the winter,” said DePue. “This will disinfect the site and reduce infection rates and mortality rates.”

DNR staffers, along with researchers from Eastern Michigan University, also conduct annual bat monitoring. Hibernation sites are visited during the winter to learn about places where bats are experiencing higher survival rates, and to monitor population trends.  

Status of bats in Michigan

Nine species of bats are found in Michigan. Little brown and big brown bats are the species most often seen by people. Silver-haired, red and hoary bats are also found in Michigan. 

The tri-colored bat (or eastern pipistrelle) is a species of special concern in Michigan and the evening bat is listed as a threatened species. 

Indiana bats have been under the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act since 1967. The northern long-eared bat was added to the List of Threatened and Endangered Species as a threatened species in recent years.

“Due to the severity of the decline in population from white-nose syndrome, the northern long-eared bat was listed as a threatened species by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in April of 2015,” said Dan Kennedy, DNR endangered species coordinator. 

Allen Kurta, a professor of biology at Eastern Michigan University, said recent surveys of hibernacula in Michigan indicate an 83-percent decline in bats at those survey sites, compared to data from surveys conducted before white-nose syndrome’s arrival.

“The data indicate a 77-percent decline in little brown bats, a 93-percent fall in eastern pipistrelles, and a 96-percent decrease in northern long-eared bats,” Kurta said. “It is getting very difficult to find a northern long-eared bat anywhere in the state.”

Although these numbers are dire, not all bats seem to be as heavily impacted by white-nose syndrome.  

In addition to caves and mines, some bats may use man-made structures, like buildings, as hibernacula. These places may not provide appropriate conditions for the growth of the white-nose syndrome fungus, allowing for higher bat survival rates.

“Big brown bats and silver-haired bats do not seem to be experiencing major declines,” Kurta said.

For now, we will continue to see fewer bats dotting the night’s sky in Michigan, but the DNR and its partners are working hard to ensure those numbers increase and that bats will not be eliminated from the landscape.

How to help bats

Installing bat houses can be helpful for bats. Various factors are important when putting up a bat house, including location, color and height. Bat houses should not be in areas frequented by people or domestic animals. To learn tips and tricks for bat houses, check out Bat Conservation International’s website, batcon.org, filled with bat house resources.

Maintaining bat habitat is another way to help bats. Some bats like to roost in trees that have loose bark. Maintaining these types of trees can provide additional roosting locations. Many bats prefer forested areas near a water source, as these places are often abundant with insects.

Those exploring caves or mines should be sure to abide by closures and follow decontamination guidelines (see whitenosesyndrome.org) to reduce the spread of white-nose syndrome. Avoid visiting these locations during the winter months when bats may be hibernating.

Other ways to help bats:

Minimize the use of insecticides as these can impact a variety of animal species, including bats.

Do not attempt to help injured bats. Because of concerns for disease transmission, rehabilitation of bats is illegal in Michigan. 

Donate to the DNR’s Nongame Fish and Wildlife Fund and talk to others about how to help bats.

Learn more about Michigan’s bats by visiting michigan.gov/bats.

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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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DNR firefighters help fight wildland blazes out west 


A DNR firefighter snapped this shot of a helicopter in action earlier this summer on assignment assisting firefighters in Colorado. DNR firefighters are currently helping fight wildland fires in several western states.

More than a dozen wildland firefighters from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have been sent to California, Oregon, Washington and elsewhere to battle wildfires and to gain valuable firefighting experience.

A crew of three firefighters has taken a DNR fire engine to help fight the vast and still raging Carr fire in northern California, said Dan Laux, fire section manager for the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. Laux just returned from a two-week fire assignment in Portland, Oregon, mobilizing resources to battle fires in Oregon, Washington, California and Idaho.

“We’re mobilizing as many people as we can to assist wherever necessary,” Laux said. “It’s a great way for our folks to get experience, while providing their own skills and experiences to the situation at hand.”

Assistance agreements go both ways. If a significant fire occurs in Michigan, firefighters from other states and Canadian provinces can be tapped for help. Michigan’s largest recent fire was the Duck Lake blaze in the eastern Upper Peninsula, which burned more than 21,000 acres in 2012.

Since the beginning of the year, Michigan has sent firefighters to California, Colorado, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

The Carr fire in northern California has burned more than 100,000 acres to date, causing six deaths. Fire officials there put out a national request last week for wildland fire engines from across the nation, and a three-man crew took a Michigan truck from the DNR’s Gladwin unit to California.

The DNR always keeps enough firefighters in the state to respond to any fires that might occur, though fire activity has slowed after recent rains in the northern portion of the state. The DNR also is fully reimbursed for the cost of sending firefighters to assist elsewhere.

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DNR fire crews respond to wildfires May 1


 

Three major blazes in Crawford, Newaygo and Wexford counties

Michigan Department of Natural Resources fire personnel spent much of the overnight May 1 and early-morning hours May 2 working to contain several wildfires, including three that were significant.

The one nearest our area was the “Oak fire.” It was reported at approximately 6:45 p.m. south of M-82 in Newaygo County, just over 6 miles east of Newaygo. The estimated 105-acre fire, located primarily on federal land, was contained at around 1 a.m. Wednesday. Fire crews stopped the head of the fire before it reached M-82, although the flanks of the fire were still very active. This fire burned primarily in mature pine and oak. Two residences were evacuated and 15 structures were threatened, but excellent work by 11 local volunteer fire departments, U.S. Forest Service crews and DNR fire crews resulted in all of the structures being saved. The fire initially caused the closure of M-82 between Elm and Spruce, which has since reopened. Fire crews continued fire-suppression and mop-up efforts throughout Wednesday. 

The Grayling Fire was reported at approximately 4 p.m. Tuesday along I-75 in southern Crawford County, about 7 miles south of Grayling. The fire jumped the southbound lane of I-75 and stopped when it hit the northbound lane. As a result, a stretch of I-75 was shut down for about an hour and a half. DNR crews contained the fire, estimated to be just over 44 acres in size. 

The Bond Mill Pond Fire was reported shortly before 5 p.m. in Haring Township, Wexford County, approximately 5 miles north/northwest of Cadillac. The fire was contained and is estimated at 79 acres with 2.8 miles of perimeter around the fire. A majority of the fire burned on state forest land. The fire burned a variety of fuel types including scotch, red, and jack pine; leaf litter; hardwoods, and aspen. The fire caused the evacuation of 79 residences, but all were allowed to return home the same evening. A U.S. Forest Service helicopter provided air support for the fire-suppression efforts and dropped 1,600 gallons of water before being grounded due to high winds. Fire crews continued fire-suppression and mop-up efforts throughout the day Wednesday. 

The cause of all three fires is unknown and currently under investigation. 

After the fire in Newaygo.
Post photo by M. Kleyn

Red flag fire conditions Tuesday across the northern Lower Peninsula resulted in an active day for wildfires throughout the area. Red flag fire warnings are issued when weather conditions are expected to include strong winds, warm temperatures and low relative humidity—a combination that can lead to very high or extreme fire danger. 

Weather Wednesday significantly assisted in the fire-suppression efforts, as both the Bond Mill Pond and Oak fires received rainfall in the morning. Although rain is forecast for the next few days, fire danger will pick up again with any significant stretches of dry weather.

“These fires were contained as a result of the hard work and excellent cooperation of multiple agencies,” said Jim Fisher, the DNR’s state wildland fire supervisor, citing the efforts of the DNR, the U.S. Forest Service, Michigan State Police, the Department of Transportation, Wexford County Emergency Operations, Newaygo County Emergency Operations, the Crawford County Road Commission, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Life EMS and several volunteer fire departments.

The public is reminded to take precautions when doing yard work this spring. Be sure to check local weather and fire danger before burning debris, and always check to see if a burn permit is required for local areas. Other safety tips include burning debris in barrels with metal screens, clearing vegetation around burn areas, ensuring a water source is nearby, and staying with a fire until it is completely extinguished. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/firemanagement.  

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DNR seeks info on bald eagle death


Bald eagles are no longer endangered, but they are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. This eagle was spotted a few weeks ago in Solon Township. Photo by J. August.

Anyone with a tip should call or text the Report All Poaching line

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers are asking for citizen assistance with an investigation into the death of a bald eagle in Mecosta County.

On Thursday, March 1, conservation officers were called to the vicinity of 20 Mile Road near Grant Center in Grant Township, where the mature bald eagle was discovered. The bird was lodged in the limbs of a large tree near the road.

Officers recovered the eagle, which had sustained a traumatic injury. It will undergo a necropsy at the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Lansing. Lab results may be used to confirm a cause of death and provide evidence that will be critical to the investigation.

“Bald eagles are a majestic, protected species. It’s important we resolve this case and that any violators are held accountable,” said 1st Lt. John Jurcich, district supervisor for the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “The public’s cooperation often makes a positive difference in these types of investigations. We value our partnership with the communities we serve and ask that anyone with information do their part by reporting it.”

Anyone with information is asked to call or text the Report All Poaching (RAP) hotline at 800-292-7800. The RAP line is a convenient, effective way for citizens to report the illegal taking of fish or game, or damage to the state›s natural resources. The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

An individual offering information that leads to a successful conviction may be eligible for a reward through the RAP program. While citizens can remain anonymous, they must provide their names if they wish to be eligible for a reward.

The penalty for killing a bald eagle is up to 90 days in jail, a fine ranging from $100 to $1,000, or both; and reimbursement to the state of $1,500 per eagle.

Learn more about eagles and other bird species at www.allaboutbirds.org/.

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Taking action now can reduce bear problems later


Property owners can help prevent problems with bears by removing food sources like bird feeders now.

With longer daylight hours and warming temperatures causing wildlife to start to move, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources advises property owners that now is the time to look around and see if they have items that soon may be attracting bears.

“The ideal situation is for a bear to walk past your property, not find a food reward and move along on its own,” said DNR wildlife communication coordinator Katie Keen. “That’s the best way to live with bears and not encourage conflict.”

Black bears—an “up north” Michigan icon decorating many homes, restaurants and hotels—can be found throughout more than half the state. Spotting a bear tends to draw a lot of interest and attention. 

“Everyone picks up the phone to call us looking for advice at a different point,” Keen said. “For some, seeing a black bear is enough. For others, it may be regular or daytime visits that make them uneasy.”

Bears find birdseed and suet especially attractive, as they are high-calorie and reliable compared to other plentiful and natural food sources. Bird feeders can draw bears past their natural habitat, where they would normally be enjoying roots of early spring plants and insects in trees and logs. Bears also typically will continue to return to a location once they have found a food reward there.

“The majority of calls we receive about bears involve a bird feeder. Taking the feeders down before they are found by a bear can eliminate future problems,” said Keen. “A bear doesn’t just forget an easy meal, and wild animals can pick up habits.”  

During the spring and early summer, phone calls to the DNR from home and business owners frustrated with bear activity increase. While it is legal to feed birds, property owners may be creating an irreversible safety issue by providing food for bears. 

“Bears that receive a food reward when around homes, yards and neighborhoods typically lose their natural fear of humans and can become a potential threat to people and their pets,” Keen added.

The easiest thing people can do to avoid problems with bears is remove bird feeders during the spring and summer months. With an estimated 2,000-plus adult bears in the northern Lower Peninsula and almost 10,000 in the Upper Peninsula, there are plenty of bears searching for natural food that is plentiful in forests, fields and wetlands.

“Many people who live in northern Michigan remove their bird feeders during the spring and summer, but every year the spring sneaks up on us and suddenly, it is now that time of year,” said Keen. 

Wild animals should be appreciated from a distance. Michigan residents can help their neighborhoods and communities by removing bird feeders and other attractants. Garbage cans, dumpsters, barbeque grills, restaurant grease bins and bee hives also can attract bears to areas people frequent.

For your safety, never intentionally feed or try to tame bears – it is in your, and the bear’s, best interest. It is critical that bears retain their natural fear of humans.

Learn more about Michigan’s black bears and how to prevent potential problemsby visiting michigan.gov/bear or by watching “The Bear Essentials” video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6c1c3qw7dg.

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Spring birding tours at Michigan’s Wetland Wonders 


Red-winged blackbirds are some of spring’s first arrivals at Michigan’s Wetland Wonders.

Nothing says spring like the “conk-a-ree” call of a red-winged blackbird or the raucous sounds of a sandhill crane. Celebrate spring and explore Michigan’s wetlands with a birding tour at one of the Wetland Wonders – or managed waterfowl areas – around the state.

Highlights of the birding tours may include diving and dabbling ducks in full breeding plumage, trumpeter and tundra swans, osprey, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, and many others. Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife staff members and volunteers from Ducks Unlimited and Audubon Clubs will lead the tours, which may include a “sneak peek” driving tour into refuge areas that normally are closed. 

The birding tours will be held on the following dates:

  • March 17 at 8 a.m. – St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area, 3857 Columbine Road, Harsens Island; 810-748-9504 
  • March 24 at 9 a.m. – Fish Point State Game Area, 7750 Ringle Road, Unionville; 989-674-2511
  • March 31 at 9 a.m. – Fennville Farm Unit of the Allegan State Game Area, 6013 118th Ave., Fennville; 269-673-2430
  • April 7 at 9 a.m. – Maple River State Game Area, southwest corner of South Baldwin and Crapo roads in Washington Township, east of U.S. 127; 616-446-0555
  • April 7 at 9 a.m. – Shiawassee River State Game Area, 225 East Spruce St., St. Charles; 989-865-6211
  • April 14 at 9 a.m. – Muskegon County Wastewater System, meet at the Muskegon State Game Area Office, 7600 E. Messinger Road, Twin Lake; 231-788-5055
  • April 14 at 9 a.m. – Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, 37025 Mouillee Road, Rockwood; 734-379-9692
  • April 14 at 9 a.m. – Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area, 1570 Tower Beach Road, Pinconning; 989-697-5101

If you have questions about bird tours, please contact the appropriate office at the phone number listed above. Most tours will meet at the area’s headquarters building. Please dress for the weather and bring binoculars. Spotting scopes are also helpful for long-range viewing. The ground may be quite muddy and wet, so plan to wear boots. 

Michigan’s Wetland Wonders are the seven premier managed waterfowl hunt areas in the state: Fennville Farm Unit at the Allegan State Game Area (Allegan County), Fish Point State Wildlife Area (Tuscola County), St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area on Harsens Island (St. Clair County), Muskegon County Wastewater Facility (Muskegon County), Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area (Bay County), Pointe Mouillee State Game Area (Monroe and Wayne counties) and Shiawassee River State Game Area (Saginaw County). To learn more about Michigan’s Wetland Wonders, visit michigan.gov/wetlandwonders

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Birding tour of Ottawa County set for Jan. 31


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Add adventure to your New Year’s resolutions 


There are countless benefits to using Michigan’s state parks, trails and waterways as your gym, such as burning calories while snowshoeing the many hundreds of miles of trails across the state.

with Shoe Year’s hikes and other outdoor fun

Reinvigorate yourself in 2018! Make an “adventure resolution” and commit to exploring Michigan’s great outdoors this year with a “Shoe Year’s” hike, cross-country skiing, fat-tire biking or the many other ways to relish winter. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources encourages residents to shift their plans for the coming year into high gear with a few ideas for inspired outdoor fun.

“For many, winter in Michigan is an undiscovered gem,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “State parks and trails offer visitors a completely different experience in the winter, everything from peaceful hikes through snow-dusted campgrounds and candlelight cross-country skiing to black diamond downhill skiing with views of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula. A Michigan winter adventure should be on everyone’s list this season.”

Find an online calendar listing of Shoe Year’s hikes and First Day Hikes at michigan.gov/winterfun. Or explore Michigan’s parks, trails and waterways on your own at www.michigan.gov/stateparks.

The following Shoe Year’s guided hikes take place through the first week of January:

  • Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (Ontonagon County) – Friday, Dec. 29 from 6 to 9 p.m.
  • Bay City Recreation Area (Bay County) – Sunday, Dec. 31 from 1 to 5 p.m.
  • Maybury State Park (Wayne County) – Sunday, Dec. 31 from 10 to 11:30 a.m.
  • Island Lake Recreation Area (Livingston County) – Monday, Jan. 1 from 1 *Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Barry County) – Monday, Jan. 1 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (First Day Hike)
  • Straits State Park (Cheboygan County) – Saturday, Jan. 6 from 2 to 7 p.m.
  • Besser Natural Area (Alpena County) – Saturday, Jan. 6 from noon to 3 p.m.
  • Ludington State Park (Mason County) – Saturday, Jan. 6 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Michigan is part of the nationwide First Day Hikes program, coordinated by the National Association of State Park Directors and inspired by the First Day Hikes that originated more than 25 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. Last year, more than 62,000 people participated on guided hikes that covered more than 114,000 miles on 1,300 hikes across the country.

If guided hikes don’t work into your schedule, but you are looking for an adventure checklist, here are a few winter adventures suggested by Maia Turek, resource development specialist for the DNR:

  • Muskegon Winter Sports Complex – Even a novice adventurer will love the variety of adventure options at this state park destination. A luge, ice skating through the woods, sledding, skiing and even yurt yoga classes are all part of the experience. Visit msports.org.
  • Experience the lantern-lit or candlelight ski and snowshoe events—even if just once. They happen throughout the winter and around the state, so finding one that works for your schedule should be easy. Visit michigan.gov/dnrcalendar.
  • Fat tire biking on the Cadillac Pathway – This 11.3-mile groomed ski, hike and bike trail with six loops is marked and groomed for novice and intermediate cross-country skiers. Rent a fat-tire bike from area bike shops or use your own. Visit michigan.gov/dnrtrails.
  • Grab a fishing rod and take advantage of the first of two Free Fishing Weekends Feb. 17-18. Twice a year, residents and non-residents can enjoy two back-to-back days of fishing without a license. Visit michigan.gov/freefishing.
  • Visit Palms Book State Park in the Upper Peninsula and be amazed by Kitch-iti-kipi’s geothermal energy. Because the water is 45 degrees year-round, this stunning spring is a four-season destination. It’s also a great snowmobile stop. Visit michigan.gov/palmsbook.
  • Jump on the Iron Belle Trail, the longest designated state trail in the nation, and hike (or bicycle) your way between Belle Isle Park in Detroit and Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula. Experience exciting cities, explore pristine forests and visit charming towns all across the state. Visit michigan.gov/ironbelle.
  • Porcupine Mountains Ski Area – Downhill skiers and snowboarders will enjoy 15 groomed trails, four glade trails, the second-highest vertical drop in Michigan (or Wisconsin) and breathtaking views of Lake Superior. The ski area also offers a launching point for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Visit porkiesfun.com.

“Often, the term resolution for the new year seems daunting, but don’t let it overwhelm you,” said Turek. “From participating in a guided hike along the more than 12,500 miles of state-designated trails, cross-country skiing on groomed trails and snowshoeing along lantern-lit trails to experiencing the ice skating trail at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, these destinations are home to unique and calorie-burning options for experiencing the outdoors in the coming year.”

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New reservation policy at state parks


 

Will give more campers better opportunities at sites 

A new DNR camping reservation policy that will help make it easier for more people to secure campsites in Michigan state parks further in advance, takes effect Nov. 1. Camping reservations can be booked up to six months ahead of time at www.midnrreservations.com.

In an effort to make it easier for more people to have a chance at securing campsites at many of the state’s most-visited parks, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has put in place a new policy that encourages people to firm up their reservations further in advance of their planned camping dates. The new sliding modification and cancellation structure takes effect Nov. 1.

Campers still can make reservations up to six months in advance. Under the current policy, the cost to cancel or modify a camping reservation is $10. The new structure still will include the $10 modification and cancellation fee, but also will include an additional incremental fee based on the length of time between the date the initial reservation was made and the planned arrival date. That incremental fee will be determined by the length of time a reservation is held:

*Reservations held for up to two months: 10 percent of the nightly rate for each modified/canceled camp night.

*Reservations held for between two to three months: 15 percent of the nightly rate for each modified/canceled camp night.

*Reservations held for between three and four months: 20 percent of the nightly rate for each modified/canceled camp night.

*Reservations held for between four and five months: 30 percent of the nightly rate for each modified/canceled camp night.

*Reservations held longer than five months: 40 percent of the nightly rate for each modified/canceled camp night.

Note: There will not be a fee to modify a reservation that adds camp nights.

Rather than holding onto several blocks of campsites at a campground – or in some cases, multiple campgrounds – the new policy incentivizes campers to finalize their plans as soon as possible.

“We are updating the current policy to encourage campers with reservations to make any necessary changes to their travel plans much earlier in the process, which opens up more sites for others who currently may experience difficulty finding space at our more popular campgrounds,” said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division chief. “Rather than waiting for cancellations that may or may not happen close to their own desired travel dates, more campers will find that the new reservation policy will give them access to a variety of sites much earlier.”

For more information on camping opportunities and pricing, visit  www.michigan.gov/camping. Camping reservations can be booked up to six months in advance at Michigan state parks. Campers are encouraged to visit  www.midnrreservations.com or call 1-800-44PARKS (1-800-447-2757) to check on availability. Remaining camping spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, contact Jason Fleming, chief of the Resource Management Section in the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, at 517-284-6098 or flemingj@michigan.gov.

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