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Tag Archive | "Michigan Department of Natural Resources"

DNR urges caution with fire as hunters head to the woods


 

With warm weather, remember to check for burn permits before burning yard debris

With dry conditions expected throughout much of the state this week, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is urging hunters, and folks out cleaning up their yards, to keep fire safety in mind.

“There is a chance for rain tonight, but overall it’s very dry throughout much of the state,” said Jim Fisher, DNR state fire supervisor. “The DNR is reminding everyone enjoying their time in the woods, or those at home cleaning their yards, to be careful with campfires and debris burning this next week. If you do decide burn yard debris, remember to check the burn permit website or call the DNR’s toll-free number to check if burn permits are being issued in your area.”

The DNR encourages residents with Internet access to visit www.michigan.gov/burnpermit to get their burn permits online. Residents can use the interactive map to find the burn conditions in their area. If a “yes” is shown in the “burning permits issued” column, burning is allowed for that day. There is no need to print anything; this serves as a burn permit.

For those who prefer to get their burn permits by phone, the DNR’s toll-free burn permit number is 866-922-2876.

Dry conditions paired with increased outdoor activity had DNR firefighters, along with local fire departments, responding to 12 fires on 60 acres across the state last week. Firefighters’ actions saved seven structures, and only one outbuilding was lost.

Three of the fires were caused by campfires and four were started by people burning yard debris.

Fisher said these recent fires served as a reminder to be safe if camping while hunting.

“Keep an eye on your fire and extinguish it so it’s out cold before you leave it,” he said. “A good rule of thumb for anyone burning outdoors is to always have water and tools available when burning.”

For more information about wildfire prevention, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires. To check if burn permits are being issued in your area, go to www.michigan.gov/burnpermit.

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Reminders for those who hunt deer where there is wild elk


out-deer-elk1-size-comparison

Deer and elk comparison. Elk can weigh several hundred pounds more and stand 2-4 feet taller than deer

A bull and cow elk in Michigan.

A bull and cow elk in Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds deer hunters hunting in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan that wild elk are also found in this area and cannot be harvested without an elk hunting license.

“Unfortunately, in the past we have had deer hunters who make the mistake of harvesting a young male or a calf elk thinking it’s a white-tailed deer,” said Shelby Hiestand, DNR wildlife biologist. “Although a mistake, this would be an illegal take of game, which is a serious wildlife offense.”

Elk and white-tailed deer are close relatives and from the same , but hunters can tell the difference between them by looking at a few characteristics.

“Always positively ID your target before pulling the trigger,” said Hiestand. “You have all of the control over taking an animal, so be certain on what you are harvesting.”

Deer and elk have significant size differences. Elk can weigh several hundred pounds more and stand 2-4 feet taller than deer. Elk males also have a different appearance, with a lighter back and hindquarters and a darker, reddish-brown neck and head. Female elk are a reddish-brown color without a color variation. Both male deer and elk have antlers. Adult bull elk antlers are typically significantly larger than white-tailed deer antlers and branch beyond the ears; however, young spike bulls can have significantly smaller, unbranched antlers.

“If you know of a wildlife violation that has taken place or you have made a mistake, call our Report All Poaching line at 1-800-292-7800,” said Hiestand.

Michigan has had an elk hunting season annually since 1984, and a weighted lottery system has been used since 2003. In 2016, 200 elk hunting licenses were available to those selected in the random drawing.

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Target shooting rules have changed on state game and wildlife areas


 

With firearm deer season almost here, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters that target shooting rules were recently changed through a land use order by the DNR director.

“Many hunters head to local state game and wildlife areas to sight in their guns, and with the recent changes to target shooting on these specific areas, we want to help hunters be legal,” said Tim Payne, DNR southeast regional wildlife supervisor.

Previously, target shooting on some state game and wildlife areas resulted in user conflicts and management issues. Some of the issues included congestion of people, unsafe use of targets, early morning or late night shooting, and damage to habitat and restoration efforts (tree damage, litter, etc.).

To help alleviate conflicts and to provide a safer target shooting experience, target shooting rules on state game areas and wildlife areas now are as follows:

A person shall not do any of the following:

  • Target shoot at anything other than a paper, cardboard or commercially produced portable target designed and manufactured for the specific purpose of target shooting.
  • Use or attempt to use incendiary or explosive targets.
  • Use or attempt to use incendiary or explosive ammunition.
  • Use or attempt to use armor-piercing ammunition (as defined by section 224c of 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.224c)
  • Possess or be under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol or a combination while target shooting.
  • Use or attempt to use a firearm, other than a pistol, revolver, shotgun, rifle, hand-held firearm or a muzzle-loading firearm.
  • Use a muzzle-loading firearm exceeding .80 caliber.

A person must adhere to the following:

  • When skeet and trap shooting, use only clay targets and shot size BBB or smaller, unless posted otherwise.
  • No target shooting before 9 a.m. or after 7 p.m. or sunset (whichever is earliest), or as posted.
  • No one shall possess or be under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol or a combination of a controlled substance and alcohol while target shooting.
  • The DNR recommends shooters familiarize themselves with their firearms and ammunition and the distance that individual rounds can travel. To ensure their safety and the safety of other users of state game and wildlife areas, shooters are encouraged to be aware of their surroundings, including neighboring homes, topography and the backstops they are using for shooting. Target shooters are reminded that it is illegal to use a tree as a target, or as a holder for a target.

Target shooting may not be allowed at all state game and wildlife areas, and each game or wildlife area may have additional restrictions and guidelines. Learn more about the state game or wildlife areas near you.

The DNR also has seven staffed shooting ranges that are open for use. Bald Mountain Recreation Area and Island Lake Recreation Area both have staffed shooting ranges that are managed by Michigan Shooting Centers.  The DNR also staffs five other shooting ranges at Dansville State Game Area (Ingham County), Ortonville State Game Area (Lapeer County), Pontiac Lake Recreation Area (Oakland County), Rose Lake State Game Area (Clinton County) and Sharonville State Game Area (Jackson County).

Learn more about the DNR shooting ranges including offerings, locations and hours or search for other ranges around the state at Michigan.gov/shootingranges.

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Lake sturgeon season opened July 16 on certain waters


Many anglers consider catching a lake sturgeon to be the catch of a lifetime. The opportunity can be yours on select waters starting July 16.

Many anglers consider catching a lake sturgeon to be the catch of a lifetime. The opportunity can be yours on select waters starting July 16.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers that the unique hook-and-line fishing seasons for lake sturgeon opened Saturday, July 16. Lake sturgeon are one of Michigan’s most historically significant fish species, but there are limited opportunities to target them within the state’s waters.

Seasons opening last weekend included:

  • Great Lakes and Connecting Waters (except Lake St. Clair and St. Clair River), all inland waters. The fishing season is open July 16 through Nov. 30, but there is no possession season. All lake sturgeon caught must be released immediately.
  • Lake St. Clair and St. Clair River. The fishing season is open July 16 through Nov. 30, and the possession season is open July 16 through Sept. 30. Lake sturgeon between 42 and 50 inches may be harvested; those less than 42 inches or greater than 50 inches must be released immediately.
  • Otsego Lake (Otsego County). The fishing and possession season is July 16 through March 15, 2017. The minimum size limit for lake sturgeon is 50 inches; those less than 50 inches must be released immediately.

“Very few opportunities exist in this state to target this exceptionally unique species,” said Todd Wills, DNR fisheries research manager on Lake St. Clair. “But for anglers looking to have the catch of a lifetime, they may want to consider heading out to an area with an open lake sturgeon hook-and-line season.”

All sturgeon anglers shall obtain non-transferable lake sturgeon fishing permits and harvest tags prior to fishing for lake sturgeon. These items are available at all license vendors. Upon harvesting a lake sturgeon, an angler must validate their harvest tag, attach it to the fish and register their harvest within 24 hours at a designated registration site.

Lake sturgeon harvest is limited to only one lake sturgeon per angler per angling year (April 1 through March 31). For more information on this fish species and its regulations, visit Michigan.gov/sturgeon.

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Arctic grayling initiative could bring historical species back to Michigan’s waters


Arctic grayling, shown here, once were available for Michigan anglers to pursue. The DNR recently announced a proposed initiative to reintroduce them to Michigan’s waters.

Arctic grayling, shown here, once were available for Michigan anglers to pursue. The DNR recently announced a proposed initiative to reintroduce them to Michigan’s waters.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, has announced a proposed initiative that aims to bring back an extirpated species to the state—Arctic grayling.

The proposed initiative, announced at today’s Natural Resources Commission meeting in Gaylord, will seek to establish self-sustaining populations of Arctic grayling throughout its historical range. The initiative is a proposed objective in the DNR’s 2017 Inland Trout Management Plan, which currently is being drafted.

The Arctic grayling is a native and iconic fish species in Michigan. Slate blue in color, they have a sail-like dorsal fin and were virtually the only native stream salmonid in the Lower Peninsula. In the lower 48 states they are native only to Michigan and Montana, further cementing their legendary status.

Michigan’s native grayling population died off nearly a century ago due to statewide logging efforts of the 1800s, over-fishing and general habitat destruction.

Although gone for an extensive period of time, reintroduction efforts have occurred with the most recent one coming 30 years ago. While unsuccessful at that time, lessons were learned and significant strides have been made to establish a better strategy to move this initiative forward.

“For this Arctic grayling initiative to work, we will seek to rely heavily on partnerships and collaboration from across the state,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “Over the next several years we will be taking methodical steps to move toward reintroduction of this historically and culturally significant species.”

These steps will include identifying interest and abilities of the partners, collecting baseline data, initiating the building of broodstock, and stocking efforts. The Manistee River watershed, once known as a premier grayling river, will be the first targeted location for reintroduction.

The DNR will work closely with partners as the proposed Arctic grayling initiative moves forward. The Little River Band, located in Manistee County, has for several years been engaged in extensive research for potential grayling reintroduction.

“This is going to be ‘Michigan’s Arctic Grayling Initiative,’” said Dexter. “Collaboration and partnerships will be crucial to its success.”

This effort also will lean heavily on recent scientific research in Michigan, as well as the successes Montana has achieved in re-establishing stable Arctic grayling populations.

For more information on the history of Arctic grayling in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/fishid.

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Bear that mauled teen in 2013 killed in Wexford County


Black bear attacks on humans are highly unusual, according to the Michigan DNR, but can occur if a sow is protecting her cubs.

Black bear attacks on humans are highly unusual, according to the Michigan DNR, but can occur if a sow is protecting her cubs.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday, May 11,  that a black bear recently shot and killed in Haring Township, north of Cadillac in Wexford County, is the same bear that mauled a teenage girl, Abby Wetherell, in that same township in 2013.

The DNR confirms a 9-year-old female black bear was killed April 30 by an individual, who wishes to remain anonymous, acting in self-defense. The individual let out a dog, which then immediately ran after what appeared to be a bear cub. The dog was stopped at the end of the tree line barking when the owner saw a bear appear and attack the dog. The individual went to assist the dog and the bear ran off. As the owner attempted to render aid to the injured dog, the bear retuned to the scene and approached the resident, who then shot the bear. The situation was reported to the DNR and investigated. It was determined to be a justifiable killing of the bear.

The bear carcass was sent to the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory in Lansing for pathology review. DNA samples were sent to Michigan State University for genetic testing. MSU’s Jeannette Kanefsky of the Molecular Ecology Laboratory did the genotyping.

“The results of the genetic testing are consistent between the sample from the 2016 shot black bear and the evidence at the 2013 black bear mauling scene,” said Kanefsky. “The genotypes obtained from the samples are a match.”

The Wetherells were informed late Tuesday of the findings.

Through a process called “cementum annuli analysis,” DNR wildlife biologists examined the bear’s teeth to assess her age and number of litters. They determined this bear had three litters throughout her lifetime, including in 2013 when the mauling took place. It remains uncertain whether cubs were in the vicinity when the attack on Abby occurred.

After the attack on Abby, the DNR put extensive effort into setting traps and responding to bear activity in the area.

“DNR staff is relieved to have this matter resolved for both the Wetherells and the community,” said Keith Kintigh, field operations manager for the DNR’s Northern Lower Region. “Over the last three years, we have been highly responsive to multiple bear issues in the hopes of catching this animal.”

Michigan has an estimated black bear population of approximately 11,000 bears, with roughly 80 percent of the population in the Upper Peninsula. There is an established bear population in the area of Wexford County. The DNR reminds the public that black bears generally are fearful of humans and usually will leave if they become aware that people are present. Bear attacks on human beings are highly unusual and in most cases occur because a sow is protecting her cubs.

Here are some important facts to remember when in an area where bears may be present:

• To avoid surprising bears, travel in small groups and make noise.

• If you encounter a bear, stand your ground and then slowly back away. Do not turn away. Do not show fear and run. Do not play dead.

• Make yourself look bigger and talk to the bear in a stern voice.

• If actually attacked, fight back with a backpack, stick or bare hands.

For additional information on living with bears, visit the DNR website atwww.michigan.gov/bear.

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DNR: Keep Michigan’s wildlife wild


Baby rabbits are among the young wildlife often encountered by those getting out in nature. Photo Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Baby rabbits are among the young wildlife often encountered by those getting out in nature. Photo Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

 

Each spring and summer, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is flooded with calls as people across the state run into a common dilemma—they have come across a baby animal and desperately want to help.

Hannah Schauer, a DNR wildlife education technician, spends time talking with the public about why it is better to leave baby animals in the wild.

The vast majority of the time these wild animals do not need our help,” Schauer said. “Wildlife can survive on a day-to-day basis without help from humans.”

Survival adaptations

White-tailed deer fawns often are left alone by their mothers in an attempt to keep predators from finding them. Baby rabbits are among the young wildlife often encountered by those getting out in nature. Photo Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

White-tailed deer fawns often are left alone by their mothers in an attempt to keep predators from finding them.
Baby rabbits are among the young wildlife often encountered by those getting out in nature.
Photo Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Most wild critters have a few survival tricks up their sleeves. Take white-tailed deer, for example.

Female deer typically birth their fawns in May and June. A newborn fawn is unsure of its footing and is unable to keep up with its mother. So, the mother deer hides her small, spotted fawn in a secluded spot for safe keeping.

The mother deer then intentionally leaves her fawn alone to help increase its chances of survival. Beyond the spotted camouflage and the instinct to lie very still, fawns have an additional survival adaptation. Fawns are born with very little scent, making it challenging for predators to find them.

An adult deer, however, has plenty of scent to it, and—being a large animal—is fairly easy to spot,” Schauer said. “So, rather than hang around and draw attention to where she has carefully hid her fawn, the mother deer opts to graze elsewhere.”

The doe returns periodically to nurse her fawn and is usually not too far away. It doesn’t take long before the fawn is strong enough to keep up with its mother and then has a better chance of outrunning a predator. Fawns are rarely abandoned.

Wildlife concerns

DNR wildlife staff suggests that if you happen to find a fawn or other baby animal, please leave it in the wild.

Taking an animal from the wild is not only illegal, it is dangerous. A wild animal, especially a baby, may seem harmless, but they rarely are. If you bring a baby animal into your home and it actually survives, it will eventually grow up.

As animals grow, they will experience hormonal changes as well as physical and behavioral changes,” Schauer said. “Raccoons, for example, are known for exhibiting aggressive behavior as they age.”

An animal may act tame, but it is instinctively a wild animal and will act like one.

Besides aggressive and potentially dangerous behaviors, wild animals can carry diseases and parasites, many of which can be transmitted to your pets or to you or your children. The laws prohibiting possession of wild animals are in place to keep people, as well as the wild animals, safe.

Tougher rules

In some cases, the DNR must put even stricter regulations in place to look after the health of an entire species. Such is the case in central Michigan, where in May 2015 the state’s first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) was confirmed in a free-ranging, white-tailed deer from Ingham County.

The disease is a central nervous system affliction found in deer, elk and moose (cervids). It attacks the brain of infected animals, creating small lesions that result in death. Chronic wasting disease is transmitted through direct animal-to-animal contact or by contact with saliva,urine, feces, blood and carcass parts of an infected animal or infected soil.

Once it arrives, CWD can spread through the deer population and all deer infected with the disease will die. Because infected deer may not exhibit symptoms right away, you cannot tell just by looking at a deer if it is suffering from CWD.

Taking an unhealthy deer from the environment and attempting to rehabilitate it has the potential to increase the spread of CWD. Bringing infected deer into contact with other deer in rehabilitation centers, can risk contaminating those facilities. For that reason, rehabilitation of deer in Clinton, Shiawassee and Ingham counties in Lower Michigan is prohibited. As new cases of CWD are discovered, the list of counties where rehabilitation of deer is prohibited may grow. 

So far, CWD has not been found in the Upper Peninsula. To continue monitoring the situation, the DNR plans to ask hunters this fall to voluntarily submit deer heads for testing in the counties bordering Wisconsin.

In Lower Michigan, there is mandatory testing for deer harvested within the CWD Management Zone and voluntary testing occurring elsewhere for any hunter who wants to submit a deer head. To learn more about CWD and how you can help, visit mi.gov/cwd.

Wildlife rehabilitators

Ultimately, a wild animal’s best chance of survival is staying in the wild. This is especially true for baby animals.

Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may legally possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Unless you are licensed, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal in Michigan. The only time a baby animal may be removed from the wild is when you know the parent is dead or the animal is injured. However, a licensed rehabilitator must be contacted before removing an animal from the wild.

Licensed wildlife rehabilitators must adhere to the law and have gone through training on proper handling of injured or abandoned wild animals. These rehabilitators will work to return the animal to the wild where it will again realize its best chance for survival.

A list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators in Michigan can be found by visiting mi.gov/wildlife or by calling your local DNR office.

Look for #KeepMiWild on the DNR’s social media this spring and summer and share the importance of keeping wildlife in the wild.

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Leave wildlife in the wild 


 

A white-tailed deer fawn waiting for its mother to return. Although fawns may appear to have been abandoned, that’s rarely the case, and leaving them alone will help them survive.

A white-tailed deer fawn waiting for its mother to return. Although fawns may appear to have been abandoned, that’s rarely the case, and leaving them alone will help them survive.

Do not take baby animals from the wild this spring

Spring is nearly here, bringing warmer temperatures and the next generation of wildlife.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds those who are outside enjoying the experience of seeing wildlife raise its young to view animals from a distance, so they are not disturbed.

It is important to remember that many species of wildlife “cache” (hide) their young for safety. These babies are not abandoned; they simply have been hidden by their mother until she returns for them.

“Please resist the urge to help seemingly abandoned baby animals,” said Hannah Schauer, wildlife technician for the DNR. “Many baby animals will die if removed from their natural environment, and some have diseases or parasites that can be passed on to humans or pets.”

Schauer added that some rescued animals that do survive may become habituated to people and are unable to revert back to life in the wild.

“Habituated animals pose additional problems as they mature and develop adult animal behavior. For example, habituated deer, especially bucks, can become aggressive as they get older and reach breeding age.”

White-tailed deer fawns are one of the animals most commonly rescued by well-intentioned citizens. It is not uncommon for deer to leave their fawns unattended for up to eight hours at a time. This behavior minimizes the scent of the mother left around the fawn, which allows the fawn to go undetected by nearby predators. While fawns seem abandoned, they rarely are. All wild white-tailed deer begin life this way. The best chance for their survival is to leave them in the wild. If you find a fawn alone, do not touch it, as this might leave your scent and could attract predators. Give it plenty of space and leave the area quickly. The mother deer will return for her fawns when she feels it is safe, but may not return if people or dogs are present.

Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Unless you are licensed, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal, including deer, in Michigan.

The only time a baby animal may be removed from the wild is when you know the parent is dead or the animal is injured. Please remember, a licensed rehabilitator must be contacted before removing an animal from the wild. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators must adhere to the law and have gone through training on proper handling of injured or abandoned wild animals. Licensed rehabilitators will work to return the animal to the wild, where it will have the best chance for survival.

A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting mi.gov/wildlife or by calling your local DNR office.

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DNR marks progress in pheasant restoration


A male, in the background, and female ring-necked pheasants are shown. The species was introduced to the United States from Asia in the late 19th century.

A male, in the background, and female ring-necked pheasants are shown. The species was introduced to the United States from Asia in the late 19th century.

A few years ago, when the Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced it was putting together a coalition to rehabilitate pheasant hunting in Michigan, it assembled an impressive array of partners to address many of the problems that led to the declining fortunes of “ringnecks.”

Now, halfway through the 10-year project, those involved in the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative say the program has made significant headway.

“We are seeing enhanced partnerships, excellent teamwork, habitat improvements and increased enthusiasm for pheasants and pheasant hunting,” said Al Stewart, the DNR’s upland game bird specialist.

About a dozen volunteers from the Lenawee County chapter of Pheasants Forever recently showed up to work with Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division staff to take out an overgrown fence row between two grassy fields at the Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The goal is to create a large block of land that will be more hospitable to not only pheasants, but other grasslands residents as well. Pheasants Forever member Ken Parts helps clear a fence line in between two large grass fields.

About a dozen volunteers from the Lenawee County chapter of Pheasants Forever recently showed up to work with Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division staff to take out an overgrown fence row between two grassy fields at the Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The goal is to create a large block of land that will be more hospitable to not only pheasants, but other grasslands residents as well. Pheasants Forever member Ken Parts helps clear a fence line in between two large grass fields.

The coalition began the pheasant initiative by establishing three pilot focus areas, concentrating efforts in areas that offer some of the best remaining pheasant habitat in the state.

These priority Pheasant Recovery Areas each have three counties and are situated in the “Thumb Area” (Huron, Tuscola and Sanilac counties), central Michigan (Gratiot, Saginaw and Clinton counties) and southeastern Michigan (Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties).

Since the “golden days” of Michigan pheasant hunting in the 1950s, changes in agricultural practices and land use have contributed to pheasant habitat loss, declining food sources and lower production of chicks.

Over the first five years of the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative, the DNR has enhanced or restored roughly 7,400 acres of grasslands on state game, wildlife and recreation areas and established 3,160 acres of food plots.

Another 556 acres of enhanced grasslands and 203 acres of food plots have been cultivated around the Sharonville State Game Area, just to the north of the Hillsdale-Lenawee-Monroe focus area.

In addition, the DNR has acquired 742 acres to add to existing game areas within the Pheasant Recovery Areas. There have also been 765 acres of grasslands and 2,000 acres of food plots established at the Allegan State Game Area, which is located outside the existing focus areas.

“Things are really starting to happen,” Stewart said.

However, those significant improvements on state-managed land represent only one small part of the equation, as most of the state’s prime pheasant range—located in southern Michigan—is privately owned.

To address this, the initiative has helped establish cooperatives and hired a co-ops coordinator in the focus areas so private landowners can meet with other like-minded individuals to help improve habitat for pheasants across the landscape.

The DNR has funded five conservation district Farm Bill biologists, with more to come, to assist private landowners in habitat improvement projects. The money for the biologists was raised from the DNR’s recent license restructuring.

Jason Myers, a Farm Bill biologist who covers four counties working out of the Tuscola Conservation District, says 80 percent of his efforts are directed toward pheasant restoration projects.

He said much of his work involves finding cost-share programs for landowners and providing technical assistance for managing Conservation Reserve Program and Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program lands.

Under these two federal Farm Bill programs, farmland is removed from production in exchange for annual rental payments with the lands improved for conservation or environmental quality enhancements.

“I do a lot of habitat plans for guys,” Myers said. “We’re kind of like therapists in a way—kind of hold their hands through the process and make sure they do it right. I spend a lot of time visiting CRP and CREP lands to help landowners maintain them in the shape their supposed to be in.”

The work is paying off, he said.

“A couple of guys in the pheasant cooperatives have said they wouldn’t have done what they’ve done in the last few years if it wasn’t for the initiative,” Myers said. “Tuscola County had about 200 CRP and CREP contracts when I started. About 190 of them have re-enrolled and about half of those have added acreage.”

Bill Vander Zouwen is the Michigan Region representative for Pheasants Forever, a group dedicated to conservation of pheasants, quail and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education and land management policies and programs.

Vander Zouwen was a biologist and chief of the wildlife ecology section of the Wisconsin DNR for more than 30 years before returning to Michigan.

He praised the cooperation between agencies and hunters under the pheasant initiative.

“I’m impressed with the attention pheasants are getting and I’m happy to see it,” he said. “Pheasants are a priority of the DNR, a focus of the More Bang for Your Buck program. The DNR has really stepped up.”

Pheasants Forever has 30 active chapters in Michigan and focuses most of its attention on private land, dispensing seed for food plots to its members, though Vander Zouwen said “about 15 chapters put their money up for matching grants from the DNR to improve habitat on public land where anyone can hunt.”

The DNR has awarded State Wildlife Grants totaling more than $850,000 to benefit 49 projects that include almost 3,000 acres of grassland complexes.

Beyond the DNR and Pheasants Forever, other members of the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative coalition include the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Quality Deer Management Association, Ducks Unlimited, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

These additional government and nongovernmental entities often focus on other priorities, but they value grasslands for everything from biodiversity to improving water quality.

“Doing work for pheasants is central for wildlife on the ground,” Myers said. “It helps everything from songbirds to white-tailed deer.”

And, of course, it helps pheasants.

Cooperative landowners say they’re hearing more crowing pheasant roosters in recent years, and some hunters report seeing more pheasants on state-managed land.

Despite these advances, much of the effort of the pheasant initiative has yet to bear fruit, but members say the seeds have been sown for the future.

“The coalition is committed to an even more productive next five years,” Vander Zouwen said.

To learn more about upland game bird hunting in Michigan, visit the DNR’s Web page www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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DNR showcases cougars in two new displays 


Display: The new mountain lion display at Tahquamenon Falls State Park provides visitors with information on cougars in the Upper Peninsula.

Display: The new mountain lion display at Tahquamenon Falls State Park provides visitors with information on cougars in the Upper Peninsula.

Confirmed reports reach 31 in Michigan

Two cougar mounts recently provided to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have attracted a lot of attention in Luce County this summer.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, cougars—also called mountain lions—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 extirpated from the state around the turn of the 20th century.

These big, long-tailed cats typically hunt at night, generally weigh between 90 and 180 pounds, and measure five to six feet from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.

One of the DNR’s two cougar mounts is on display at the “Fact Shack” at the Upper Falls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which is situated off M-123, about 25 miles north of Newberry.

 Poached: A mountain lion poached in Schoolcraft County in 2013 is now on display at the Department of Natural Resources customer service center in Newberry.


Poached: A mountain lion poached in Schoolcraft County in 2013 is now on display at the Department of Natural Resources customer service center in Newberry.

“The cougar was donated by the GarLyn Zoo in Naubinway and was a captive animal that died of natural causes,” said Theresa Neal, park interpreter at Tahquamenon Falls. “The display features information about cougars in Michigan, an actual cougar track cast and information on how the DNR handles reports and sightings of cougars.”

The second cougar mount can be seen at the DNR’s Newberry customer service center, located off M-123, just south of Newberry. This glass-encased cat was received by the DNR at the close of a cougar poaching case in Schoolcraft County.

During the 2013 muzzle-loader deer hunting season in the Upper Peninsula, conservation officers received a tip that a cougar had been killed at a hunting camp near Seney.

“The investigation revealed the animal was shot and wounded with a rifle when it entered a field near the camp,” said DNR Sgt. Mike Hammill. “The following day, the cougar was tracked down and killed by one of the suspects.”

Hammill said the suspects returned home to Bay City with the cougar, intending to mount the animal.

“Before this took place, three suspects were identified, interviewed and ultimately arrested and the cougar was recovered,” Hammill said. “The suspects involved were all convicted, served jail time, paid several thousand dollars in fines, costs, and restitution, and lost hunting privileges for several years.”

Hammill said that as a part of the sentence, the shooter was required to pay the cost of having the animal mounted.

In August, the cougar mount was displayed at the DNR’s Pocket Park during the Upper Peninsula State Fair in Escanaba. Following the fair, the cougar was exhibited at the Schoolcraft County Courthouse in Manistique, before returning to the Newberry DNR customer service center earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the DNR has confirmed 31 cougar reports in the Upper Peninsula since 2008, but so far there remains no evidence confirmed of a breeding population.

“Within the last decade, numerous cougar sighting reports have been received from various locations in Michigan and are investigated by DNR Wildlife Division’s cougar team,” said Kevin Swanson, a DNR wildlife biologist in Marquette.

The most recent confirmed mountain lion report occurred in September with DNR verification of a trail camera image in Dickinson County.

“This situation is not unique to Michigan but has been occurring in many other Midwestern and eastern states as young males disperse from core range areas in the western United States,” Swanson said.

All of Michigan’s DNR-verified cougar reports have come from the Upper Peninsula, where 12 of the region’s 15 counties have had reports.

Marquette County has led the confirmed cougar reports with six; Menominee County has had four; Houghton, Delta and Mackinac counties have had three each, while Baraga, Chippewa, Luce, Schoolcraft and Ontonagon counties have each had two and Keweenaw and Dickinson have had one each.

Of those confirmed reports, 21 involved photos, eight were tracks, one was video and scat and the remaining confirmed report was that of the cougar poached near Seney in Schoolcraft County in 2013.

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

Information about Tahquamenon Falls State Park, including maps and the nature program schedule, can be found at www.michigan.gov/tfallseducation.

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