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Tag Archive | "Michigan Department of Natural Resources"

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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Muskegon River task force keeps violators in line


 

A law enforcement task force made up of multiple agencies will help keep things safe and peaceful on the Muskegon River in Newaygo County this summer.

Last summer, the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office partnered with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan State Police, and the Newaygo Police Department to create a Muskegon River Multi Agency Enforcement Task for increased presence and enforcement on the Muskegon River. The task force was created in response to complaints on the river including trespassing, disorderly conduct, underage drinking, littering, and other violations of the law.

The task force allows more resources and personnel to be assigned to enforcement on the Muskegon River. They also created a “River Watch” program to utilize homeowners along the river and volunteers to assist in spotting law violators on the river, and reporting to enforcement officers patrolling the river.

They have been working with community members, livery owners, the County Board of Commissioners, the City of Newaygo, and the townships along the river to put the project together. Their goal is to change the culture of the river and expectations of those that use the river.

The Muskegon River is approximately 40 miles long, from Croton Dam to Maple Island Road, in Newaygo County. The enforcement plan calls for more patrol craft on the river, as well as patrol cars on the river corridor.

“We have deputies, conservation officers, and police officers working on the river in patrol boats,” said Newaygo County Sheriff Pat Hedlund. “In addition, the Michigan State Police and the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office are patrolling roads along the Muskegon River. These officers will be proactively looking for people who are violating laws regarding trespassing, indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, drunk driving, drugs, underage drinking, and other violations.”

During the summer of 2014, police made 234 traffic stops along the river corridor and at river access sites. They issued 276 traffic citations. There were 136 total arrests and/or appearance citations on the river. Overall, officers gave 322 verbal warnings where citations could have been issued but were not.

There will be upwards of five patrol boats on the water each weekend all summer long. Each boat will have two officers on board. The officers in boats are from the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office, the DNR, and the Newaygo Police Department.

“We want people to have fun and enjoy themselves, but we also want people to know that we will enforce the law in order to protect people and property,” Hedlund said.

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Successful year for Master Angler program


Did you know there are fish this size in Cedar Springs? Richard Virkstis, of Walker, made the Master Angler list in 2011 when he caught this Northern pike in Lime Lake, just west of Cedar Springs. It was 44.5 inches long, and just under 20 lbs.

Did you know there are fish this size in Cedar Springs? Richard Virkstis, of Walker, made the Master Angler list in 2011 when he caught this Northern pike in Lime Lake, just west of Cedar Springs. It was 44.5 inches long, and just under 20 lbs.


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced the results from its 2014 Master Angler program—a program that has been in place since 1973 to recognize large fish caught by recreational anglers. This past year, 987 anglers representing 19 states and Canada submitted catches that were recognized as Master Angler fish. That is a decrease from the 1,208 fish recognized in 2013. Of the entries accepted, 327 were categorized as “catch and keep” and 660 were categorized as “catch and release.” The most popular 2014 Master Angler entries by species include:

84 smallmouth bass

76 bluegill

60 crappie

57 channel catfish

56 rainbow trout

54 rock bass

37 walleye

Master Angler entries for 2014 included five state records, including flathead catfish (52.0 pounds, caught on Barron Lake by Dale Blakley of Niles); white perch (1.93 pounds, caught on Muskegon Lake by Aaron Slagh of Holland); brown bullhead (3.77 pounds, caught on Alcona Pond by Jared Gusler of Fairview); black buffalo (41.25 pounds, caught on Bear Lake by Joshua Teunis of Grand Haven); and quillback carpsucker (8.25 pounds, caught on Hardy Dam Pond by Benjamin Frey of Grand Rapids).

Submissions for the 2015 Master Angler program are being accepted now through Jan. 10, 2016. To download an application, visit michigan.gov/masterangler. Anglers are encouraged to submit their applications as fish are caught, rather than holding submissions until the end of the year.

The DNR reminds anglers that it is now even easier to participate in the Master Angler program, since the weight requirement has been removed for catch-and-keep entries. Anglers will no longer need to find a commercial scale to weigh their fish, as both the catch-and-keep and catch-and-release categories will now be based only on length. However, anglers should keep in mind that state-record fish still will be determined by weight.
Dozens of photos showing a variety of Master Angler catches over the years are available on the DNR’s Facebook page in the Master Angler photo album.

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Men face charges in duck poaching case


Two Kawkawlin, Michigan men have been ordered to pay $4,000 each in restitution payments to the Game and Fish Protection Fund and $625 each in fines and court costs, and were sentenced to five days in jail for being over the bag limit for redhead ducks, according to conservation officers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Travis Vennix, 22, and Timothy Diehl, 22, both of Kawkawlin, in Bay County, admitted to shooting 20 redhead ducks while hunting Oct. 13. The bag limit for redheads is two per hunter. In addition to their fines, restitution and jail time, both had their hunting privileges for the remainder of 2014 revoked, along with the next three calendar years. They were sentenced last week by Judge Allen Yenior of the 81st District Court in Arenac County.

Vennix and Diehl were waterfowl hunting Oct. 13 when they encountered DNR conservation officer Nick Atkin, who was checking waterfowl hunters, at the Pine River boating access site in Arenac County. Officer Atkin noted they were acting nervous when he spoke to them, but because of the darkness and fog he couldn’t see that the pair hid a stringer of 18 redhead ducks under the boat dock at the site. When Vennix and Diehl arrived on shore with their boat, Officer Atkin noted they had two redhead ducks in the boat with them.

On Oct. 14, the DNR received a Report All Poaching (RAP) Line complaint from a hunter who found a stringer of 18 redhead ducks shoved underneath the boat dock at the access site. Officer Atkin and conservation officer Phil Hudson tracked down the hunters Officer Atkin had encountered the previous night and obtained a confession from them that they shot 20 redhead ducks while hunting that day.

Any fish, game or natural resources violation can be anonymously reported to the DNR’s RAP Line at 800-292-7800. Information also can be given through an online reporting form on the DNR website. Information leading to an arrest and conviction is eligible for a cash reward funded by the Game and Fish Protection Fund.

For more information on conservation officers and the work they do, go to www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.

 

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DNR confirms cougars in eastern Upper Peninsula


This trail camera photo of a cougar was taken on public land in western Mackinac County in early November. Another photo was confirmed in Chippewa County in late October. 

Cougar evidence confirmed in U.P. 26 times since 2008

 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed two recent photos of a cougar in the eastern Upper Peninsula, marking the 25th and 26th times cougar evidence has been verified in the U.P.

One of the photos was taken with a camera phone in late October on private property near Chippewa County’s Raber Township. The other was taken in early November by a trail camera on public land in Mackinac County near Garfield Township (see above). The DNR has not received permission to release the Chippewa County photo.

With the verification of these two photos, the DNR has now confirmed the presence of cougars in 11 Upper Peninsula counties 26 times since 2008. The animals are believed to be young individuals dispersing from established populations in the Dakotas in search of new territory; there is no evidence of a breeding population of cougars in the state.

The DNR’s Wildlife Division welcomes citizen reports of possible cougar evidence or sightings. Cougar photos and other evidence, such as tracks, scat or cached kills, should be reported to a local DNR office or through the DNR’s online reporting form at www.michigan.gov/cougars.

 

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DNR releases 2014 deer season forecast 


OUT-deer-season-forecastThe Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced that its annual deer season forecast (2014 Deer Hunting Prospects) is now available online. DNR deer program biologists predict that hunters this season will see similar success rates as in 2013. The forecast is designed to give hunters a better idea of what to expect in the woods this season and includes:

Regional information breakdowns for the Upper Peninsula, the northern Lower Peninsula and the southern Lower Peninsula.

An overview of important changes for this license year, including information on multiple-year deer regulations, the new hunting and fishing license options, deer management unit boundaries for southern Michigan, and more.

Updates on wildlife health and diseases.

To acces the forecast, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr then click on hunting & trapping, then click on big game. Scroll down the page to the white-tailed deer section and click on 2014 deer season forecast.

For more tips and information on having a safe, successful deer season (including location of deer-check stations, antler point restriction FAQs and hunting digests), visit the DNR website www.michigan.gov/deer.

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Not everyone goes south for the winter


For some, the Great Lakes are a winter destination

Did you know the Great Lakes have thousands of feathered friends floating out there right now? Have you ever wondered how duck, geese and swan populations are tracked?

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with many other states in the nation, estimate duck, geese and swan populations (waterfowl) by looking at areas that traditionally hold birds in January—the open water.

“Anytime Mother Nature causes wildlife to naturally group together, surveying can be much more efficient,” said DNR wildlife biologist Mark Monroe. “Looking for birds by truck or plane at the same time across the nation gives agencies a great feel for populations and habitat trends.”

From Jan. 5-11, DNR staff visited (either by plane or truck) the same areas that have been surveyed in the past, not just to count waterfowl but also to identify the species. Mallards were the most common duck observed, although many “diving ducks” or sea ducks—such as canvasbacks and redheads—were counted.

“I’ve been flying this survey in the northern Lower Peninsula for quite a few years,” said Monroe, “and I have seen thousands of ducks every year out in the open water; it’s really neat to see.”

The northern Lower Peninsula area was flown by plane. One DNR pilot and two DNR observers spent the day traveling over 750 miles, searching out large groups of waterfowl in water that still remains open. The Manistee River, Lake Michigan from Pentwater to the Sleeping Bear Dunes, the inlet at Elberta and the Grand Traverse Bay area are locations in Northern Michigan where large numbers of birds are traditionally found. The crew revisits other “hot spots” where they have found waterfowl populations in the past, conducting flyovers at elevations of 200 to 500 feet. The Great Lakes and large rivers hold thousands of ducks that will spend the winter here, either because they are resident birds and do not migrate or because they have migrated to the Great Lakes from farther north. That’s right—some waterfowl that breed near the Arctic will actually head south to the Great Lakes to winter!

“In the northern Lower Peninsula we counted just over 12,000 ducks, just under 100 geese and more than 300 mute swans,” said Monroe. “It’s amazing how many birds are out on the water that’s still open.”

Winter waterfowl surveys can help detect any significant changes in the populations as well as help determine results of recent waterfowl hunting seasons and help dictate further regulations for future seasons. The January waterfowl survey also provides the best information on the number of mute swans in Michigan so population trends can be established for yearly comparisons.

To learn more about the different wildlife surveys completed by the DNR, visit the Wildlife Surveys page on the DNR website or contact DNR wildlife outreach technician Katie Keen at 231-775-9727.

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