Spring waterfowl survey results show good production

MADISON, WI - Wisconsin's spring 2017 waterfowl population surveys indicate increased numbers of breeding waterfowl pairs and relatively good wetland conditions, which should result in increased waterfowl production this year across the state.
The Wisconsin breeding duck population estimate of 479,099 represents an increase of 23 percent compared to 2016, and 9 percent above the long-term (44-year) average. Of the species-specific population estimates for the three top breeding ducks in Wisconsin, (mallard, blue-winged teal and wood duck) the blue-winged teal, showed the largest increase from 2016.
This survey information, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continental duck survey and the Ontario, Canada goose survey provides information regarding yearly waterfowl breeding conditions and is used to determine the fall season structure for Wisconsin.
For all surveyed waterfowl species, population counts showed increased numbers from the 2016 estimates. To view the full survey results for 2017, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "waterfowl."
A very mild winter in 2016-17, combined with above normal rainfall in March and April, led to wet conditions throughout Wisconsin. Rainfall in May following the survey helped Wisconsin remain at above average wetland conditions for the year during the important brood-rearing period. Wetland conditions remained above average for brood rearing, and Wisconsin is expected to provide good duck production in 2017.
These breeding pair and habitat conditions are important to waterfowl hunters as roughly 70 percent of mallard harvest in Wisconsin is supported by locally hatched ducks. Although higher this year, it is important to note that the average mallard population in the last few years has been lower than the previous decade. This observation suggests that continued efforts aimed at controlling mallard harvest impacts and support for grassland nesting habitat conservation are important to the future of Wisconsin's local mallard population.
Wisconsin Canada goose harvest is supported by Canada geese breeding in northern Ontario, as well as those breeding locally in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin breeding estimate for Canada geese is up from 2016 and consistent with a stable population of roughly 140,000, which is the 10-year average. Continental breeding waterfowl population estimates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey are expected to arrive in July.
Under new federal framework, Wisconsin conducted its annual waterfowl season hearings this spring, and the Natural Resources Board approved department proposals for season structure at its April 12 meeting. With earlier approval dates, 2017 migratory bird season regulations are currently available online and at many license vendors throughout Wisconsin.
With the department's transition to Go Wild, the Canada goose harvest registration phone number is now consistent with all other species registered in Wisconsin, and this new system provides for online registration. Hunters will now register online at gamereg.wi.gov or via phone at 844-426-3734 (844 GAME-REG). Registration within 48 hours of harvest is mandatory for all Canada geese harvested.
Canada Goose Hunting Permits are now printed on paper. Hunters are no longer required to conduct the in-field validation of their goose permit. However, hunters are still required to register their geese online or by calling in within 48 hours of harvest.
For more information regarding migratory birds in Wisconsin, search keyword "waterfowl."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


No permits available for sharp-tailed grouse hunting

MADISON, WI - As a result of recent declines in the number of sharp-tailed grouse in spring surveys conducted by wildlife management staff, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has decided that zero permits be made available for the fall 2017 hunting season.
Each year, the Sharp-tailed Grouse Advisory Committee, which consists of DNR wildlife biologists and interested conservation groups, uses spring dancing ground surveys to recommend permit levels for the sharp-tailed grouse hunting season. This decision comes as a result of a review of the spring 2017 survey data, which identify an 18 percent decline in the number of sharp-tailed grouse observed.
It is important to note that since no permits are available, no applications will be made available or accepted this year.
Although the population has dipped low enough to not issue permits this year, by state law sharp-tailed grouse will retain their status as a game species. DNR staff are hopeful that the population will respond positively to ongoing focused habitat management efforts.
In the meantime, those who are passionate about Wisconsin's strong and historic tradition of sharp-tailed grouse hunting should remain encouraged through significant partnerships that exist in the northwest part of the state to manage young forest and barren habitats that sharp-tailed grouse depend upon for survival.
For more information, please visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "sharp-tailed grouse." Sharp-tailed grouse survey data can be found at keywords "wildlife reports."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Spring turkey harvest registrations show slight decrease

MADISON, WI - Preliminary totals show turkey hunters registered 43,341 birds during the 2017 spring turkey hunting season in Wisconsin, a slight decrease from the spring 2016 season.
"Overall, turkey hunters experienced another successful spring season," said Mark Witecha, Department of Natural Resources upland wildlife ecologist. "The spring turkey harvest exceeded my expectations considering the persistent, rainy conditions in the second week of the season and an estimated 27 percent decline in turkey production in 2016."
A total of 212,088 permits were issued for the spring 2017 spring turkey season, compared to 212,772 in 2016.
Zone 1 produced the highest overall turkey harvest at 12,573 birds, followed by zones 2 and 3, where hunters registered 10,675 and 9,925 turkeys respectively. Overall, the statewide success rate was 20.4 percent, compared to 21.3 percent in 2016.
The highest hunter success rate was seen in Zone 2, with a rate of 22.2 percent, followed by Zone 4 at 21 percent and Zone 1 at 20.4 percent. Success rates were between 14 and 19 percent for the remaining zones.
"We are very happy with the high success rates seen across the state this spring," said DNR assistant upland wildlife ecologist Jaqi Christopher. "It's clear that Wisconsin's turkey population has enjoyed milder winters recently, and hunters were rewarded for their efforts in the woods this year."
The Youth Turkey Hunt and Learn to Hunt events were again offered in 2017. Youth and novice hunters enjoyed an early onset of spring and decent weather conditions in the pre-season, which helped increase the harvest during the Youth Turkey Hunt and Learn to Hunt events by 17 percent from 2016. These efforts are aimed at recruiting new turkey hunters.
A key objective of Wisconsin's Wild Turkey Management Plan is to maximize opportunities for hunters with a minimum amount of interference, while ensuring that harvest does not lead to population declines. Biologists in Wisconsin closely monitor harvest, hunter interference rates and hunter satisfaction along with turkey populations through time, to maintain a successful and enjoyable spring turkey hunt.
"Following another mild winter, hens have entered the breeding season in good condition," said Witecha. "If we can avoid cold, rainy weather during the critical nesting and brood rearing periods, we should see good numbers heading into the fall season."
For more information regarding turkey hunting in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "turkey."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


DPA boundaries change in northeast moose range

Deer permit area boundaries will change this fall for six DPAs in northeastern Minnesota.
The changes were made to better reflect where deer and moose are on the landscape, habitat quality, to reduce disease and parasite transmission from deer to moose, and to enhance the management needs of both deer and moose.
Ongoing research continues to point to deer as a primary vector for disease and parasites that cause poor moose health, and have been contributing factors of mortality in the majority of moose studied.
Within the primary moose range, deer will be managed at lower, but stable densities. Outside of the primary moose range, deer will be managed at higher densities, consistent with the recent deer goal-setting public process. Deer will not be managed below goals established in 2015 (a 25 percent increase).
The changes affect 2016 deer permit areas 122, 127, 176 and 180. The changes affect 2017 deer permit areas 130, 131, 132, 133 and 176.
Hunters will soon be able to access detailed, printable maps of the new boundaries on the DNR website, locate new DPA numbers on the pullout map in the 2017 Hunting & Trapping Regulations Handbook, or find them through the DNR’s online recreation compass mapping application.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Wisconsin ruffed grouse survey results show promise

MADISON, WI - Roadside ruffed grouse surveys completed in spring 2017 showed statewide drumming activity increased 17 percent from 2016, based on data collected to monitor breeding grouse activity.
For complete survey results, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "reports."
"An increase in breeding grouse activity hopefully will mean an increase in grouse nesting and brood rearing, which could mean more grouse for hunters to pursue this fall," said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Survey Coordinator Brian Dhuey. "Ruffed grouse populations are known to rise and fall over a nine to 11-year cycle, and the last peak in Wisconsin's cycle occurred in 2011. Survey results suggest that we have passed the low point in the population cycle and have started the increasing phase, which should continue the next few years as the grouse population moves toward the next peak."
Roadside surveys to monitor the number of breeding grouse have been conducted by staff from the department, U.S. Forest Service, tribal employees, and numerous grouse enthusiasts and volunteers since 1964.
The survey results showed a 17 percent increase from 2016 levels. The northern and southwest regions showed increases, while the southeast and central regions remained stable or showed small declines. While increases in the southwest part of the state were the largest by percentage, this area is not within the primary range for grouse. The increase in activity in southwestern Wisconsin follows near historic lows, and likely would not significantly add to grouse abundance in the state.
Results from the 2017 survey show that grouse populations in both the southwest and southeast region remain well below historic levels. According to Mark Witecha, a DNR upland wildlife ecologist, maturation of southern Wisconsin's forest community and the resulting loss of dense, brushy areas that grouse need for cover has resulted in lower numbers of regional grouse in recent decades.
"Ruffed grouse rely on dense, young forest cover resulting from disturbances such as fire and logging," said Witecha. "Beyond actively managing state-owned lands, the Wisconsin DNR is working to provide suitable grouse habitat through an extensive collaborative effort known as the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership. The Partnership provides technical and financial assistance for young forest management on private lands, benefiting ruffed grouse and other wildlife species by helping maintain healthy and diverse forest communities."
For more information regarding grouse hunting in Wisconsin, search keywords "ruffed grouse hunting."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


DNR Board approves 2017 deer harvest quotas, season structure

MADISON, WI - The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board approved deer hunting season framework and antlerless deer quotas for 2017 recently.
Final season framework reflects recommendations from County Deer Advisory Councils as 2017 marks the third year these councils have played a key role in Wisconsin's deer management efforts. In addition to direct feedback from councils, more than 6,500 questionnaires were received during a public input process that ran from April 3-13, 2017.
"I'm looking forward to an excellent deer hunt throughout all the seasons this year. We had another very mild winter, which will bode well for the herd throughout the state, so I anticipate another year of increased harvest," said Kevin Wallenfang, Department of Natural Resources big game ecologist. "County Deer Advisory Councils worked hard to weigh the many factors and public desires that drive deer herd management, and we thank them for their work in helping to shape this year's hunting seasons."
In 2017, four deer management units within the Northern and Central Forest zones will allow only bucks to be harvested, while the rest of Wisconsin will have a total quota of 276,515 antlerless deer (compared to 256,775 in 2016).
A decrease in "buck-only" counties compared to the last two years (12 in 2015 and 10 in 2016) is a good indication that councils and the DNR are seeing herds rebound in Northern Forest Zone counties. As a reminder, rules are in place to allow disabled hunters, military personnel on leave, Deer Management Assistance Program cooperators, and youth hunters (the Junior Antlerless Tag is valid statewide) to harvest antlerless deer in buck-only units. As a result, there will be some antlerless deer harvested in each of the 4 buck-only units in 2017.
The sale of bonus antlerless deer hunting tags will include 31,945 tags valid on public access lands (compared to 22,775 in 2016) and 168,210 tags valid on private lands (compared to 136,875 in 2016). Bonus antlerless tag sales will occur as follows (sales begin each day at 10 a.m.):
* Monday, Aug. 14 - Northern and Central Forest zones.
* Tuesday, Aug. 15 - Central Farmland Zone.
* Wednesday, Aug. 16 - Southern Farmland Zone.
* Thursday, Aug. 17 - All remaining bonus tags can be purchased until sold out or the season ends.
In addition, Farmland Zone antlerless tags will be available with the purchase of every deer hunting license. The number of tags offered will depend on the county of choice, which must be indicated at the time of issuance. These tags will be issued as early as June 1.
A Holiday Hunt will be held within 17 counties and provide for an additional antlerless-only opportunity for firearm hunters from Dec. 24, 2017 to Jan.1, 2018.
The department's deer hunting webpage will be updated within the coming weeks with additional resources regarding the 2017 deer hunting quotas and season framework. To help hunters prepare for the 2017 deer hunt, the following documents are now available at dnr.wi.gov, keyword "deer":
* 2017 deer season FAQ.
* 2017 deer season structure map.
* 2017 deer season Farmland Zone Tags overview.
* 2017 deer season Bonus Antlerless Tags overview.
* 2017 deer season Metro Sub-unit Tags overview.
To receive email updates and other information regarding deer hunting and season structure in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and select the email icon near the bottom of the page for "subscribe for updates for DNR topics." Follow the prompts and select "white-tailed deer" within the "hunting" list.

Source: Wisconsin DNR


2016 Wisconsin wildlife reports available

MADISON, WI - Results are available for a number of wildlife surveys completed for 2016, which include data collected from small game, big game and non-game categories.
The following reports for 2016 can be found on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website, dnr.wi.gov, keyword "reports."
Small Game
* Sharp-tailed Grouse Harvest and Hunter Survey;
* Summer Wildlife Inquiry; and
* Ten Week Brood Observations.
Big Game
* Black Bear Damage and Nuisance Complaints.
* White-tailed Deer Population Status.
* Summer Deer Observations.
* Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey.
* Firearm Deer Hunting Questionnaire.
* Chronic Wasting Disease in Wisconsin Deer.
* Spring Turkey Hunting Questionnaire.
* Fall Turkey Hunting Questionnaire.
Non-game
* Bird Banding Accomplishments.
* Wisconsin Bald Eagle and Osprey Nest Surveys.
* Annual Mammal Survey.
Department of Natural Resources staff would like to thank volunteers who assisted with survey efforts for their continued commitment to Wisconsin's wildlife.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR