Near-misses mark fourth season of comprehensive bird survey

MADISON - Four bird species rarely if ever confirmed as breeding in Wisconsin were sighted, but not confirmed in 2018, tantalizing near-misses among the most notable results from the fourth season of a comprehensive bird survey.
"2018 was a year with a lot of exciting sightings, but ultimately, near-misses," says Ryan Brady, Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist and science coordinator for the survey, known as Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II. "So check barns for barn owls, and keep an eye out for these other species to see if we can claim them as Wisconsin breeding birds in our final year of data collection."
The four species sighted, but not confirmed as breeding included a pair of eared grebes in Columbia County and a yellow-crowned night heron in Jefferson County. The most talked about finds were a pair of American three-toed woodpeckers in Bayfield County and several barn owls found in southwestern Wisconsin.
American three-toed woodpeckers had been photographically documented only twice in Wisconsin since 1986 and never documented breeding here. The bird, named for having three instead of four toes like most woodpeckers, prefers boreal forests in Canada. Unfortunately, this year's Bayfield County pair departed in May before any further evidence of nesting was found, as recounted in this blog post by Brady, the observer.
Barn owl populations have rebounded somewhat in more favored breeding areas of Iowa and Illinois, Brady says.
"With sightings in Wisconsin slightly on the rise, it might not be long before they attempt to breed again in our southern or western grasslands," he said.
Through four survey seasons, more than 1,700 volunteers have observed 242 bird species and confirmed 225 of them as breeding in Wisconsin. The total of new species confirmed breeding in Wisconsin since the first atlas survey 20 years ago still stands at 12.
The five-year atlas effort aims to document every bird species breeding in Wisconsin, and where and when breeding occurs, to help guide conservation efforts.
"Preliminary data is showing some species groups like grassland and aerial insectivores on the decline compared to the first survey, while other species, particularly those that may be benefiting from more forest cover, on the increase," says Nick Anich, Atlas survey coordinator for DNR.
The data collection portion of the survey is slated to wrap up in 2019 after the summer breeding season ends and coordinators are still looking for more volunteers.
"While 85 percent of priority survey areas are completed or well underway, there are still over 500 survey blocks in which we need more help! Volunteer to survey one of these areas, and/or report birds nesting or engaging in other breeding behaviors," Anich says.
The biggest remaining gaps are in northern and western Wisconsin, but there are still opportunities in every area of the state to help," Anich says. The best way to get involved is visit the project website, and contact the County Coordinator for your county.
Bill Mueller, director of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, which is sponsoring the survey along with the DNR, Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, says it's easy to participate and people don't have to be an expert birder to help.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Annual Swan Watch Bus Tour on tap Nov. 17

The Friends of the Refuge Headwaters will again offer a bus tour to view the fall migration and changing colors of the Upper Mississippi River from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., on Saturday, Nov. 17.
Participants have the opportunity to view migrating tundra swans and other waterfowl up close on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. The trip also includes a stop at the Refuge Visitor Center on Brice Prairie.
The bus tour leaves from Winona, MN, travel to Brice Prairie, and then travel downriver to the Brownsville Overlook near Brownsville, MN. Interpreters will be on-board to answer questions, and binoculars, spotting scopes and brochures will be provided for the day.
There is limited seating and reservations are required. Cost is $25 per person, which includes a box lunch. There will be no refunds issued after the registration deadline.
New this year, to make your reservation and pay on-line, visit
If you prefer to make your reservation by phone or email contact Mary Stefanski at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or at (507) 454-7351. Please leave a message if she is unavailable when you call. Registration is due prior to Friday, Nov. 9.
This event is sponsored by the Friends of the Refuge Headwaters and Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
SOURCE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Updated 2018 Wisconsin wildlife reports now available

MADISON - Results are available for several wildlife surveys completed during the first half of 2018, which include data collected from small game, big game, waterfowl and non-game categories.
The following reports for 2018 are viewable on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website at, keyword "reports."

* Small Game Harvest, 2017-2018.
* Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey, 2018.
* Wisconsin Sharp-tailed Grouse Survey, 2018.
* Rural Mail Carrier Pheasant Survey, 2018.
* Spring Ring-Necked Pheasant Survey, 2018.

* Black Bear Population Analyses, 2018.
* Archery Deer Hunting Questionnaire, 2017.
* Wildlife Damage Abatement and Claims Program, 2017.
* Agricultural Deer Damage Shooting Permits, 2017.
* Spring Turkey Hunting Questionnaire, 2018.
* Winter Severity Indices, 2017-2018.

* Wisconsin Youth Waterfowl Hunt, 2017.

* Bobcat Harvest, 2017.
* Fisher Harvest, 2017.
* Otter Harvest, 2017-2018.
* Bobcat Population Analyses, 2018.
* Fisher Population Analyses, 2018.
* Otter Population Analyses, 2018.
* Bobcat Hunter/Trapper Survey, 2017.
* Winter Track Counts, 1977-2018.
* Beaver Trapping Questionnaire, 2017-2018.
* Fur Trapper Survey, 2017-2018.
* Wisconsin Fur Buyers Report, 2017-2018.

* Central Wisconsin Greater Prairie-Chicken Survey, 2018.
* Frog and Toad Survey, 2017.
* American Marten Winter Track Surveys in Northern Wisconsin, 2017-2018.
* Moose Observations, 2017.
* Rare Carnivore Observations, 2017.
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

Upper Mississippi River Refuge trap tags available

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that refuge special use permits and trap tags for the 2018-2019 furbearer trapping season on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge will be issued beginning Oct. 1, at the following locations:
* Savanna District, 7071 Riverview Rd, Thomson, IL; Phone: 815-273-2732; Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Trap tags will be issued beginning on Oct. 9, at the following locations:
* Winona District, 51 East 4th Street, Room 203, Winona, MN; Phone 507-454-7351; Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
* La Crosse District, N5727 County Road Z, Onalaska, WI; Phone 608-779-2399; Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
* McGregor District, 470 Cliffhaven Road, Prairie du Chien, WI; Phone 608-326-0515; Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
If traveling from a long distance, please call and confirm that staff will be in the office to issue tags.
Regulations require that trappers possess a refuge permit and trap tags to trap furbearers on the refuge.   
Trap tags must be obtained in person and trappers must have a valid 2018-2019 state trapping license in their possession when obtaining trap tags.
Wisconsin residents must provide printed proof of trapping privileges at time of application. Refuge employees do not have access the WIDNR electronic system to verify privileges via conservation card or driver's license.  
Each trapper will receive 40 trap tags with their permit. All traps placed on the refuge must have a tag attached. Refuge trapping permits are issued for a fee of $30 for trappers 18 years or older and $5 for trappers under age 18. Only cash and checks can be accepted.  
Trappers, who did not return their fur catch report for the 2017-2018 seasons, will not be issued a trapping permit for this year.
Additional information can be found in the refuge’s Furbearer Management Plan available on the web at or by contacting one of the district offices.

SOURCE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Trempealeau County game warden rescues owl

Wisconsin DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement

Wisconsin DNR Conservation Warden Meghan Jensen (pictured) has answered the call of wildlife in tight conditions before - but this one was a first.
And it ended happily on a wing and - a team.
Warden Meghan, who serves Trempealeau County, got a call the morning of Sept. 23, from a driver who believed he had killed an owl while traveling a local road the night before. He believed the bird was dead, after getting jammed into his vehicle's front end. He decided he would handle the aftermath in the morning.
Amazing the surprises a bright morning daylight can deliver! He went to the vehicle, prepared for the sad task and discovered the owl wasn't dead. It was just hanging out - in a really uncomfortable position.
Who's he going to call? Warden Meghan. She's always up for a challenge! She was in his area and drove right over.
"The owl was stuck! Just the wings and head were sticking out of the grill," she said. "The rest of its body was lodged in tight." Teamwork was the answer as Warden Meghan and the driver worked carefully and freed the owl from the grip of the grill. "It appeared uninjured." Wow.
To be safe and sure, Warden Meghan took the bird to the Coulee Region Humane Society for a checkout. AOK! That calls for another wow.
Time to get the little guy home. She then drove this lucky bird to the wooded area in the general vicinity of the unfortunate incident the night before, and successfully released it back into its wild home.
Next time, this bird needs to look both ways - then left again before crossing. "What an adventure for this fella!" And for Warden Meghan, too.
If you have information regarding natural resource violations, you may confidentially report by calling or texting: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay report information to conservation wardens.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Brooks to fill some big shoes at Oktoberfest races

WEST SALEM, WI - The 49th annual Oktoberfest Race Weekend is just over a week away and officials are busy getting prepared for the four-day event on Oct. 4-7 at the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway.
One noticeable change to this year’s competition guide is who will be overseeing the rules for the Futures and Dick Trickle 99 presented by JE Pistons Super Late Model events.
Last February, longtime Oktoberfest Super Late Model tech inspector Mike “Lumpy” Lemke passed away after a brief illness. The loss of Lumpy put the Oktoberfest Race Weekend officials in a position to find a suitable replacement.
With the variety of competitors coming from not only around the Midwest, but from other parts of the United States and Canada to participate in the Super Late Model events, officials have asked longtime Super Late Model Tech Director Ricky Brooks to provide his expertise for the event.  
Brooks will oversee Thursday’s Futures and Friday’s Dick Trickle 99 presented, and will work in unison with the ARCA Midwest Tour team for Sunday's Oktoberfest 200.
“After Lumpy passed away, I told Gregg McKarns that if he needed any help just to let me know,” Brooks, who is the Tech Director for the Snowball Derby, New Smyrna Speedweeks, SRL Southwest Tour and other big Super Late Model events said. “He asked me if I had any interest in Oktoberfest and I said I would be interested because it’s a big event and I have always been hoping to come up to see it in person. Now I am not only coming up, but it’s another event on my list that I can say I have worked, and I am looking forward to coming up and being a part of it.”
When asked about coming in and filling the shoes of his friend, he quickly thought about the memories of Lumpy.
“I have always respected Lumpy and I miss his stories that he would randomly share with me over the phone or whenever we saw each other in person,” Brooks said. “Honestly, he really didn’t care what anyone thought about him and I am pretty much the same way, and we both aren’t really politically correct, but we both enjoy being at the track and working with the teams.
“Another thing that Lumpy and I have in common is that we always have the best interest at the heart of the racers, Brooks added.  "We are there to do our job, yet at the same time provide a level playing field for everyone who is there to compete. We both try to work with the teams and make this a good experience for everyone.”
Gregg McKarns, co-promoter of the Oktoberfest Race Weekend, is grateful to have Brooks coming to help this year.
“Ricky and Lumpy have been working together for years to try to make our rules come together with other Super Late Model series, and I have a lot of respect for Ricky with his knowledge and help,” McKarns said. “His resume will show that he has worked many Super Late Model events and we wanted to bring in someone with the experience and knowledge of working events like Oktoberfest to help keep the tradition of how we operate over the four days smooth for everyone involved from the competitors to the fans.”
The 2018 Oktoberfest Race Weekend Competition Guide, Rule Book, and Entry Blank can be downloaded the website.
For those competitors competing in The Futures and Dick Trickle 99, call or email Brooks with questions 850-324-6821, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions.

Wisconsin State Park System to launch enhanced campsite reservation system

MADISON - Beginning Dec. 17, people booking a campsite at Wisconsin State Park System properties will be able to use a new, improved - and less expensive - reservation system.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is contracting with a new reservation provider, Camis USA, Inc., that was awarded the reservation contract through a competitive bidding process. Camis USA currently operates reservation systems for Michigan, Maryland and Washington state parks.
"We're really excited to launch this new system because we are so confident our customers will find the enhanced system easier to use, will have more options for booking facilities, and it will cost them less than under the previous system," said Ben Bergey, state park system director.
All reservations that are booked through the current provider, Reserve America, will be transferred to the new system.
Under the new system it will cost users $7.75 to make a reservation, compared to the current price of $9.65. Customers can also expect many enhancements when making reservations, including better searching for campsites, and a mobile-friendly website that makes it easier than ever to make a reservation from a phone or tablet. The new system will also accommodate reservations for shelters and amphitheaters.
Camis plans to open a call center in Kenosha that will employ between 12 and 15 operators depending on the season.
During the first two weeks in December, there will be a transition period to the new system, and campsite reservations will not be available. On Dec. 17, the Camis system will be open to make reservations. Campers can make reservations for sites up to 11 months in advance of their arrival, either online or by phone.
All customers who have previously made reservations with Reserve America will receive email notifications confirming their reservations are in the new system.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR