It’s time to complete snowmobile safety certificate course

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin is the birthplace of snowmobiling and continues to offer some of the best snowmobiling opportunities you are likely to find, especially in northern Wisconsin.
More than 200,000 registered snowmobiles hit Wisconsin's 25,000 miles of groomed trails each winter, which means safety is an important part of the ride.
Fall is the ideal time to take the first step of preparing for the upcoming snowmobile season by completing the safety course. The safety course seeks to ensure snowmobilers of all ages are safe while they are having fun on the trails. The course is required for operators born on or after Jan. 1, 1985, and who are 12 years of age or older.
Snowmobile safety is critical. In 2019, 16 fatal snowmobiling accidents occurred, with the top contributing factors being speed and operator error.
The safety course costs $10 and includes six hours of classroom instruction with two optional hours of hands-on instruction or a simulated ride. For those age 16 and older, the course may be completed online.
To register for a classroom course or an online version, visit

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

From whooping crane survivor to mama

HORICON, Wis. – A female whooping crane that made history as the first of its kind known to survive a Wisconsin winter has once again flown into the record books.
Crane #38-17 has successfully paired up and become a mother, producing the first wild whooping crane chick to hatch and fledge from Horicon Marsh.
The history-making offspring arrived three years after its mother, hatched and captive-reared in Maryland before being transferred to Wisconsin, became the first known whooping crane to overwinter in Wisconsin instead of migrating south. She survived one of the state’s coldest and longest winters and became a Facebook favorite as anxious fans tuned in to track her survival.
“The survival and successful migration of every chick hatched is important, so #38-17’s survival and maternal status is great news,” said Davin Lopez, a DNR conservation biologist who is part of the whooping crane team. “This wild chick represents several milestones toward the ultimate goal of establishing a self-sustaining migratory flock.”
#38-17 was hatched at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland and raised there by parent cranes. She was transported to Wisconsin on Oct. 3, 2017, and released at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Dodge County in the hopes she would follow an adult crane and migrate. #38-17 never migrated and she evaded efforts to capture her and fly her south in an airplane.
"She has been very vigilant when we've seen her, and she stays hidden pretty well in the marsh, especially when it's cold," said Hillary Thompson of the International Crane Foundation.
The crane survived, and in fall 2018, #38-17 headed south for the first time with #63-15 to winter in Illinois. The whooping crane has returned every summer since with #63-15, and the two had a successful nest this year at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Dodge County. Their offspring, #W13-20 hatched in mid-May.
Mother, father and their young crane were sighted and photographed by pilot Bev Paulan on Aug. 18, 2020, in Horicon Marsh as part of partner efforts to monitor whooping cranes and their young hatched in the wild.
Partners are hopeful the young family flies south soon and adds to the eastern migratory population of whooping cranes.
“The reintroduction team and refuge staff hope to learn more from #38-17 about habitat choices and factors that contribute to successful reproduction in whooping cranes in Wisconsin and on the Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge,” said Sadie O’Dell, a wildlife biologist with Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.
Partners including the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, International Crane Foundation, Wisconsin DNR and, formerly, Operation Migration have worked for nearly 20 years to establish an eastern migratory flock of whooping cranes that nests primarily in Wisconsin and winters in the southern United States.
Whooping cranes are one of 15 crane species worldwide. This particular species is found only in North America and is the tallest bird in the continent, standing five feet tall. Whooping cranes are endangered. There are only 849 whooping cranes in the world, both wild and captive, although that number is increasing thanks to efforts by the reintroduction team.
Keep up with these and other Wisconsin whoopers on the International Crane Foundation’s (ICF) website and Facebook account.
Partners establishing the whooping crane population in eastern North America ask anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need.
Do not approach birds on foot within 200 yards. Please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you.
Remain in your vehicle and do not approach in a vehicle any closer than 100 yards.
Do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view or photograph whooping cranes.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Enrollment open for landowners to provide access to private lands

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has received $1.9 million dollars for continued funding of the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) and Turkey Hunting Access Program (THAP).
Funds were authorized under the 2018 Farm Bill and are administered and provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
For those interested in making their land available for public access, the VPA-HIP program provides opportunities to increase public access for quality hunting, fishing and wildlife observation on private lands.
“NRCS is excited to continue this great partnership with the DNR to provide additional outdoor opportunities on private lands,” said Greg Kidd, USDA NRCS assistant state conservationist for easements.
Together in 2020, the Voluntary Public Access and Turkey Hunting Access programs provided over 38,000 acres of public access on private lands in Wisconsin. The renewed partnership between NRCS and the DNR will increase and enhance the wildlife-dependent recreation footprint of both access programs.
“We’re excited to collaborate once again with our USDA partners to expand the hunting, fishing, birdwatching and all the other outdoor recreation activities that VPA and THAP offer in Wisconsin,” said Keith Warnke, administrator for the DNR’s Division of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Financial incentives in the form of annual leases are available for private landowners who open their property to public hunting, fishing, trapping and wildlife observation. Eligible land types include grassland, wetland, forestland and in some cases, agriculture land. Land enrolled in conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), Managed Forest Law (MFL) in closed status and Wetland Reserve Easements (WRP/WRE) are eligible for enrollment.
Annual lease payment rates are based on the land type (agricultural land is $3 per acre, grassland wetland is $10 to $20 per acre and forest land is $15 per acre) and are made in the form of an upfront lump sum payment at the beginning of the contract. Priority will be given to parcels greater than 40 acres in size with at least 25% usable cover and near properties currently open to public hunting and/or fishing.
Landowners who enroll in VPA-HIP will also receive technical assistance for habitat enhancement practices. Landowners who complete recommended practices will be eligible for habitat-based financial incentive payments, in addition to the lease payments. Regional Public Access liaisons stationed in Baldwin, Janesville, Hartford and Wisconsin Rapids along with Wisconsin’s Farm Bill biologists will coordinate a habitat plan for interested landowners.
Under state statutes, landowners are generally immune from liability for injuries received by individuals recreating on their lands. The department agrees to provide compensation for damages to property or crops that occur as a result of opening the land to public access.
Interested landowners should call Cody Strong, VPA-HIP coordinator, at 608-800-1343 for more information or visit

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

DNR investigation shows illegal carp sales in Madison

MADISON, Wis. - A wholesale fish dealer from Platteville is facing state charges for allegedly illegally selling Asian carp, Wisconsin’s most prominent and highly destructive invasive species.
The charges against the operator of Li Fish Farm, LLC, a Grant County-based fish company, is the first case involving illegal sales of Asian carp. A complaint from a member of the public sparked an investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
These types of Asian carp, bighead, silver and grass, are different from the carp commonly known as German carp, which have lived in Wisconsin since the mid-1850s.
The fish farm operator is facing four criminal charges of Possess Illegal Fish and a fifth charge of Violate Vehicle ID Requirements when Transporting Fish. The case is pending in Dane County Circuit Court system. Additional pending citations for similar violations are expected from the DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement.
The conservation warden investigation focused primarily on activities during 2018 and 2019. However, the alleged illegal fish activities were ongoing for several years before.
“These types of carp are highly invasive species that out-compete Wisconsin native fish species and can destroy their habitats,” said Lt. Robert Stroess, DNR warden administrator for Commercial Fishing, Wholesale Fish Dealing and Charter Fishing Enforcement. "The species is top on the Least Wanted Aquatic Invasive Species List from the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers."
Specifically, the list cites these threats for each type of carp:
* The bighead carp as a feeder of plankton, which is a primary food for many native fish including walleye, yellow perch, lake whitefish and all juvenile fish. This specific carp is known as a major threat to the Great Lakes $7 billion fishing industry.
* The silver carp as another feeder on fish habitats attacked by the bighead. This species also is known to leap out of the water, which is a threat to boaters and the region’s $16 billion boating industry.
* The grass carp eats aquatic habitats and is known to help cause algae blooms and damage to wetlands and waterfowl habitats.
In Wisconsin, the invasive carp species must be either eviscerated (gutted) or have the entire gill covering severed. This requirement exists because these carp species have been known to survive out of water for up to a day or longer. Gutting them or severing the gill plate ensures the fish cannot be revived or survive if released into waters.
The investigation found nearly all the carp sold or transported by the wholesale fish dealer on the Wisconsin side of the state line had been completely intact and therefore illegal in Wisconsin. Although the carp were not in water tanks when illegally transported into Wisconsin, the species retains the ability to be revived once returned to water.
“This illustrates why the law requiring this carp species be eviscerated or have their gill covering severed is an important protection of our native Wisconsin fish,” Stroess said.
Other violations include operating a wholesale fish dealer vehicle without having it marked in any way to indicate it contained fish and failing to create or maintain required records. Records are essential for being able to trace fish back to the commercial angler who caught the fish or to the business who sold the fish, especially for species that are highly regulated.
To learn more about the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers Least Wanted Aquatic Invasive Species List, visit the DNR webpage.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Don’t miss Minnesota state forest fall color drives

Minnesota’s state forests offer scenic drives and 4.2 million acres showcasing one of the biggest nature shows each year – the fall color display.
"Overall, fall colors this year should be especially lovely if the recent sunny days and chilly, but not freezing, nights continue,” said Val Cervenka, forest health program consultant with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Every fall color season is different and so is each of Minnesota’s 59 state forests. Depending on the forest, visitors might see a spectacular mix of dark evergreens amid vivid autumn hues of maples, oaks and aspens, set against a backdrop of bluffs, lakes or winding rivers.
These drives are always a treat, but this year in particular they are a wonderful, socially-distanced opportunity for Minnesotans to experience the outdoors.
Here is a list of five forest drives to consider this fall – including suggestions for things to see and do along the way. Visit the state forest scenic drives website for route directions and more details.

Mid-late September
* Smoky Hills State Forest in the northwest.
* Bear Island State Forest in the northeast.

Early October
* Rum River State Forest in central Minnesota.
* St. Croix State Forest and Nemadji State Forest loop in central Minnesota.

*Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest in the south.

Check out the state forests website to plan a visit. Entrance into state forests is free. State forest campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis for $14 a night. Dispersed camping is also allowed in state forests at no cost.
Use the DNR’s Fall Color Finder to find areas in Minnesota with peak fall color. The color finder is updated weekly through October.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Annual fall color extravaganza beginning in Northwoods

ASHLAND, Wis. – The extravaganza of colors in Wisconsin’s forests is one show that is undeterred by the pandemic. The annual display is beginning now.
"The vibrant splashes of red we’re seeing now in the Northwoods are primarily red maples that have been stressed by high water tables in lowland areas," said Colleen Matula, forest silviculturist/ecologist with the DNR division of forestry. "The colors in upland forests are at about 10 percent of their fall colors, so the annual color showcase is just beginning."
Peak fall color usually occurs in far northern Wisconsin during the last week of September and first week of October, with peak color generally occurring during mid-October in central Wisconsin and during the latter half of October in southern Wisconsin. The timing of the color change varies by species.
"Fall color predictions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are based on mathematical algorithms that factor in historical leaf peak, temperatures, precipitation, leaf volume, health and day length," said Matula. "The intensity of Wisconsin's fall color season is dependent on the weather the state receives during September and October. To have the most brilliant and vibrant fall color display, a series of fall days filled with bright sunshine and cool, but frost-free evenings are required."
Wisconsin is blessed to have the combination of tree species and climatic conditions necessary for vivid fall foliage.
"With a 17-million-acre forest resource in Wisconsin that is increasing in volume each year, fall color is one show that must go on," Matula concluded.
For information on the science of fall color, visit the DNR’s website.
The Department of Tourism also offers a fall color report on its website.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Shoreline restoration project at Itasca State Park begins in October

A project to restore the shoreline at the Mississippi Headwaters in Itasca State Park will begin Oct. 5, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Parks and Trails.
The work will address erosion by restoring the original river channel width and stabilizing the streambank at the headwaters site.
“We will minimize closure time to accommodate park visitors,” said Aaron Wunrow, Itasca State Park manager. “Once work begins, access to the site will be restricted for a five-day period.”
Heavy foot traffic has carried soil and other material from the shoreline into the river. Additionally, the dam below the surface has become ineffective, resulting in water flow that is undercutting the shoreline and widening the mouth of the river.
The restoration project to correct these issues will not dramatically change the appearance of the headwaters. Visitors will notice a narrowing of the channel, added vegetation on the streambank, and the addition of boulders on the shoreline, including flat boulders that will provide safe access to the river.
The DNR divisions of Parks and Trails, Ecological and Water Resources, and Fish and Wildlife are partnering to combine expertise and resources to undertake the work. The project cost is approximately $35,000, funded in part by the Parks and Trails Fund. The fund was created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008.
For more information, please visit Itasca State Park.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR