Wis. DNR Outdoor Report

Updated: 04/18/2014 12:36 PM
Created: 04/18/2014 12:33 PM
By: Wisconsin DNR

Spring continues to be a tease, and Mother Nature is presenting many challenges for wildlife. Heavy rains over the weekend in southern parts of Wisconsin resulted in significant flooding and greening grass. The recent cold weather has quieted the frogs, although some hardy spring peepers are still calling. Other frogs which had been vocal are chorus frogs and wood frogs.

There are numerous migratory birds coming through Wisconsin now, including many waterfowl species that are enjoying high waters along the lower Wisconsin River. Nine loons were observed Sunday on Lake Eau Claire. It is likely they are waiting for the far north lakes to thaw before returning to that area. Another loon was observed at Devil's Lake State Park last week.

Portions of the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area are now open to the public through May 27 for outdoor activities, including spring turkey hunting. In addition to turkey hunting visitors can trap, hike, bird watch, pick mushrooms and berries, bike open roads, study nature and take photographs. There will not be any fishing opportunities and horseback riding will not be allowed during this time period. The U.S. Army is opening many of the lands it still owns at the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant to public use during this time. Visit the DNR website and search keyword "Sauk Prairie Recreation Area" for property hours and maps.

Male ruffed grouse are approaching the peak of their annual breeding activities known as drumming. Males locate a downed log, tree or rock on which to display themselves. Typically the display platform is located in thick vertical cover which provides security from avian predators. The males attract females with a series of repeated, rapid wing strokes with 3-4 minutes between series. As their wings compress the air, they create a vacuum which results in a thumping noise. Wildlife biologists use this drumming behavior to create an index to the grouse population. Each year the same route is traveled and drumming grouse are counted. From year to year, population trends can be determined based on the number of drumming males heard per route. Quiet early mornings, with air temperatures between 25 and 40, are the best times to listen for drumming ruffed grouse.

Spring turkey hunting officially kicked off Wednesday, April 16. Last weekend was the youth turkey hunt and many successes were reported statewide. This week's high water affected fishing across many parts of the state as waters filled with sediment and debris. Some of the northern inland lakes are still covered with ice but travel on these lakes is dangerous and not recommended.

The Wisconsin Conservation Congress held their annual county meetings Monday, April 14, along with the state's annual fish and game rules hearings. The WCC is the only statutory body in the state in which citizens elect delegates to advise the Natural Resources Board and the Department of Natural Resources on how to responsibly manage Wisconsin's natural resources for present and future generations. This year over 7,000 constituents cast ballots at their local county meetings. For results of hearings, visit the DNR website and search keyword "Conservation Congress."

Regional reports

Bayfield County - Spring has definitely sprung in the Northwoods, even though we are expecting up to 12 inches of snow Thursday. There have been observations of returning woodcock, wood ducks and song birds. Recent warm weather has affected snow conditions, and all snowmobile trails are closed. Cross country skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts continue to take advantage of the more than 2 feet of snow in area woods. Ice conditions on local inland lakes continue to deteriorate, though some claim there is more than 3 feet of ice. Much of the ice is already honey comb and the shorelines are beginning to open. Those venturing out on the ice are catching some panfish, but some have stated that it's been a different kind of year. Angers say many small fish are being caught, and the fishing has been slower than in prior years.
- Jill Schartner, conservation warden, Drummond

Pattison State Park - Spring has arrived in Douglas County. Big Manitou Falls at Pattison State Park thawed out this week and is flowing in a thunderous fashion. A visitor reported that last weekend a pair of otters were sliding down the giant wall of ice that encompassed Big Manitou Falls. Visitor numbers are increasing daily to look at the falls at both Pattison and Amnicon Falls State Parks.
- Kevin Feind, property supervisor

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Variable and rather cool weather for a good part of the last week has slowed up the snow melt and further delayed ice deterioration on lakes across northern Wisconsin. Most lakes still have about 20 to 22 inches of ice and the top layer is rather soft and grainy. There is about 10 to 12 inches of solid ice underneath that layer. Some access sites and many south facing shorelines were starting to show small areas of open water, but these have mostly iced up again with the cold weather of the past few days. There are still a few panfish anglers getting out and trying their luck, but access has been limited to foot travel. These late-season ice anglers have been having spotty success, with just a few light catches of crappie and bluegill being made. The fish have still been found in the deep water areas, suspended 5 to 10 feet off the bottom, and have been finicky in biting.
- Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

Flambeau River State Forest  - The snowmobile and ski trails are closed for the season. Both the north and south forks of the Flambeau River are open and local lakes still have ice cover but edges are melting. Spring has finally arrived in the forest. We are seeing lots of wildlife including cranes, trumpeter swans, geese, ducks, robins, woodcocks and whooping cranes making their way home. We have approximately 10 inches of new snow with this last storm, but it will be short lived with warmer temperatures predicted. We are seeing skunks, turkeys and even a badger that left his winter den.
- Judy Freeman, visitor services associate

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