DNR’s Cole continues failed CWD policies
Voluntary sampling in Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley produced 262 CWD samples in 2019, 38 short of the DNR’s modest goal of 300. - Photo provided
Sixteen months have passed since Gov.-elect Tony Evers chose “the tree guy,” Preston Cole, to run the Department of Natural Resources.
Both men promised to restore science-based leadership to the DNR after eight years of designed neglect by Gov. Scott Walker and his science-denying DNR secretaries, Cathy Stepp and Dan Meyer.
Cole is a trained forester. He also served over a decade on Wisconsin’s seven-citizen Natural Resources Board, which sets DNR policy. Unfortunately, Cole is running the DNR less like a degreed forester and more like a confused politician who thinks he reports to Walker.
Cole’s shortcomings are most obvious in his handling of chronic wasting disease. Granted, Wisconsin has fumbled far more than scored since detecting CWD in February 2002 west of Madison. And yes, Walker’s administration sat in passive-aggressive resistance to CWD management as verified cases more than doubled from 1,362 during Jim Doyle’s 2003-2010 administration, to 3,676 during Walker’s 2011-2018 term; even though Walker tested less than half as many deer (60,418) as Doyle (125,388).
But when Evers ran for governor in 2018, he assured voters he would unleash science on CWD. And then Evers and Cole took office and left CWD out of their budget.
It didn’t help that they inherited a Natural Resources Board stocked with Walker appointees like Greg Kazmierski, a Pewaukee archery-shop owner. Somehow, Kazmierski’s barbershop-biology degree sways Secretary Cole as much as it did Walker, Stepp and Meyer.
Too harsh? Let’s review how Cole let Kazmierski dictate DNR policy the past year in Eau Claire’s Chippewa Valley, which has found six deer with CWD in the towns of Brunswick and Drammen the past two years, and one 30 miles away in Dunn County. The next nearest cases are about 100 miles south.
In March 2018, the DNR chose seven ranking Wisconsin Conservation Congress members from the region to form a CWD advisory team to help respond to the outbreak. The WCC consists of five elected delegates from each of the state’s 72 counties. WCC members are mostly hunters, anglers and trappers, and they’re legislatively sanctioned to advise the NRB.
The Chippewa Valley team met publicly seven times last year to weigh options with DNR staff and local hunters, farmers and landowners. In early July 2019 the committee recommended mandatory CWD testing and in-person deer registration the first three days of the November 2019 gun season in six townships to assess CWD’s prevalence.
The committee’s plan had strong local support. Surveys found 64.5% of respondents favored mandatory tests and 70.5% supported in-person registration. On Sept. 3 last year, the DNR endorsed the plan during a press conference, with Kazmierski present.
DNR Assistant Deputy Secretary Todd Ambs said: “(This) is a prime example of the department working closely with citizens and the hunting community to address … CWD. We must all work together to stop … this deadly disease, (and we) are therefore following the citizens’ lead.”
Four weeks later, the DNR killed the plan. Its Oct. 2 press release said: “Following additional consideration and recommendations from the Natural Resources Board during (its) September meeting, the (DNR) is now asking hunters in the Chippewa Valley area to voluntarily have their deer tested for CWD” during gun season.
That statement is misleading. The board neither discussed nor took action on the Chippewa Valley plan at its Sept. 25 meeting. Kazmierski merely filed a report suggesting a “directive” for “expanded testing without mandatory requirements,” as well as four other vague directives. None gave a timetable for action.
In an interview April 14, Kazmierski said he was surprised by the DNR’s Sept. 3 plan, but couldn’t explain why he neither expressed concern nor opposition during that press conference. He said the DNR agreed to the plan, but the board never did. (By law, the DNR secretary can impose mandatory tests to assess wildlife disease risks.)
When I asked Cole on April 15 to explain the DNR’s reversal, he responded by email through his communications director, Sara Hoye. She said the agency chose voluntary testing “after receiving valuable feedback following our (Sept. 3) announcement.” The agency’s modest goal for the area’s approximately 425-square-mile surveillance zone was 300 deer, but it collected only 262 samples voluntarily.
Cole’s “valuable feedback,” of course, came from Kazmierski, who has routinely monkey-wrenched DNR “rapid-response” plans to monitor outbreaks since the agency outlined them a decade ago in its 2010-2025 CWD plan.
Former NRB member Fred Clark, who resigned in October after six months on the board, said in an interview April 16 he was surprised in September that Kazmierski opposed Chippewa Valley’s plan. Clark and Kazmierski worked together last year on the board’s CWD subcommittee report, which they presented Sept. 25. Clark said Kazmierski supported mandatory testing and in-person registration when discussing how best to monitor CWD.
“I assumed Greg supported the DNR’s plan (Sept. 3) because it included the same things we discussed and agreed on,” Clark said. “I was surprised to hear he then strongly opposed it. His opposition ran counter to everything he and I had talked about.”
Clark said the DNR didn’t tell him in late September that it was backing out. However, he said he was sure Kazmierski “was having a lot more conversations with Preston (Cole) and the staff than I was.”
Clark thinks the DNR’s reversal was a mistake. “It was an immense frustration to the sporting community when the administration took that in a different direction,” Clark said. “The department staff has the best science and the best tools. They’re working hard and doing their best, but the leadership has to be there to support them.”
The Chippewa Valley CWD team sent a two-page letter Nov. 12, 2019, to NRB members. The team expressed “disgust” and “extreme disappointment” in the board’s decision, and criticized the board for not explaining its actions before or after the reversal. The team expressed fear that the DNR’s “passive” approach to CWD ensures deer hunting’s demise.
Its members also believe Kazmierski “bullied the rest of the NRB into backing down,” and wrote: “We express a lack of confidence in (Kazmierski) to carry out his duties without personal conflicts of interest.”
In response, NRB Chair Frederick Prehn sent the team’s chair, David Zielke, of Eau Claire, a brief form letter Nov. 26, but addressed nothing in the team’s letter. Prehn merely thanked them for their letter, invited them to watch future board meetings on webcasts, and suggested they subscribe to the voard’s email or text updates.
When asked about the voard’s nonresponse and disrespect, team member Mark Noll, of Buffalo County, said: “Kazmierski’s resignation from the NRB would be of great benefit to Wisconsin.”
Maybe so, but Kazmierski succeeded in one thing: He showed Wisconsin that Preston Cole, so far, at least, doesn’t trust science, conscience and DNR biologists to inform his decisions.
Patrick Durkin, @patrickdurkinoutdoors, is a freelance writer who covers outdoor recreation in Wisconsin. Write to him at 721 Wesley St., Waupaca, WI 54981; or by email at [email protected]
Fees Waived For Wisconsin State Parks and Trails
Devil's Doorway at Devil's Lake State Park is just one of the many places you can still visit during this public health emergency with appropriate social distancing. - Photo courtesy DNR
State parks, trails and restrooms remain open; property buildings closed
MADISON - Fees are now waived for all Wisconsin State Parks and Trails that continue to remain open to the public. Parks, law enforcement and property staff will also continue to provide routine sweeps of state park system properties.
Staying home as much as possible is the best way to lower COVID-19 infection rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, should you need a place with space, getting outdoors has both physical and mental benefits.
Distance is key during this public health emergency. Please do not congregate at restrooms, self-registration stations or electronic kiosks. Additionally, do not gather in groups of 10 or more people and maintain six feet of distance from others.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources continues to receive the most up-to-date information and will adjust operations as conditions change. We will also continue to monitor on-the-ground circumstances each day to determine if park closures become necessary.
Beginning March 24, 2020, the DNR will implement the following changes to the operation of all state parks and recreation areas across the state consistent with guidance provided by the Wisconsin Department of Health and Department of Administration.
Fees waived
• Entrance fees are waived.
• Please do not congregate at self-registration stations or electronic kiosks.
Restrooms open
• Restrooms on state properties will remain open given there are enough resources, cleaning supplies and access to personal protective equipment for staff to maintain them.
• Please do not congregate at restrooms.
All state park offices, visitor centers and non-essential buildings are closed for the duration of the public health emergency
• Effective immediately, the DNR will close the following state buildings to the public: Park headquarters, offices, visitor centers, nature centers, research stations, ranger stations, shooting ranges, fish hatcheries, shelters, showers, concessions and indoor group camp buildings on all DNR owned properties open to the public.
• Properties will continue to be staffed and outdoor recreational opportunities (hiking, trails, fishing, hunting, etc.) remain open at this time.
• Boat launches at state parks remain open.
• Visitors are reminded to practice proper personal hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to limit group sizes to under ten people when enjoying state properties.
Camping and special permits
• All campsites (individual, group, and indoor) are closed through April 30, 2020.
• Refunds will be issued to all customers.
• No new reservations will be accepted until further notice.
• DNR staff or Camis Reservations staff will be reaching out to individuals with current or upcoming group camping reservations to issue refunds. Any other questions regarding camping reservations can be directed to the Camis Call Center at 888-947-2757.
• DNR property managers will also be contacting groups or individuals who have existing special event permits.
• Our customer service representatives also continue to provide service via phone at 1-888-936-7463 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Hunting and fishing
• Wisconsin's waters are open. You can fish if you have a license. Normal season regulations apply.
• All current regulations apply for hunting, trapping, and fishing seasons.
• In light of Gov. Evers COVID-19 recommendations, please keep in mind the need for social distance, limited travel and proper handwashing.
People should follow simple steps to prevent illness and avoid exposure to this virus including:
• Avoid social gatherings with people of all ages (including playdates and sleepovers, parties, large family dinners, visitors in your home, non-essential workers in your house);
• Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water;
• Covering coughs and sneezes;
• Avoiding touching your face; and
• Staying home when able.
For updates on event cancellations and building closures at DNR properties, visit the DNR website or follow @WIDNR on Facebook, @wi_dnr on Instagram, or @WDNR on Twitter.
This is a rapidly evolving situation. For specific information regarding the COVID-19 we encourage the public to frequently monitor the DHS website for updates, and to follow @DHSWI on Facebook and Twitter, or dhs.wi on Instagram. Additional information can be found on the CDC website.
In-person deer planning public meetings canceled
Spring County Deer Advisory Committee meetings to develop antlerless harvest goals and season framework for 2020 have been moved to conference calls due to the COVID-19 outbreak. - Photo courtesy DNR
Public meetings moved to call-in format starting March 30; Call-in meetings open to public; online public comment period remains unchanged
MADISON - In light of COVID-19, the Department of Natural Resources will suspend in-person County Deer Advisory Council meetings planned for discussing this year's deer season antlerless permit recommendations and will instead use a call-in format. Meeting dates and times have not changed, and meetings remain open to the public.
Wisconsin's hunting legacy runs deep. Everyone has a say about the deer herd in Wisconsin and the DNR wants to hear from you. Between March 30 and April 9, each county will host a call-in meeting talking about harvest goals for 2020. Anyone interested in listening to their county's call can join the meeting by phone from the comfort of home.
The agenda for each county meeting will include the development of antlerless harvest goals and season framework recommendations for the 2020 deer season to achieve each county's deer population objective. Options under discussion include the antlerless deer harvest quota and various season framework options such as offering the holiday hunt or extended archery/crossbow seasons.
Presentations by DNR wildlife biologists normally given in-person at these meetings will be available on the DNR website by March 26. Meeting schedules and call-in numbers can also be found online here. After meetings conclude, meeting summaries with preliminary recommendations will also be posted on the DNR website.
All council meetings are open to the public. Due to the facilitation limitations of call-in meetings, public comments will not be taken on the call. Instead, anyone wishing to provide feedback will be asked to do so using the online public input form available on the DNR website from April 16-29.
Each county in Wisconsin has a County Deer Advisory Council to provide input and recommendations to the department on deer management within their county. Councils work with local department staff to schedule meetings, provide community outreach and an opportunity for public input, review population data and deer impacts on forests and agriculture, develop three-year recommendations on county population objectives and create annual antlerless harvest quotas.
A second round of meetings will take place in May, during which council members will review public comment and make final recommendations for the 2020 deer season. No meetings will be held in person for as long as the public health emergency lasts. The decision to host May's meetings in-person or by phone will be made closer to the date.
The DNR will review final County Deer Advisory Council recommendations following the May meetings and provide recommendations to the Natural Resources Board for approval in June. Questions about this updated process can be sent via email to [email protected]
The Aging Athlete | Rod Kleiss
I started writing this column because I hadn’t been aware how important exercise was for addressing the problems of aging. I wasn’t prepared for getting old. It surprised me. I think I was very lucky to discover exercise and fitness trainers before my condition became irreparable. I was also fortunate to have access to such good trainers as we have in Grantsburg. This past week I had my annual physical checkup at the Mayo center and I chose to focus on my physical condition and my path to improve my strength and fitness. Was I doing too much? Are there exercises that could damage my old body? The Mayo doctors primarily agreed with my young trainer, Tyler Myers. Yes, I am getting older and the usual ailments that come with age have not missed me. My quads and glutes hurt, especially in the morning. I have sore knees, or at least one sore knee, that takes constant stretching and mobility exercises to keep from impeding my stability. I have slight arthritis in my hands and the potential for a carpal tunnel flare-up in my left hand. In fact, most of the problems I have with the body these days seem like conditions that are present due to a long life of use, and just like an old car, I require a little more care and I need to consider these issues anytime I am active physically. Throw in the occasional back and shoulder pains along with general joint aches and you have in front of you an individual who finally realizes and accepts that he ain’t the kid he used to be or at least used to think he was. This is not to say that old age and infirmity happens so we just have to accept it. In the past few years I have discovered some things that can really change this equation. First and foremost, I have discovered that I can get stronger even at 72. I can get more fit and flexible and recover my diminishing sense of balance. You can’t do that, though, by doing the same old things. If I just go to the gym and lift weights I may get stronger biceps, but they are not the problem. Nor can they be the solution. It might make me feel good to be able to curl more weight but it will do nothing for my general health and well-being. Even running needs to be approached with specific targets at this age. Interval running is the preferred choice for me now. Build up the heart rate for 30 seconds or a minute and then walk for a bit to tone things down. Mix that up with some nice 2- or 3-mile runs and I’m beginning to get a good cardio workout. One of the biggest lessons I learned in this journey is the value of exercise aimed at targeted muscle groups. We’ve all heard of the value of keeping the core strong, and now I know how hard that work can be, but I also realize the value of core strength. As a matter of fact, I have finally, at this late stage in my life, begun to understand all of the different muscles and ligaments I have and how they all work together. At my age it is necessary to get every part of the body working together. I no longer have that excess energy of youth that makes one feel impervious. If I start to stumble, I need core, arms and legs all working together to prevent a damaging fall. In my final column next week, I’ll sum up all that I’ve learned to date. Reach Rod at [email protected] His blog can be found at medium.com/search?q=Rod%20Kleiss.
Emily Lindner won first place for the biggest northern caught at the 24th-annual Unity area FFA Alumni and Supporters ice-fishing contest on Long Lake near Centuria on Feb. 8. There was a tremendous turnout for the event. It was the 10th year that schools took part in the event and this year nine schools participated with 13 teams. See next week’s Leader for more photos. - Photo courtesy Jeanne Alling
Nominations Sought for Angling and Hunting Representatives on Sporting Heritage Council

MADISON—The Department of Natural Resources is seeking nominations through Jan. 1, 2020 for individuals with experience and interest to fill the angling, bear hunting, bird hunting, deer hunting and furbearer representative positions on the Sporting Heritage Council. The council, established by 2011 Wis. Act 168, advises Gov. Tony Evers, the Natural Resources Board and the state legislature on fishing, hunting and trapping issues.

The group mainly focuses on recruitment, retention and reactivation of anglers, hunters and trappers, as well as increasing access to resources and outdoor opportunities. These efforts, in the long run, provide outdoor recreation benefits to a wide range of people who seek nature-based experiences.

The council consists of 12 appointees in total, including the Department of Natural Resources Secretary or a designee, one member appointed by the governor, two members of the Assembly, two members of the Senate, one member appointed by the Wisconsin Conservation Congress executive committee and five members appointed by the Natural Resources Board.

The currently vacant positions are the five appointed by the Natural Resources Board to represent the distinct interests of deer hunters, bear hunters, bird hunters, anglers and furbearer hunters or trappers. These representatives will provide news, information and perspective to the council on issues affecting his/her broad interest group. Representatives will work with the Sporting Heritage Council to recommend actions intending to increase participation in fishing, hunting and trapping activities. Applicants must be nominated by a sporting organization. The nomination form and more information can be found on the DNR website here.

DNR hosts CWD media briefing today at 10:30 a.m.
Briefing will be available to media online MADISON - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will hold a media briefing on steps the agency is taking to control and deal with chronic wasting disease among white-tailed deer in Wisconsin. Who: Todd Ambs, Deputy DNR Secretary Larry Bonde, Chairman, Wisconsin Conservation Congress Greg Kazmierski, member Wisconsin Natural Resources Board Tami Ryan, acting director of the DNR Bureau of Wildlife Management What: The briefing will include recommendations from the Wisconsin Conservation Congress and Natural Resources Board to the DNR to roll out plans for 2019 and beyond. We are unified in our interests in responding to and managing CWD and working on this together in collaboration and partnership. The DNR will provide updated information on CWD plans for the 2019 hunting seasons including enhanced disease surveillance, efforts to make it easier for hunters to submit samples and dispose of deer carcasses and updated baiting and feeding regulations. When: Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. Where: State Natural Resources Building 101 S. Webster St., Madison, Room G27 Reporters should check in at the ground floor front desk. Media availability: Speakers will be available for questions following the briefing. Media interested in attending should email [email protected] Online media availability Media who are unable to attend the briefing in person can view the live or archived media briefing through this link, dnrmedia.wi.gov/main/Play/e0cb3ec9d8c74e03bcf91156668eba4a1d.
Coon Lake Trail
The boardwalks and bridges on the Coon Lake Trail are now complete and open for the enjoyment of the public. The trail can be accessed on the east side of Coon Lake by the boat landing or on the north side at the intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Hope Road. – Photo provided
NW Cleansweep announces fall hazardous waste collections
NORTHWEST WISCONSIN – The Northwest Cleansweep hazardous waste “milk run” program, which is designed to accept hazardous wastes from municipalities, businesses and schools from the Northwest Regional Planning Commission’s 10-county region, has announced the opening of registration for the fall 2019 collection. Items being accepted are fluorescent bulbs, computers, oil-based paint, solvents or adhesives, antifreeze, corrosives, aerosols, batteries – button or rechargeable, liquid PCBs, poison solids, solid or liquid pesticides, ballasts and mercury. Preregistration is required and should be done by Friday, Sept. 29. Collections will take place in September and October. There will be a separate pickup fee for this convenient service. For hazardous waste questions and pricing information, please contact Warren Johnson at 715-520-7215, or [email protected] To register, send a list of items and quantities to be collected, pickup address and contact information to Warren Johnson at [email protected]; 715-635-7262, fax; or 715-520-7215, phone. Estimates available upon request.
DNR warns of hunting and fishing license scam
MADISON - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is urging the public to beware of online hunting and fishing license scams leaving purchasers with an empty hook and wallet. The DNR is aware of at least two websites appearing to offer fishing or hunting licenses. After paying a fee, consumers only receive information on how to apply for a hunting or fishing license. These sites also collect sensitive personal data as part of their unauthorized transactions. "You will not receive a valid fishing license from these misleading websites. But, you will be charged nonrefundable fees despite the money-back guarantee declared on the site," says Kimberly Currie, DNR director of customer and outreach services. "The best way to make sure you don't fall prey to these scammers is to purchase your license directly from the DNR or its authorized agents." Anglers can securely purchase a valid fishing license for the state of Wisconsin in the following three ways: At a Wisconsin DNR Service Center, or through an independent license sales agent authorized by DNR, such as a local sporting goods store, large discount store or local bait and tackle shops, that use the Go Wild point of sale terminal, or From the department's only official online license sales site, GoWild. The Wisconsin DNR values users' online safety and provides links from its homepage to a safe, secure online purchasing site. The DNR also provides information about where to purchase licenses in person, links to free copies of Wisconsin regulations and helpful tutorials on the DNR website under Licenses & Regulations. If you think you may have already been scammed by one of these sites, you can file a complaint with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection by calling the hotline at 800-422-7128 or email [email protected]
Gypsy Moth Aerial Spraying Update
Gypsy moth aerial treatments by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s Gypsy Moth Slow the Spread Program took place on Wednesday, May 29. The STS aerial program for 2019 consisted of 49 treatment sites, involving approximately 117,000 acres across 16 counties in western Wisconsin. A progress chart and maps of the treatment sites can be viewed online at gypsymoth.wi.gov. The treatments are necessary to control the spread of gypsy moth, a destructive and invasive pest that feeds on the leaves of oaks, maples, crabapple, birch and many other species of trees and shrubs. The first Btk treatments will begin in the previously mentioned counties covering six sites. Most sites may have more than one treatment planned and will be treated again on a later date. Planes will apply Foray 48B, which is approved for use in certified organic production or food processing by the Organic Materials Review Institute. The insecticide contains Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki or Btk. Btk is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that is poisonous to gypsy moth caterpillars when consumed. Btk breaks down in sunlight within a few days. Applications can start as early as sunrise and will continue until the day’s plan is complete and as weather conditions allow. Treatment applications require calm winds, high humidity and no precipitation. The planes are loud and will fly low, just above the tree canopy. Spraying does not affect organic certification. The insecticide is not toxic to people, bees, animals, birds or plants. People who have allergies may wish to stay indoors or leave the area until treatments are done. Pets or livestock may be frightened by the noise of the low-flying planes, so keep them indoors or monitor them. Most sites will receive a second application of Btk about 7–10 days after the first application. For more information: Treatment updates will be available as a recorded message on the toll-free hotline, 800-642-6684, press 1. You also can get instant updates by connecting with us on Twitter, twitter.com/widatcp, or Facebook, facebook.com/widatcp. You can also send an e-mail to [email protected] Find more DATCP news in our Newsroom, on Facebook, on Twitter or on Instagram.
CWD-Positive Deer Nearly Double As State Increases Sampling In 2018
This 2½-year-old buck was found dying of chronic wasting disease in Iowa County, Wis. Iowa County is one of the hardest hit locations for CWD in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
STATEWIDE - The state Department of Natural Resources announced this week more than 17,200 deer were sampled for CWD in 2018, of which 1,060 deer tested positive. In 2017, there were 597 deer that came up positive for CWD out of 9,841 deer sampled. Sampling data shows the CWD prevalence rate remains around 6 percent compared to 7 percent in 2016 and 9 percent in 2015 when fewer deer were sampled. Tami Ryan, chief of the DNR's Wildlife Health Program, said the vast majority of deer that tested positive were in southern Wisconsin. "We're seeing an increasing trend in the number of positives from year to year that are being detected," she said. "That is primarily a pattern that is emerging from the southern farmland zone.” CWD was first detected in southern Wisconsin in 2002. Since then, around 5,200 deer have tested positive out of more than 227,000 sampled, according to the DNR. Former Gov. Scott Walker came under criticism for the state's handling of CWD as it spread across the state. During his campaign for re-election, Walker called for emergency rules to address CWD that sought to require double-fencing of deer farms and ban movement of deer carcasses from CWD-affected counties. An emergency rule that required double-fencing expired this year and state lawmakers suspended a DNR rule in October that would prevent the movement of deer carcasses from infected areas. Critics have now taken aim at Gov. Tony Evers for not including funding in his budget to address CWD. DNR Secretary Preston Cole has defended the governor, saying Evers is waiting for research results on the disease. He added the DNR needs to do more to increase hunter participation in sampling. The agency has done just that in the last year, said Ryan. "We have embarked upon a cycle of disease detection surveillance in areas of the state that haven’t had a broad approach to disease detection surveillance for quite some time," she said. Ryan said focused surveillance across 19 counties in west-central Wisconsin and the use of self-service kiosks by hunters helped drive increased sampling in 2018. She said the 24/7, do-it-yourself approach to sampling deer has received positive feedback from hunters and staff. The agency has also seen more participation from hunters as concerns over the disease are on the rise. "We are certainly seeing an increasing trend in the interest on behalf of deer hunters to have their deer sampled more so from the standpoint of wanting to know whether or not the deer have CWD," she said. "They're using that information to inform whether or not they’re going to have that meat processed or consume that meat." There are 56 counties now affected by the disease in the state — a dozen of which have been added in the last year. Ryan said the DNR plans to focus surveillance across 18 counties in northern Wisconsin this year as part of sampling efforts.
Polk County Deer Advisory Council to meet

BALSAM LAKE — The public has a final opportunity to provide comments on antlerless deer harvest quota, harvest authorization level and season structure recommendations for Polk County.

The council will hold its final spring meeting on April 16 at 6:00pm at the Balsam Lake Government Center.  At this meeting, the council will receive additional public comments prior to developing final recommendations.  

The council’s preliminary recommendations, formed during its March meeting, are available for review at  HYPERLINK "https://dnr.wi.gov/" dnr.wi.gov, keyword " HYPERLINK "https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/cdac.html" CDAC,” by clicking " HYPERLINK "https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/CDACFind.aspx" Find” and selecting Polk.  Councils considered scientific data and public opinion when developing their preliminary recommendations.    

The council has recommended a harvest quota of 7,870, with 5,200 private land and 1,000 public land antlerless harvest authorizations available to hunters.  

The council also recommends offering two county-specific Farmland Zone antlerless harvest authorizations with each license.

The council did NOT recommend an antlerless-only Holiday Hunt for the 2019 deer season.

These recommendations are expected to achieve Polk Counties three year population objective to maintain Polk County’s deer population.

To develop its final recommendations, the council will consider online input and other public comments along with professional assessments from Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists, foresters and law enforcement.  The public may also comment at any time before April 10 by contacting a CDAC member (a list is available on the CDAC web page at  HYPERLINK "http://dnr.wi.gov/" dnr.wi.gov, keyword " HYPERLINK "http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/cdac.html" CDAC”) or by emailing  HYPERLINK "mailto:[email protected]" [email protected].

Polk County’s final quota, harvest authorization level and season structure recommendations will be presented to the DNR following the April meeting, and will then advance to the Natural Resources Board for approval in May.  If approved, the recommendations will take effect for the 2019 deer hunting season.

Additional information on CDAC recommendations, agendas and membership is available at  HYPERLINK "http://dnr.wi.gov/" dnr.wi.gov, keyword " HYPERLINK "http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/cdac.html" CDAC” or email  HYPERLINK "mailto:[email protected]" [email protected] with any questions.

Durkin Outdoors
Red foxes might lack reading skills and internet access, but you’d think they’d know not to mess with sandhill cranes – a spear-beaked, toenail-clawing bird that attacks cars, trees bears and chases golf-course alligators. Cranes don’t play nice. Google it if you don’t believe me. And yet a red fox stared down an adult sandhill crane during a 10-minute standoff that Eric Christensen, Stoughton, photographed while driving home in mid-March. Christensen, 47, is an amateur photographer (@salmobyfly on Instagram) who seldom leaves home without his Nikon and Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens. As he slowed his truck that day to admire some sandhill cranes in a field, he spotted a fox slinking around the edge of a nearby pond. The fox drew within 10 yards of two cranes and a Canada goose when Christensen started photographing from his truck 50 yards away. One crane, presumably the male, stationed itself between its mate and the fox, and then stood tall and flared its wings to their full 6.5-foot span when the fox neared. Each time the fox advanced, the crane aggressively matched its move and drove it back. If a bookie had driven up just then, Christensen knows how he would’ve bet. “I wouldn’t have thrown down with the fox,” he said. “That’s for sure. That fox looked tiny compared to the crane.” Granted, foxes aren’t pansies, but the average adult red fox weighs about 10 pounds and stands about 16 inches at the shoulder. Adult sandhill cranes weigh about the same, but stand nearly 5 feet tall and basically taunt all foes to draw first. And don’t get distracted by the crane’s long, pointed beak. Yes, it could poke out one or both eyes, but you’d best concentrate on its feet. Cranes fight by leaping high, and then raking and slicing with their sharp toenails as they drop. “They’re like a velociraptor,” said Anne Lacy, research coordinator at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo. “They bring their feet up and swipe down hard.” Christensen said people who view his photos of the rare encounter usually ask if the fox was just toying with the crane, or seeking a way to kill it. “They wonder if the fox and crane were they just playing, or was the fox looking for a meal?” he said. “It didn’t strike me as a young, naïve fox testing the water. It almost seemed like it was assessing whether it would be worth the fight. “But the truth is, I don’t know what either of them was thinking,” Christensen continued. “The crane advanced on the fox three or four times, and they’d just lock stares and stand their ground. The fox could have fled, but didn’t; and the crane could have flown off, but didn’t. The fox eventually jumped out of striking distance and plopped down in the grass and the cranes wandered off.” Christensen isn’t the only one refusing to read much into the encounter. Lacy declined guessing, too. She doubts, however, that the cranes were protecting a nest. She said the foundation didn’t receive its first egg reports until around April 1, nearly two weeks after the fox/crane face-off. “We had a long, cold winter, so the cranes definitely weren’t laying eggs early,” Lacy said. “The fox might have just been trying to get from Point A to Point B, and the cranes got in its way. I once watched a coyote crossing a field, heading straight for a crane. When the coyote saw the crane, it was like the crane had a force field around it. The coyote circled wide around it, and returned to its straight line.” Scott Craven, a retired UW-Madison wildlife professor, said he’s never before seen or heard of a fox/crane face-off, but assumes unusual confrontations happen regularly in nature. “It’s possible they were just in the same place at the same time,” Craven said. “Was the fox thinking the crane might make a meal? That would be a bold move, but foxes have been known to do odd things. It’s possible it was a young fox, but it’s pretty early in the season for fox pups to be out wandering.” Christensen, too, wasn’t there on purpose. He had spent the previous few hours sitting in a wet marsh, his camera’s tripod pushed into the muck, hoping to photograph mergansers or possibly a bald eagle. When daylight started fading, he returned to his truck and drove homeward while watching fields, marshes and woodlots for wildlife. “I scan landscapes nonstop,” he said. “You look at the world differently when you keep a camera on your lap. You pay attention to horizontal lines in vertical forests. I also appreciate our public lands more than ever. I didn’t realize how many little 10-, 20- and 40-acre public parcels were around Dane County until I loaded the onXmaps app into my phone. The more public lands I explore near home, the more I appreciate all public lands.” When Christensen reached home that day, he realized he had been fortunate. “It was almost a life-changing event,” he said. “I’ve been at this long enough to know it’s unusual to get that close to a red fox or sandhill crane. A fox typically wouldn’t have any part of it, and cranes typically just walk off pecking their way across the field when people show up. In this case, they were both more concerned about each other. They weren’t too worried about a truck parked on the shoulder.” Patrick Durkin, @patrickdurkinoutdoors, is a free-lance writer who covers outdoors recreation in Wisconsin. Write to him at 721 Wesley St., Waupaca, WI 54981; or by email at [email protected]
DNR shuts down motorized uses on Stower Seven Lakes Trail
POLK COUNTY - As the county received its first significant snowfall of the season, and as local snowmobile clubs were busy grooming the Stower Seven Lakes Trail to make it ready for snowmobiles, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued a written order, dated Feb. 6, shutting down snowmobile and other motorized use on the currently silent sports SSLT. As the DNR was issuing its written order shutting down snowmobiles on the SSLT, local resident and Amery business owner Peter Henry was filing a lawsuit in Polk County Circuit Court alleging government action amending the Trail Master Plan allowing for snowmobiles and ATVs violated the state open meetings law. Additionally, according to an individual active in the silent sports community, the Pines Bach law firm out of Madison, hired by the Friends of SSLT, is preparing or considering a legal challenge that will argue the SSLT does not meet established DNR safety criteria and is too narrow in width to allow for both motorized and silent sport use on the trail. The SSLT is a 14-mile nonmotorized, crushed limestone surface utilizing an old Soo Line Railroad corridor. The main trailhead is in Amery with a terminating trailhead just south of Dresser at Lotus Lake County Park. Polarized debate over the use of the trail extends back to 1998, when the rails were first removed. In May 2018, Polk County appointed a seven-member trail planning subcommittee to explore future uses on the trail. That committee adopted a plan calling for allowing winter snowmobiles on the trail. On Oct. 16, 2018, the Polk County Board of Supervisors amended that master plan recommendation to also allow for all-season ATV/UTV use on the trail. On Nov. 30, the DNR sent a four-page letter to Polk County citing a number of concerns with the SSLT planning and public participation process. The county had until Jan. 30, 2019, to adequately respond to those concerns. On Jan. 29, the county emailed the DNR an amended trail master plan. The DNR, in its letter of Feb. 6, states, “the recently submitted plan still does not meet the requirements” in an existing memorandum of understanding between the county and DNR over the use of the SSLT. Because the county failed to adequately address the DNR concerns outlined in its Nov. 30 letter, “the only uses that may be allowed on the trail are walking, bicycling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.” Motorized and other nonsilent sport uses will be prohibited, the letter reads, “until and unless the county completes a planning process and drafts a new plan adding such uses in accordance with the requirements in the memorandum of understanding.” The DNR communication forced interim county Administrator Jeff Fuge to reverse a December directive allowing for snowmobile use on the SSLT. A meeting with DNR and county staff is scheduled this week. Henry’s lawsuit alleges that the county board of supervisors, in amending the trail master plan to allow for ATV/UTV use of the trail at its regular meeting on Oct. 16, 2018, violated the state open meetings law. That law requires agenda items to be clear and precise regarding actions to be considered by a governmental body. Henry claims the Oct. 16 meeting agenda was incomplete. That agenda called for adoption of the Trail Master Plan allowing for winter snowmobiles on the trail. No notice was given that the county board would consider amendments to the trail plan allowing for ATV/UTV use of the trail. Last month the county board of supervisors voted to begin a planning process to consider allowing for all-season ATV/UTV use on the Gandy Dancer State Recreational Trail. Polk County Corporation Counsel Malia Malone told environmental services committee members two weeks ago that it was doubtful that the DNR would consider Gandy revisions while the SSLT planning process and Master Trail Plan process is still unresolved.
Polk County opens segment of Gandy Dancer trail
POLK COUNTY—The Polk County segment of the Gandy Dancer trail is now open to snowmobile use as of noon Monday, Jan. 28. All other Polk County Snowmobile Trails remain CLOSED until adequate snowfall for use on private land. - from Polk County parks, forestry and buildings.
Board approves reduced bear Harvest for 2019
The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board has approved fewer permits for hunters taking part in this year’s bear harvest. The state has set a goal of harvesting 3,835 bears. - Photo by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Report To Board Shows Wildlife Damage Claims Declined In 2017 STATEWIDE - The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board has approved fewer permits for hunters taking part in this year’s bear harvest. The state has set a goal of harvesting 3,835 bears. Last year, the board approved 12,970 permits for hunters with the hope of harvesting 4,550 bears statewide. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources large carnivore specialist Scott Walter said they’re using new models to adjust the state’s bear harvest. "We’re looking at a drop in the quota of 715 bears," he said. "That translates into about a 10.6 percent decline in overall permit availability." Walter said they’re reducing harvest goals to deal with overcrowding in the southern portion of the state and fewer bears in north-central Wisconsin. "We’ve got a population that’s been declining and fairly significantly over the last seven or eight years," he said. Under older models, Walter said they believed the north-central Wisconsin bear population to be fairly stable. Walter estimates there are around 24,000 bears in the state. Hunters harvested 3,628 bears last year — a roughly 11 percent decline from 2017. Wildlife Damage Claims Decline The DNR received fewer wildlife damage claims in 2017 and paid out less under the state’s Wildlife Damage Abatement and Claims Program. The state paid out $808,241 in wildlife damage claims in 2017 to landowners. They submitted 249 claims to the Wildlife Damage Abatement and Claims Program with losses assessed at nearly $1.16 million. The state denied 18 of those claims due to landowners’ failure to meet program requirements. In 2016, landowners submitted 276 claims with losses assessed at about $1.27 million. Wildlife damaged 3,978 acres in 2017 compared to 3,987 acres in 2016. The claims were filed in 54 of 70 counties enrolled in the program. Outagamie, Marinette, and Grant counties had the most land that was damaged by wildlife. Marinette, Outagamie and Rusk counties also had the largest number of claims. The damage was caused mostly by deer, accounting for 81 percent of losses. The number of crop owners who enrolled in the program due to deer damage increased from 611 participants in 2016 to 644 landowners in 2017. Bear and geese both made up 9 percent of damages while turkey and elk accounted for the remainder of losses.
Intertribal task force approves tribal CWD management area
NORTHERN WISCONSIN - The Voigt Intertribal Task Force approved a tribal chronic wasting disease management area this fall that includes portions of Oneida, Lincoln and Langlade counties. The task force, which is made up of members from tribes in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, has been recommending policy on tribes’ behalf since the landmark Voigt Decision. The 1983 federal court ruling upheld tribes’ rights to hunt, fish and gather off-reservation under the 1837 and 1842 treaties with the federal government. The tribal CWD management area creates restrictions for tribal members on the transport, disposal and registration of wild deer in those areas. Wildlife biologist Travis Bartnick, of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, said the restrictions stem from two wild deer testing positive for the disease within 30 miles of two tribal communities earlier this year in Lincoln and Oneida counties. “They want to do everything in their power to protect the wild whitetail deer and elk herd.” said Bartnick. “Even though they’re such a minority of the population of deer hunters out there, they want to be able to set this example of how to do things in the right way.” The restrictions prevent members from moving wild deer outside of the tribal CWD management area with limited exceptions, such as when the carcass is deboned. “The tribal member would either have to dispose of the carcass by burying it at the site or ensuring that it ends up in a landfill or in a designated disposal area,” said Bartnick. Wisconsin lawmakers intervened this fall to prevent part of an emergency rule from taking effect that would have restricted deer carcass transport for state deer hunters. Bartnick said tribes will also have to register deer remotely to prevent the spread of CWD under the restrictions. Each tribal council has to modify its version of the off-reservation conservation codes to enforce them, according to GLIFWC policy analyst and attorney Philomena Kebec. She said Fond du Lac, Lac Courte Oreilles, Red Cliff and the St. Croix tribes have passed amendments in order to enforce the changes approved by the task force. “As tribal people, people who are dependent on venison for subsistence reasons and for cultural reasons, this threat to the existence of the deer is also very concerning,” she said. Mark Duffy, task force representative for the Red Cliff tribe, said CWD could be devastating for tribes. “That would change our lifestyle. That would change our history if all of a sudden we had a disease up here that indicated that we could not eat our deer or our fish or anything else or our wild rice,” said Duffy.
Snowmobilers: Know before you go
NORTHWEST WISCONSIN - Although much of Wisconsin has experienced colder temperatures and accumulating snow the past two weeks, the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs wants to remind snowmobilers that many – if not most - snowmobile trails in Wisconsin are not open yet. Before a trail can be opened, the ground under the snow needs to be frozen to ensure trails crossing wet areas are safe. In agricultural areas, adequate snow is necessary to protect the ground and crops the trail travels over. To ensure you know which trails are open in your community, go to awsc.org or travelwisconsin.com/snowreport/snowmobile for the latest information on the county/area you’re interested in riding. After trails are opened, be aware, as early-season riding conditions magnify possible hazards under the snow. Snowmobilers should always ride with caution and never ride on trails crossing lakes or rivers that are not marked by the local snowmobile club. The AWSC consists of over 610 snowmobile clubs from every county in Wisconsin. Community-based snowmobile clubs and their 41,000-plus volunteer members are solely responsible for developing and maintaining over 24,000 miles of public snowmobile trails. Club members brush, clear, sign and prepare the trails, along with grooming them to ensure they are smooth and safe. Annually, these volunteers work many hours in partnership with dozens of gracious landowners to ensure trail access, as most trails are on private property. Without the support of thousands of Wisconsin landowners, the trail system would not exist. Thus, riding on closed trails or traveling off a marked trail is not only dangerous – it’s trespassing. Wisconsin’s snowmobile program is administered by the DNR, but unique in that it is a user-funded program. In short, snowmobilers provide the funds – through sled registrations and trail pass fees - to create, maintain and sustain the largest public trail system in the nation. Additional funds for the snowmobile program come from gas tax monies snowmobilers generate. These user-generated funds help reimburse local clubs for some of the expenses they incur. The season is here, so make sure your snowmobile has a current registration and a 2018-2019 Wisconsin trail pass. For more information on registration and trail pass requirements, go to gowild.wi.gov. Snowmobiling is not only fun, it provides millions of dollars that fuel Wisconsin’s winter economic engine. For more information; or, if you’d like to join a local club, go to the AWSC website at awsc.org.
Head to Crex Meadows in January for a number of family-friendly events
GRANTSBURG – Get outdoors this winter with help from wildlife education programs and events at Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area.
Thursdays: Jan. 3, 17 and 31, 10-11 a.m.
Join Department of Natural Resources staff for the “Older Wiser Learning Series, or O.W.L.S.” There will be a short presentation followed with a discussion and maybe an outdoor component. Be sure to dress for the weather. Hot beverages provided. These events are for adults only.
Winter Wildlifers
Tuesdays: Jan. 8, 15, 22 and 29, 2-3 p.m.
Discover wildlife with the whole family through stories, songs, hands-on activities, games, crafts and snacks. Winter Wildlifers is a free event and no registration is required. This program helps encourage families to get out and enjoy nature. Attendees should dress for the weather. This event is geared for ages 2-8 and their families.
Morning snowshoe hike
Friday, Jan. 4, 10-11 a.m.
Experience wildlife in a new way and join DNR staff for a morning snowshoe hike in search of animal sign. All ages and skill levels are welcome, some snowshoes will be provided and attendees are also free to bring their own pair. Preregistration is required.
Sunset snowshoe hike
Thursday, Jan. 10, 3:45-4:45 p.m.
Experience wildlife in a new way and join Crex staff for a sunset snowshoe hike to learn the basics and search for winter wildlife. All ages and skill levels are welcome, some snowshoes will be provided and attendees are also free to bring their own pair. Preregistration is required.
Grantsburg Library story time
Wednesday, Jan. 9, 10:30-11 a.m.
Join Lauren Finch, DNR natural resources educator, at the Grantsburg Public Library for wildlife stories, crafts, lessons games and more. Preregistration is not required.
For more information, contact Finch at 715-463-2739. Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area is located at 102 East Crex Ave., Grantsburg.
Wildlife conservation education programs are supported by Friends of Crex. For more information, visit crexmeadows.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Please report your Crex wildlife observations via email to [email protected]
Local deer harvest down from 2017 gun season
NORTHWEST WISCONSIN – Hunters in the state’s 2018 gun deer hunt harvested 13,454 more deer statewide over 2017, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. In Burnett County, hunters harvested 1,692 deer, down 262 deer from 2017. More antlered deer were harvested than antlerless this season, like 2017. This season 1,017 antlered deer and 675 antlerless deer were harvested. In Polk County, hunters harvested 2,805 deer, down 404 deer from 2017. More antlered deer were harvested this year, a deviation from 2017 where more antlerless deer were harvested. In the 2018 gun deer hunt 1,466 antlered deer and 1,339 antlerless deer were harvested. In Washburn County hunters harvested 1,677 deer, down 135 deer from 2017. More antlered deer were taken this season, like last year. Hunters harvested 940 antlered deer and 737 antlerless deer this season. Statewide, hunters harvested more antlered deer this season, reflecting last year’s season. Statewide, 65,388 antlered and 53,282 antlerless deer were harvested this season.
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