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The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will start burning the woody material that was harvested from prairie restoration projects around St. Croix and Polk counties.

Gray Wolves getting the respect they deserve

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Wolves, you either love them or you hate them. There was no middle ground. Now, with the delisting of them from endangered to the status of threatened, hopefully this perception will change. The state will be able to institute a management program that could allow a harvest and elevate the wolf to the position of game animal and give them the respect they deserve.

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The wolf's present range extends over much of northern Wisconsin stretching down into the wilds of the Central Forest area. A wolf pack's territory can cover from 20-80 square miles of range. While the majority of the state has no active wolf packs, it doesn't mean that the occasional lone wolf that has been disbursed from an active pack cannot migrate through any area. Most of the wolf sightings in our area turn out to be that of coyote which have become quite prevalent over the last few years.

The yipping heard on quiet evenings is that of coyotes and not wolves.

In fact wolves and coyotes compete with each other. The wolf competes with the coyote driving them from the area. This opens up a niche for the red fox which competes with the coyote. In areas of high coyote populations, the red fox population will decline which opens up a place for the gray fox population to expand.

The gray fox is more of a "woodsy" fox spending its time in covered areas while the red fox loves the open fields. Gray fox will climb trees and for this reason, early English settlers who enjoyed using dogs and horses to hunt fox, actually imported European red fox to hunt because the resident gray fox, being pursued by the dogs, quickly scampered up the nearest tree.

The last wolf was expatriated from Wisconsin in 1958, according to records. Since that time, contrary to popular belief, the wolf was not reintroduced or stocked into Wisconsin but was allowed to migrate back in on its own from our neighboring states of Minnesota and Michigan.

Presently, Minnesota has a population of about 3,000 wolves, while Michigan has about 700 and Wisconsin has around 800 calling this state home.

One of the ploys the "Do-Gooder" groups used to try to block the wolf's delisting was to claim our wolves were a separate subspecies of wolf and therefore needed added protection. In a recent decision it was determined that, going forward, all our area wolves would be grouped under the genus and species Canis lupus which solved that problem.

While the delisting of the wolf at this time is a great victory for conservation, the status of the Gray Wolf, also known as the Timber wolf, will be monitored for the next five years to assure that things are moving smoothly. Stay tuned.

Winter Burn Piles

By Tom Kerr

USF&WS

Once the snow starts to fly, the Fish and Wildlife Service will start to burn some of the woody debris piles left from oak savanna and prairie restoration projects. Scattered across several Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs), these piles could not be chipped when contractors removed the invasive trees and brush that had overtaken the prairie and oak savanna. Removal of these invading species is an important part of our goal of restoring the prairie, wetlands and oak savanna historically found across much of St. Croix and southern Polk counties.

As we continue the restoration of these WPAs, we will seed these areas to native prairie grasses and flowers. Following seeding, the Fish and Wildlife Service will use controlled burns, chemical treatment or grazing to reduce the regeneration of these invading species, especially box elder and buckthorn.

Buckthorn seeds can remain viable in the soil for a minimum of five years and some reports indicate up to 15 years. Multiple treatments are often necessary to reduce these plants to a level where they do not impact the native habitat. Although these sites will be treated several times during the first few years of restoration, our goal is to get to a maintenance phase. In this maintenance phase, we burn on a longer rotation, maybe once every five years, to prevent the invasion of trees and invasive species into the prairie.

For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District, check out our website at www.fws.gov/midwest/stcroix/.

Warden Paul's Corner

Snowmobile Registration

With the days getting shorter and colder, many outdoor enthusiasts are preparing their snowmobiles for the first trail ride. Wisconsin residents have two options for registering snowmobiles. They are either public or private registration.

Public registration allows the operation of the snowmobile on any area open to public riding (including the frozen waters of lakes and rivers) and on private property with the appropriate permission. The registration is valid for two years beginning on July 1st and expires on June 30th two years later. The registration decals will be mailed from Madison so the operator must carry proof of registration (a validated receipt from a snowmobile dealer or DNR Service Center) prior to receiving the decals. In addition, registration decals can be purchased for $5 when registering your snowmobile at a DNR Service Center.

Private registration only allows immediate family members to operate on land owned by the immediate family. Private registration does not allow for operation on areas open to the public.

A snowmobile is exempt from registration if the snowmobile is used exclusively for racing on a racing facility or owned by the United States or a political subdivision of the state and used for enforcement or emergency purposes (the name and owner must be displayed in the cowling).

Owners can apply for registration by mailing in their application to Madison, but the owner cannot operate until they receive a validated application back in the mail. Therefore, apply for registration at the DNR Service Center in Baldwin (715-684-2914) where your application will be validated in person. If buying a snowmobile from a dealer, the dealer can register and validate your application in person. Renewing your registration can be completed through the DNR website, just print out your confirmation page and carry with you until your decals come in the mail.

Early-season ice not safe for humans, vehicles

Ice fishers and outdoor enthusiasts are urged to remain patient when it comes to winter's early ice cover which DNR wardens classify as not thick enough to safely support a human -- much less any type of vehicle. Ice is always unpredictable but it is nearly certain to be too weak to be considered safe during these weeks of weather's transition from late fall to early winter.

Conditions vary throughout the state with some of Wisconsin still having open water and other areas developing a thin ice layer. Use this time to brush on some ice safety precautions. Review these with others who enjoy the outdoors - especially any children. Ice poses dangers on ponds, lakes and rivers. Take control of your safety with these tips:

Dress for the conditions. That means the proper clothing and equipment. Please include a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Personal Flotation Device (vest or coat) that will help you stay afloat and slow body heat loss should you fall in. Extra mittens and gloves should be standard so you always have a dry pair.

Wear ice creepers on your boots. These are idea to prevent slips.

Contact local sport shops to ask about ice conditions on the lake or river you want to fish.

Learn about the water you are going to use. Know if the lake has inlets, outlets or narrows that have currents known to thin the ice.

Do not go out alone. If you do, carry a cell phone and let someone know where you are and your expected return time. Follow that timeline.

Carry a spud bar to check the ice while walking to new areas during daylight only.

Carry a couple of spikes and a length of light rope in an easily accessible pocket to help pull yourself - or others - out of the ice.

Do not travel in unfamiliar territories at night.

Look for clear ice. Clear ice is generally stronger than ice with air bubbles in it or with snow on it.

For any questions contact Conservation Warden Paul Sickman at 715-684-2914, ext. 120.

Have a safe and enjoyable snowmobiling season.

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