Photograph mystery is solved by DNR
Following a recent article on Wisconsin cougars, Steve Gilbertson, a good friend of mine from Chippewa Falls, sent me a trail cam photo of what looked to be that of a cougar taken close to his home.
A follow up discussion with some local neighbors and a review from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources proved that what looked like a cougar was in reality a coyote with a bad case of mange making its tail appear "cougar like." "Pointy ears" on the animal also led to its true identity.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a guided water tour of Oakridge Waterfowl Production Area which is located just east of Star Prairie. The trip was organized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District (FSCWMD) to highlight habitat work and invasive species removal on this unique wetland.
This 304-acre WPA was the location of the recent Scouting conservation weekends and is highlighted in the Auto Tour Guide recently put out by the FSCWMD. The outing was led by Tom Kerr, manager of the St. Croix Wetland Management District, and USF&WS Biologist Chris Trosen.
Utilizing a canoe, kayak and my 12-foot rowboat, we were able to circumvent the lake in about two hours taking in the sights and sounds of the abundant wildlife. Karrie Jackelen, district staff representative to Congressman Ron Kind, and St. Croix County resident Jim Rubenzer rounded out the group.
As we started the tour, a bald eagle in the large nest across the road was seen caring for a recently hatched eaglet. A small flock of yellow headed blackbirds flew into a stand of cattails and hundreds of coots in several flocks scampered and paddled their way in search of nourishment to continue their spring migration north.
Mallards, ringnecks, northern shovelers, wood ducks, blue and greenwing teal joined the numerous Canada geese and several pair of trumpeter swans as they cruised this shallow body of crystal clear water. Numerous painted turtles were seen along with an occasional perch and northern swimming under our boats.
Several times during our outing, an eagle would dive bomb the coots, causing them to scurry away in a noisy splashing frenzy. None of the attacked appeared successful from our vantage point.
A mayfly hatch was taking place as the three tailed insects floated on the water waiting for their wings to dry or hovered a few feet over the water after accomplishing their transformation from nymph to fly. We were also lucky enough to observe a pair of eagles doing their ritualistic courting flight as they flew in tight formation high overhead.
Throughout our paddle around the lake, upland and wetland habitat improvement work was highly visible in the oak savannah restoration blending into prairie grass and managed woodland. Invasive species removal performed by the scouts over the last two years stood in stark contrast to areas yet to be worked on. Habitat management is a work in progress that needs to be maintained to obtain the desired results.
The time flew by all too quickly and the weather was ideal making for a great time being had by all.
By Tom Kerr
The Fish and Wildlife Service recently completed a controlled burn on the Houghdahl South Waterfowl Production Area (WPA), located in southern Polk County. The WPA is 59 acres in size and was purchased with federal duck stamp dollars. Federal duck stamps are purchased by duck hunters and others interested in conservation.
The controlled burn on the WPA was a follow-up treatment for the restoration project that started about three years ago. The goal of the project is to restore the WPA to a mix of prairie, wetland and oak savanna, representing the vegetation historically found in this area.
The project started with the removal of trees on the WPA in early 2010. Many of these were invasive species (Siberian elm, honeysuckle and buckthorn) and some native species (box elder and cottonwood) that can quickly take over a grassland.
We applied herbicides on the WPA to limit the regrowth of cut trees and brush. A cover crop was also planted to provide fuel for future burns.
This cover crop carried the fire during the last burn, adding another layer of control for the re-sprouting trees and shrubs. Seeds from some of these invasive species, such as buckthorn, can lay dormant in the soil for five years before re-sprouting, hence the need for multiple treatments during the early phases of restoration.
In the next few years, we will be planting the WPA to a mixture of prairie grasses and forbs. These plant native species, adapted to local growing conditions, will provide better cover and food for wildlife.
If you would like to stay informed about the controlled burns on area WPAs, check us out on Facebook by searching for St. Croix Wetland Management District. For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District, check out our website at www.fws.gov/mid west/stcroix/.
Warden Paul's Corner
The hook-and-line game fish season opens May 5 on inland waters for walleye, sauger and northern pike statewide. The largemouth and smallmouth bass southern zone opens May 5, while the northern bass zone opens for catch and release only from May 5 through June 15.
Musky season opens May 5 in the southern zone and May 26 in the northern zone. Check the Fishing Regulations for special regulations listed by county, for regulations on the Great Lakes and boundary waters, and for tributary streams to Green Bay and Lake Michigan.
The St. Croix River opener is on April 28 for walleye and on May 26 for bass and musky.
Wisconsin residents and nonresidents 16 years old or older need a fishing license to fish in any waters of the state. Residents born before Jan. 1, 1927, do not need a license, nor do people who exhibit proof they are in active service with the U.S. armed forces and are a resident on furlough or leave.
Anglers are reminded to follow rules that help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by completely draining the water from boats, livewells and motors in addition to removing all vegetation from boats motors and trailers. Bass Lake in St Croix County now has zebra mussels.
For all the trout anglers, the opening day for the catch and keep season is May 5 at 5 a.m. Trout anglers need to remember that while on the water, bank or shore you may only possess the number and size of fish allowed for that portion of water. You may fish more than one water in a day, but may not possess more than the daily bag and size limits for the water you are on.
The total number of fish you may have at home or a camp from all waters fished is 10 trout, of which only five can be a combined of browns or rainbows, except for streams that run into the Great Lakes. Refer to the trout regulations for specific regulations on each stream.
The boating season is near along with the fishing season. Boating on lakes and rivers in Wisconsin has become a very popular past time. Each year thousands of boaters venture out to Wisconsin waters to enjoy the sport.
With the increase in use it is very important that you, as a boat operator understand the laws of boating. Awareness of these laws could steer you and other boaters from a "close call." Please consult the Wisconsin Boating Regulations before boating this season.
Here are few boating reminders for the upcoming summer season:
* All personal watercrafts (PWC) must operate at a slow no wake speed within 200 feet of any shore on a lake.
* All PWCs must operate at slow no wake speeds anytime the PWC is within 100 feet of any other boat or a PWC on any water body.
* Operators and all passengers on PWCs must wear their life jackets at all times.
* All boats must operate at slow no wake speed anytime they are within 100 feet of a dock, raft, pier, buoy restricted area or shoreline.
* While towing a water-skier, tuber, etc., the boat must have a competent observer to watch the skier (a mirror is not legal in Wisconsin).
* All PWC's pulling a water-skier must be capable of carrying three individuals.
* All boats must have a wearable life jacket of the proper size and type for each individual on board the boat.
* All boats 16 feet and over must have a throwable floatation device (seat cushion or ring buoy).
* All boats equipped with motors must be registered, even electric trolling motors.
* Boats on the right have the right of way on the water.
* Enjoy the water, don't drink and drive.
For any questions call Warden Paul Sickman at 715-684-2914, ext. 120. Have a safe and fun boating season.