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Avoid transporting a dangerous intruder

Pictured are an emerald ash borer trap.

Wisconsin is under attack from a winged invader. This exotic Asian intruder is slowly but surely making its mark on the woodlands and landscapes of our state.

With an estimated 770 million ash trees in Wisconsin, it will be an uphill battle to control this very real threat. If not controlled, its appearance will rival the losses caused by oak wilt and Dutch elm disease combined.

This greenish colored, six legged villain has the potential to cause millions of dollars of damage to large tract commercial logging operations, rural woodlot owners and urban residents alike.

Emerald ash borer is its name and ash tree destruction is its game.

Normally this insect can travel up to a mile on its own. Given the chance to hitch a ride in a contaminated piece of ash wood, it can travel upwards of 65 mph in the trunk of some camper's vehicle who is planning on spending a relaxing weekend enjoying nature.

Extreme care must be taken in storing and transporting firewood from any area. For this reason, campers at the state parks are required to burn only wood from local providers and the St. Croix County Parks mandate the use of only treated wood that has been certified insect free.

The adult emerald ash borer feeds on the leaves of the ash tree and, when the time is right, will lay its eggs in the crevasses of ash trees. The larvae develop under the bark of the tree and will eventually destroy the tree leaving its telltale tract system visible on the woody part of the tree under the bark. All species of ash are susceptible and perfectly healthy trees of any size can be attacked. If trees are stressed during certain times of the year, a chemical substance is released and this can draw in the insect also.

The emerald ash borer was first identified in southern Wisconsin in August of 2008 following its initial appearance in Michigan in 2002. It made its "illegal entry" into the United States in untreated wooden cargo crates from Asia. Since that time, efforts have been made to slow its expansion but recently this threat has shown up in Minnesota just across our border.

To monitor this pest, an emerald ash borer trap has been designed and placed across several states to try to get a handle on where these "bad boys/girls" are spreading. Several of these traps are presently located around our area and will help in this surveillance effort.

The traps are shaped like a box kite and measure 14-by-24 inches. The traps are colored purple because in a scientific study it was shown that the color red or purple was preferred by the ash borers.

Non-drying adhesive glue is applied to the exterior of this devise and a chemical concoction which resembles biological chemicals released from a damaged ash tree are mixed in for good measure to further attract any emerald ash borers in the vicinity. These monitoring traps are then placed in local ash trees at a height of 30-40 feet and inspected periodically for any attached borers that may have been lured there.

As you drive around our area, keep an eye out for these traps. If you have any indication that you may have an infected ash tree, contact the emerald ash borer hotline at 1-800-462-2803. This is one bad actor that needs to be stopped in its tracks!

Unusual observations

Over the summer, several folks have phoned or e-mailed to report an unusual or unique wildlife sighting. Living in a semi-rural area allows us the opportunity to observe some pretty interesting things.

A sow bear with three yearling cubs have been sighted in the Erickson WPA area into southern Erin Prairie Township. The four bears (not three) use corridors along woodlots and the Willow River that, for the most part, allow them to travel for long distances and have been observed on numerous occasions.

A report of a chukar partridge visiting neighbors' bird feeders just south of Star Prairie has been a common sight. I have also seen this bird and he is quite tame. Some dog trainers use chukar partridge to train their dogs and this might be an escapee trying to make a living. Bob White Quail have also been seen and heard around St. Croix County over the past few years. A few warm winters may have caused these more southern birds to extend their range or they could also be escaped dog training birds.

There have been several sightings of albino deer east of New Richmond in the Jewett area. At least two have been seen with one being a very nice mature buck. It has been almost a year since I have heard of a report of these deer, however. Albino deer are protected animals in Wisconsin. We would have heard of one being poached or hit by a car so it makes one wonder what became of these animals.

Jackrabbits were once very abundant in St. Croix County. Tom Kerr and Warren Irle reported seeing one east of Star Prairie about a year ago. This has been the last sighting I have heard of around here. Pelican and abundant snail numbers on Cedar Lake this spring have also been reported.

If you have been lucky enough to see something interesting or unique in the world of nature and wish to share, please let me know about it and I'll make this a regular part of this column. My phone number is 715-246-6643 or e-mail at mike

Fall migration

By Tom Kerr USF&WS

As the first hints of fall start to appear around us, we are also starting to see the first of the southbound migrants making their way into Wisconsin.

Among the earliest of waterfowl migrants through this area are blue winged teal. They are starting to form flocks and take advantage of some of the larger wetlands on local Waterfowl Production Areas. Some of these may be local birds that have nested in this area, while others are starting to arrive from more northern breeding grounds.

Blue winged teal are a small dabbling duck, meaning that they feed in shallow water, typically "tipping up" or feeding just below or on the surface of the water. They prefer to nest in areas that contain high densities of small prairie pothole wetlands with adequate surrounding grassland cover. If they do not find enough water or grassland they will continue on their northward migration until they find a place to nest.

Over the past three years, volunteers at the St. Croix Wetland Management District have conducted waterfowl surveys on WPAs near Star Prairie and New Richmond. The density of blue winged teal on the WPAs has declined from 12.2 pairs per square mile of WPA surveyed in 2008, to 10.0 in 2009 and 3.8 in 2010.

At the same time, the percentage of surveyed wetlands holding water has declined from 100 percent in 2008 to 62 percent in 2009 and 39 percent in 2010.

Although there are many factors that affect waterfowl distribution, the drought conditions in this area have probably played a major role in the low density of blue winged teal found in the survey.

These migrating blue winged teal will continue their southbound trip and hopefully when they return next spring they will find adequate water and enough grassland cover to hide their nests.

For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District, check out our website at