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Nature walk on Nagel Wildlife Area

This year's trout catch had to be supplemented with brats to fill out the menu.

On April 28, Wildlife Biologist Harvey Halvorsen and Birder Larry Sirvio led a birding and nature walk on the mowed paths of Nagel Wildlife Area which is located southeast of New Richmond, off 140th Avenue.

While the weather was less than ideal, the 20 participants were treated to some excellent birding opportunities and a chance to learn some interesting facts about this unique 205-acre public treasure which is open to multiple outdoor activities.

As the outing progressed, numerous bird species were identified by sight and sound. Larry made use of his audio cassette which contained a recording of an owl being mobbed by groups of chickadees. Curious birds will usually respond to the call, flocking to see what all the commotion was about.

Harvey described the spring mating ritual of the male woodcock, which would perform a bobbing, twirling dance as he tries to attract the attentions of a female. The male bird would produce a buzzing sound called a peent while doing its dance, then soar to a height of more than 200 feet only to spiral down to the ground and repeat the performance.

Dan Donahue, an area resident who attended the walk, told of how in his youth, he would place small brown footballs on the peenting ground to attract these lovesick males into doing their thing. The decoys did their job but there must have been some frustrated birds after putting in all that courting effort.

The walk covered all types of habitat, from open prairie to mixed hardwood forests and several wetlands. There had been two prairie burns on the property separated by several weeks. It was interesting in comparing the two burn sites. The vegetation had returned in full force on the earlier burn, rebounding to providing ideal natural habitat. Harvey also mentioned that several species of birds would flock to a fresh burn site to "girth up" on fried insects. They would find anthills to feed on and also use the ants to provide formic acid to preen their feathers. Controlled burns are good for a variety of reasons.

All through the time spent afield, Larry and Harvey identified various types of vegetation and answered the many questions posed to them. This was truly a naturalist outing for all including the two young McGurran boys who accompanied their mother on the two hour expedition. A great time was had by all with everyone looking forward to next year's event!

Fishing Opener

May 5 marked the opener of the Wisconsin fishing season and opening day means trout fishing for me. For more than 60 years of my life, I have fished trout on this special day. My dad was an avid trouter and some of my fondest memories were fishing with him and my uncles on McCann Creek back in Chippewa County. I haven't fished that stream for perhaps a dozen years but plan to make it back this year in pursuit of native brook trout that reside there.

For the past 20 plus years, the opener on the Willow River has become a tradition. A group of friends fish the Willow in the morning returning to Mike Kelly's field later to dine on grilled trout, "Grandma's Beans" and a variety of other delectable offerings. The Willow meanders through Mike's property offering fishing opportunities to supplement our fare. No one goes home hungry.

This year, because of rain causing the Willow to run high and muddy, fishing success was marginal. Seven able bodied fishers were only able to ante up four trout for the grill. All was not lost, however, as brats appeared to provide nourishment to those that toiled over a hot fishing pole all morning. Everyone got a taste of trout.

This is only the third time in more than 20 years that we have had to supplement our cuisine with brats or freezer trout. Despite the fishing success, stories of past fishing outings were shared. Some may even have had a thread of truth to them.

Wildlife Observations

Early one morning, as I drove through Star Prairie, a group of five yearling fawns came out into the road near the intersection of County Road M and Highway 65 at the bridge that crosses the Apple River. They were obviously unsure of themselves as they stopped in the middle of the bridge forcing me to come to a complete stop also. After several seconds, one of the fawns meandered off the road and into River Island Park and the rest followed.

I had never seen five fawns together without some adult supervision. What I think was happening was that the moms of the fawns were in the process of having new fawns and, prior to giving birth, had forced the year old deer away. This process can be brutal and this action forces the year old deer out on their own. It takes a while for the yearlings to get their bearings. This is a very dangerous time in the life of a deer as indicated by all the car killed fawns being struck on the roads in April and May.

Warden Paul's Corner

Wild animals

Wild animal mothers share the dedication to protect, to feed and to care for their babies. But state wildlife officials say people should know that wild animal mothers do this in different ways.

Unlike humans, one way an animal mom protects her baby is to conceal it and leave it hidden from predators under natural vegetation. The mother returns to feed the babies, but often under the cover of darkness or brush. This is something people may not understand because it is so removed from what a human mother does.

The well-intended person may attempt to rescue or to feed a wild animal baby because, in the human world, we perceive the baby as being afraid, alone and abandoned. It usually is not. Its mother is following natural behavior instincts to help the babies survive and thrive. Human interventions, while done with good intentions, instead can damage the health and well-being of the baby animal.

Too much human or domestic animal disturbance or activity near a baby animal also could cause the mother to shy away from the area. Feeding a wild animal with human foods can cause more damage to the wild animal because their digestive systems are different. Wild animals require different foods and nutrient levels that cannot be met with human diets.

Fawns are rarely abandoned. Some wild animals are born with little body scent. Their protection from predators is for them to remain motionless and concealed within the environment. Their mothers are keeping watch from afar. The mother returns a couple of times each day to quickly feed the babies. After feeding, the mother will quickly hide them again from the predators.

Fawns have little scent to attract a predator and their spots help them blend in to the environment. They move very little in their first weeks while they are alone in a place the mother selected. If you see a fawn lying on the ground by itself, you should leave the fawn where it is and not disrupt the area.

Baby rabbits also are usually alone in their nest during the day when the mother is not there. The baby rabbit's best protection from predators is to remain in their nest which is concealed with grass or vegetation. If you find a baby wild animal, the best policy is to leave them alone.

A good option to really help the animal is to call the DNR Call Center (1-888-936-7463, 1-888-WDNRINFo). We can evaluate the situation and determine if you should be connected with a wildlife rehabilitator in your area.

State and federal laws prohibit the possession of live native wild animals without a license or permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). A permit from the USFWS is required to possess all native birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

If it is absolutely necessary to help a young orphaned wildlife animal that is injured or its mother has been killed, a person may legally have the animal in their possession for up to 24 hours for the purpose of transporting the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. To get the name of a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, contact the DNR Call Center (1-888-WDNRINFo / 936-7463) or Bureau of Wildlife Management (608-266-8204). You can also visit the DNR's online directory of licensed wildlife rehabilitators at, search "wildlife rehabilitator."

For questions or comments call Warden Sickman at 715-684-2914, ext. 120.