Week of May 15, 2006

World

National

 

For better health

Regional

General

Indiana

Michigan

Minnesota

Wisconsin

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World

Odd Bear Confirmed as Polar-Grizzly Hybrid

TORONTO (AP) - A DNA test has confirmed what zoologists, hunters and aboriginal trackers in the far northern reaches of Canada have dreamed of for years: the first documented case of a grizzly-polar bear in the wild.  Roger Kuptana, an Inuit tracker from the Northwest Territories, suspected the American hunter he was guiding had shot a hybrid bear after noticing its white fur was spotted brown and it had the long claws and slightly humped back of a grizzly.

 

Territorial officials seized the bear's body and a DNA test from Wildlife Genetics International, a lab in British Columbia, confirmed the hybrid was born of a polar bear mother and grizzly father. The bear was shot and killed last month on the southern end of Banks Island in the Beaufort Sea.

 

Polar bears and grizzlies have been successfully paired in zoos and that their offspring are fertile, but there had been no documented case in the wild. 

 

Kuptana, a guide from Sachs Harbour in the Northwest Territories, was tracking with Idaho big-game hunter Jim Martell, who paid $45,450 for a license to hunt polar bears. The DNA results were good news for the 65-year-old hunter,

who was facing a possible $909 fine and up to a year in jail for shooting a grizzly. The Northwest Territories Environment and Natural Resources Department now intends to return the bear to Martell.

 

"It will be quite a trophy," Martell told the National Post last week, even before the DNA results were in. He returned to Yellowknife for another hunt, this time for a grizzly bear. He told the newspaper he has dubbed the creature "polargrizz."

 

Polar bear and grizzly territories also overlap in the Western Arctic around the Beaufort Sea, where the occasional grizzly is known to head onto the sea ice looking for food after emerging from hibernation. Some grizzly bears make it over the ice all the way to Banks Island and Victoria Island, where they have been spotted and shot.  That might explain how a grizzly got to the region, but few can explain how it managed to get along with a polar bear long enough to mate.

 

There are about 1,200 grizzlies in the lower 48 United States, 32,000 in Alaska and 25,000 in Canada. There are some 24,000 polar bears in Canada, Greenland, Russia and Alaska.


National

Zebra Mussels Eradicated in Va. Quarry

RICHMOND, VA (AP) - An infestation of zebra mussels in a Virginia quarry has been eradicated, marking what biologists and environmental experts believe is the first successful extermination of the notoriously invasive species in open waters.

 

"I'm not aware of any other successful eradication," said zebra mussel expert Hugh MacIsaac, invasive species research chair at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research in Ontario, Canada. "That's quite impressive."

 

The small black-and-white striped mussels, native to eastern Europe, were first discovered in Virginia in a Prince William County quarry in August 2002, surprising and concerning state wildlife officials.

 

A contractor, Aquatic Sciences L.P., of Orchard Park, N.Y., injected the quarry with thousands of gallons of potassium chloride solution over a three week period beginning in late January. The solution, while toxic to zebra mussels, did not pose a threat to the environment or humans, Fernald said Thursday.

 

To verify that all the creatures had been killed, thousands of zebra mussels were imported from the Great Lakes and suspended throughout the 12-acre quarry in mesh bags in late March. On May 2, officials checked the creatures in the bags and determined all were dead. More than a thousand other mussels scraped from the rocks at various sites throughout the quarry were also examined and deemed dead, and scuba divers conducted a visual inspection of the quarry to make sure no live mussels were left.

 

The eradication process cost about $365,000, Fernald said. Water quality at the quarry and in nearby landowners' wells will be monitored for the next two years, he said.

 

While Virginia's success with potassium chloride could be

replicated in smaller bodies of water infested by zebra mussels, one invasive species expert said the approach would likely fail in a region as large as the Great Lakes. "Trying to do that on Lake Michigan, or a thousand-acre lake — the cost would just be prohibitive," said Phil Moy, a fisheries and non-indigenous species outreach specialist at the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.

 

Zebra mussels are difficult to eradicate because they reproduce very quickly, said Thomas Horvath, a professor at the State University of New York in Oneonta who has been researching zebra mussels for about 15 years.

 

There has been at least one other attempt to eliminate zebra mussels from a body of water. In 1999, researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute began manually pulling the unwelcome mollusks from Lake George in New York. Since then, the population has declined dramatically, but has not been completely eradicated, said Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, a professor at Rensselaer who directs the zebra mussel removal efforts.

 

"You're not going to necessarily get every single last one," she said. "But our goal was initially to go in and to remove the bulk of them. And we did that."

 

Zebra mussels were first discovered in the United States in 1988 in the Great Lakes, after apparently being carried in a trans-Atlantic ship's ballast water, which was emptied in the lakes. In addition to the five Great Lakes, the creatures have been found in 398 lakes nationwide, as far west as Kansas and as far south as Louisiana, according to the     U.S. Geological Survey.

 

Amy Benson, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, cautioned against celebrating too soon.  "You never know, they could be back next year," Benson said. "Mother nature has a way of surviving."


IJC Supports Emergency Funding to Operate the Carp Barrier

Emergency Action Needed to Protect Great Lakes from Asian Carp

The International Joint Commission of Canada and the United States (IJC) on May 3 urged the U.S. Congress to approve emergency funding to keep the original, demonstration dispersal barrier (Barrier 1) for Asian carp in operation until the new, permanent barrier (Barrier 2) is completed. Current plans are for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to turn off the power to Barrier 1 on May 8 when Barrier 2 is turned on. However, Barrier 2 is only half-finished so the level of protection to the Great Lakes will fall short of what was promised, putting the health of the ecosystem at risk.

 

“Providing maximum protection to the Great Lakes from a potential Asian carp invasion is clearly an emergency that demands immediate action,” said Dennis Schornack, American Chair of the IJC. “We cannot settle for half measures that put the Great Lakes and a $4.5 billion fishery at risk.”

 

“Our governments are forced to spend millions of dollars annually to combat the sea lamprey infestation in the Great

Lakes. Asian carp have the potential to be as destructive as or worse than sea lampreys,” said the Rt. Honorable Herb Gray, Canadian Chair of the IJC.

 

The proposed emergency funding has bipartisan support and is also backed by a wide range of organizations, including the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council.

 

The IJC has been a strong and longtime supporter of the carp barrier and commended both the U.S. government and the state of Illinois for their commitment two years ago to fully fund construction of Barrier 2. This permanent barrier was designed to have two electric arrays to provide a second, redundant level of protection for the Great Lakes. The second array also provides critical backup in case the other array malfunctions or is turned off for maintenance.

 

The Commission published a special report, Then and Now: Aquatic Alien Invasive Species, in 2004. It is available online at http://www.ijc.org/php/publications/pdf/ID1562.pdf and in print.


Feds approve recreational Salmon Season in California and Oregon

Alexandria, VA—The efforts of thousands of anglers and the sportfishing industry that resulted in a recommendation for a recreational salmon season by the Pacific Fishery Management Council has been approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the Department of Commerce.  In a change from their prior position that the season should be closed, NMFS has responded to the near unanimous vote by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) on April 6, 2006, to allow a sportfishing salmon season similar to that of 2005. The California season will run from May 1 through November 12.

 

This will moderate the adverse impact on the sportfishing industry in California and parts of Oregon that would have 

otherwise been extreme.  Sportfishing in California alone hasa $4.9 billion impact on the state’s economy and is second only to Florida in total angler expenditures. There are 2.4 million sport fishermen in California. Sportfishing supports 43,000 jobs, pays $1.3 billion in salaries and wages, and pays $456 million annually in state and federal taxes.

 

"We are pleased that the Department of Commerce has concurred with the Council and allowed for a season to proceed this year,” Gordon Robertson, ASA VP said.  “We must now turn our attention to supporting discussions among all stakeholders in the Klamath River Basin that seek to restore a sustainable salmon population for all uses. We are encouraged by these discussions and urge the administration to support and assist such cooperative conservation efforts."


Sportsmen go to Court to Defend Hunting in Florida

(Columbus) - The U.S. Sportsmen’s Legal Defense Fund is fighting to protect sportsmen’s interests in a lawsuit that will make black bears in Florida off-limits to hunters, and create legal precedent that threatens hunting from coast to coast.

 

At issue is a suit brought by anti-hunting organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club.  They are suing the USFWS, contending that the black bear in Florida is a separate sub-species of the North American black bear.  They argue that the distinction entitles Florida bears to protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

 

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Legal Defense Fund (SLDF) along with the Central Florida Bear Hunters Association, and Mark Roden

of St. Augustine, has filed to join the suit so that hunters’ interests are directly represented before the court.

 

“A terrible precedent will be set if the black bears in Florida are classified as a sub-species and categorized as endangered,” said Rick Story, senior vice president of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation.  “It will open the flood gates for anti-hunters to bring similar lawsuits that would challenge the classification of deer, quail and other game animals that have numerous sub-species throughout the country.”

 

Anti’s have tried for years to list Florida’s bears under the ESA, but extensive research by the USFWS has determined that the listing is not warranted. Studies show that healthy bear populations occur in secure habitats in several areas.


Regional

Weekly Great Lakes Water Levels for May 12, 2006

Lake Level Conditions:

All of the Great Lakes are 3 to 13 inches below the levels of a year ago.  Lake Superior is near chart datum and is expected to rise 3 inches in the next month.  Lake Michigan-Huron is 1 inch above chart datum and is expected to rise 3 inches over the next month.  Lakes St. Clair and Erie are expected to rise 2 and 1 inch respectively, while Lake Ontario is expected to rise 2 inches over the next month.  All of the Great Lakes are into their annual seasonal rise.  Water levels over the next few months on all the Great Lakes are expected to remain similar to or slightly lower than 2005. 

 
Current Outflows/Channel Conditions:

The Lake Superior outflow through the St. Marys River into Lake Huron was near average during the month of April.  Flows in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers were both below average during April.  The Niagara River flow was near average and the St. Lawrence River flow was above average in April.

Alerts:

Users of the Great Lakes, connecting channels and St. Lawrence River should keep informed of current conditions before undertaking any activities that could be affected by changing water levels.  Mariners should utilize navigation charts and refer to current water level readings

 

 

Superior

Mich-Huron

St. Clair

Erie

Ontario

Level for May 12

601.0

577.6

573.8

571.5

245.4

Datum, in ft

601.1

577.5

572.3

569.2

243.3

Diff in inches

0

+1

+18

+27

+26

Diff last month

+3

+2

+1

+1

-1

Diff from last yr

-3

-5

-8

-10

-1


For better health

Red meat linked to lower blood pressure

RED meat could be back in the good books, according to new Australian research

Replacing two or three slices of bread or a handful of pasta a day with a small serving of lean red meat may help people lower their blood pressure.  The study is expected to fuel the debate about how much red meat people should eat, particularly as it was funded by Meat and Livestock Australia.

 

University of Western Australia nutritionist Jonathan Hodgson, who led the research, said the study was the first of its type looking at the effect on blood pressure of increasing animal protein at the expense of carbohydrates. He studied 60 non-smoking men and women with high blood pressure over eight weeks, randomly selecting them to either follow their normal diets or to swap a small amount of carbohydrates each day with lean red meat - equating two slices of toast with a 180g steak.

 

 Participants were advised to maintain their normal exercise and fruit and vegetable intake during the study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

 

Dr Hodgson said the researchers found systolic blood pressure was lowered by 4mm in the higher protein group; cholesterol levels and weight were largely unchanged. "At a population level, a 4mm fall in systolic blood pressure would translate to about a 20 per cent drop in the prevalence of . . . high blood pressure," he said.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.

 

The findings support population studies, which have found an association between higher protein intake and lower blood pressure. They also back the results of an earlier intervention study by the West Australian researchers, which found supplementing the diet with soy protein helped lower blood pressure.

 

Dr Hodgson said the main message from the latest study was that lean red meat could be included in the diet without risking a rise in blood pressure. Nevertheless, he conceded the mechanism behind the lowered blood pressure in the high-protein group was unclear, and may be linked to a reduced salt intake, rather than anything in the meat.

 

"Bread has a reasonable amount of salt and if you replace bread with lean red meat, you're likely to get a small reduction in salt intake," Dr Hodgson explained.

 

Sydney nutritionist Catherine Saxelby, who was not involved in the research, described the study design as "very good". She said she did not believe the amount of lean red meat used in the research was harmful as long as it was lean, not charred on the barbecue, and eaten with a lot of vegetables.

 

 


General

Proposal to establish Boy Scout merit badge for invasive species

There is an initiative underway to establish a national Boy Scout merit badge for invasive species. Those in the USFWS who are leading  this effort are gathering letters of support for the new badge.

 

Review the following information and if you support the idea, send a letter of support from your agency, organization, or state invasive species council as requested below by May 30, 2006.

 

The US Fish and Wildlife Service, through Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, is building an application packet for submission to the Boy Scouts of America detailing a merit badge dedicated to invasive species management. The goal of this effort will be to provide resource management professionals across the nation with an avenue to inform young adults and their families about the importance of invasive species management through hands-on activities.  The badge will emphasize local plant, animal, aquatic and terrestrial invasive species identification, current treatment and mapping techniques and promote future careers. 

 

The application packet for this badge will consist of letters of

support from city, state, and federal agencies and   organizations from across the nation, approximately $75,000.00 to assist the Boy Scouts of America with further development and distribution of the badge if the idea is accepted, and a proposed merit badge pamphlet. 

 

It is the vision of the Boy Scouts of America that the next developed merit badge will hold national  significance, make a substantial contribution to the community and be desired by the Scouts themselves over other established badges.  Supporters of the Invasive Species Merit Badge share the same vision and believe that this badge is everything the Boy Scouts of America desire while providing a tool for land management professionals to inform the public about the invasive species found in their own backyards.

 

Currently they are accepting letters of support from individuals, agencies, or other entities such as state invasive species councils that are interested in supporting this landscape level initiative.  Letters should be addressed to the Boy Scouts of America, but should be sent to Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge (Care of Invasive Species Merit Badge Initiative, 3815 American Blvd. E., Bloomington, MN, 55425).  Letters of support and must be received on or before May 30, 2006.


USA's Dewitt Wins Silver Medal and Olympic Quota Spot in Women's Trap

KERRVILLE, Texas - In some extremely windy conditions out at the Hill Country Shooting Sports Center, today, Sgt. First Class Theresa DeWitt, of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) battled through to win the silver medal in women's trap at the World Cup USA in Kerrville, Texas. DeWitt also secures a country Olympic quota spot with her second-place finish.

 

"When it is this windy, it takes a lot of effort just to stay focused on your game plan," DeWitt said after the match. "I think that shooting the spring selection match last month definitely helped me prepare for these conditions. I knew what to expect and was able to concentrate on getting the job done."

 

China's Mei Zhu clinched the gold medal with a 72 qualifying score and a 17 in the final, for an 89 total score. DeWitt

finished with a 71 qualifying and a 17 in the final for an 88 total score, while Susanne Kiermayer, of Germany, took the bronze medal, shooting a 66 qualifying score, a 20 in the final, for an 86 target total.

 

DeWitt's last individual medal came in 1999 in Lonato, Italy, when she won the silver medal in women's double trap.

 

"This was a long-time coming," DeWitt added. "And it makes it just that much sweeter winning a country quota spot for the next Olympic Games."

 

Sgt. First Class Joetta Dement, also of the USAMU, finished in sixth place after beating out three other shooters just to get in the final. Dement shot a 65 qualifying and a 12 in the final for a 77 total score. The USA's other finisher, Lacy Sullivan shot a 63 to finish in 17th.


 

Indiana

DNR funds 52 lake improvement projects in 18 counties

It's good news for lakes in 18 counties. The DNR has awarded projects totaling more than $1.25 million to protect and restore Hoosier lakes. The funds come from the Lake and River Enhancement Program in DNR's Division of Fish and Wildlife.

 

"Indiana is blessed with an abundance of lakes that provide recreational opportunity as well as important habitat for fish and wildlife," said DNR Director Kyle Hupfer. "This year's grants are a vital part of the ongoing partnership between the DNR and local groups to protect and enhance our precious water resources."

 

The grants are for two areas of concern, aquatic plant management and sediment removal. The projects to manage exotic aquatic plants will prevent aggressive non-native plants from taking over and destroying recreational opportunities, native plants and ecosystems. Grants totaling $682,265 will be distributed in 16 counties to 45 aquatic plant management projects in 70 lakes.

 

The other type of grant, for sediment removal projects, will

help make Hoosier lakes more enjoyable and accessible for boating, fishing and swimming. They will provide positive recreational and economic benefits to both users and residents of the affected lakes. A total of $575,000 will be distributed in 8 counties to 7 sediment removal projects in 8 Indiana lakes.

 

Funding for these targeted projects comes from the Lake and River Enhancement fee paid by boat owners. In 2003 the legislature provided a variable fee based on the value of each boat. The new fee structure will provide approximately $3.3 million each year.

 

One-third of the money must be used by the DNR for lake projects that remove sediment or control exotic or invasive plants or animals. The remaining two-thirds must be split between the DNR's division of law enforcement and the Lake and River Enhancement (LARE) program.

 

The law enforcement division uses their share to help fund local boating safety programs and the LARE program continues its use of the money for a variety of local grants which will be announced in mid-summer.


Local reservoirs to host Kids' Fishing Derbies June 10

Have fun. Win neat prizes. Go fishin'.

Children ages 2 to 14 are invited to participate in one of the Fishing Derbies at the three Upper Wabash Reservoirs June 10 during the statewide Free Fishing Weekend. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. with fishing from 9 to 10:30. The award ceremonies follow.

 

Children must be pre-registered to participate in one of the free events.

 

"Each participating child will go home with a prize. There are first, second and third grand prizes for the largest fish caught and first prizes for each of three age categories," said Marvin

McNew, director of the Upper Wabash Interpretive Services. "Each child can win only one of these large prize packages, and all will receive other prizes for participating."

 

Children will be divided into age categories 2 to 5, 6 to 10, and 11 to 14 years old. Prizes include fishing tackle, tackle boxes, fishing rods and reels, and many others.

 

Call the Upper Wabash Interpretive Services at 260-468-2127 to register for the derby. Salamonie's derby will be in the Lost Bridge West Recreation Area near the Beach. Mississinewa's will be in the Miami Recreation Area; and J. Edward Roush's Derby will be in the Little Turtle Recreation Area.


Michigan

Michigan's Walleye Stocking Program Going Strong

As thousands of Michigan walleye anglers take to the water this spring, fisheries managers with the Department of Natural Resources are behind the scenes, working to ensure the fishery remains a vital component of the state's water landscape.

 

When walleye fishing began gaining popularity among anglers in the 1970s, the Michigan DNR started developing methods to rear large numbers of young walleye and thanks to these successful efforts, this program is now well established.  Currently, DNR produces 5 to 10 million fingerlings annually from fry stocked into rearing ponds and grown out to fingerling size, according to DNR Fish Production Manager Gary Whelan. Additionally, DNR directly stocks up to 5 million fry each year.  While fry stocking is less expensive and simpler to do, it is much less dependable so both fry and fingerling walleye are used in the DNR stocking program to ensure success.

 

"Today, walleye rank in the top three angling opportunities in Michigan, with bass and salmon", Whelan said. "The stocked fingerlings complete most of their growth outside controlled conditions of a hatchery."

 

In fact, walleye spend less than a week of their lives in a hatchery setting. Each spring, adult walleye are netted from three areas of the state. The eggs are fertilized and then sent to either the Wolf Lake or Thompson State Fish Hatcheries where they incubate 18-21 days before hatching. Within a few days the walleye fry are placed in a special bath which marks their bones with a permanent mark, then transferred to one of 50 to 70 outdoor ponds located throughout the state.

 

"The mark makes it easy for us to differentiate between

hatchery fish and wild fish. The marking process leaves a stain in the bones of the hatchery fish that can be seen under a black light.  This process gives us valuable information as to the percentage of fish in the overall population that are wild or hatchery-produced," Whelan added.

 

Many of the rearing ponds are owned by private groups, working in partnership with the DNR to increase walleye populations in Michigan. In early spring, specialists and cooperators fill the dry ponds then fertilize them to increase fingerling production. In late April or early May, the ponds are stocked with fry from either Thompson or Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery. In June and July, when the fish reach 1 ½ inches on average, they are ready to go to their permanent homes in rivers, inland lakes and the Great Lakes.

 

Walleye are the largest member of the perch family. They are challenging to catch, delicious to eat and provide a year-round sport fishery. In the spring, walleye congregate in shallow bay waters, where they seek out rocky areas and submerged bars. They prefer a water temperature of 55 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.  Walleye are carnivores, consuming large quantities of minnows, sunfish and alewives along with other small fish, burrowing mayflies and crayfish. Prime feeding times are in low light periods that include very early morning and evening, and night.

 

The average walleye caught in Michigan is three years old and weighs from one to three pounds. The state record walleye was caught in the Pine River, Manistee County, weighed over 17 pounds and was 35 inches long.

 

A full listing of the fingerling stocking program is available on the DNRs Web site, at www.michigan.gov/dnr .


Lighthouse light goes green

The Ludington Daily News reports the Ludington North Breakwater Light’s lens will be fitted with a green sleeve with the hopes of keeping boaters off the piers.

 

Brian Mulherin, Daily News staff writer reports Ludington’s lighthouse “got the green light.”  Mulherin adds an Aids-to-Navigation crew from Coast Guard Station Muskegon placed a green-colored sleeve over the Ludington North Breakwater Light’s 300-millimeter lens.   The change was made to prevent boats from landing on Ludington’s north and south piers as they have with alarming frequency in the last two years, Coast Guard Chief Mike Beatty told the Daily News.

 

Coast Guard Station Ludington has reported nine boat-pier

incidents since 2004.

 

The paper added "Beatty said the theory is that there are just so many white lights in Ludington and Pere Marquette Township now that some boaters have trouble distinguishing the lighthouse from the background lights at night."

 

Beatty stated in a press release, “Just changing the light will not prevent all collisions. Boating cautiously and sober are key elements to a successful voyage as well.” He advises boaters to make the most of the navigation tools available to them, whether it’s radar, GPS or Loran. He further advises boaters become familiar with the charts of the areas they frequently travel.


DNR Plans Walloon Lake Access Site Plan meeting June 7

The Department of Natural Resources announced a public info meeting on Wednesday, June 7, to review a revised concept plan for a boating access site on the southwest side of Walloon Lake. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Boyne City Public Schools' Administration Building, 321 S. Park St in Boyne City.

 

The original draft plan was amended based on comments received from the August 2005 public meeting and stakeholders' input. The public is invited to review and comment on the latest revised plan during the public meeting. 

DNR Parks and Recreation Division officials will be on hand to answer questions and take comments.

 

The proposed site for the launch is located on an approximately 220-acre site owned by the DNR since March 2, 1943 and managed by the Forest, Mineral and Fire Management Division.

 

Individuals unable to attend the meeting can review the draft plan on the DNR Web site and provide e-mail comments to the project planner. The draft plans will be available after June 7, 2006.


Minnesota

Leech Lake Cormorant Management accelerated

Selected for the 2006 Governor's Fishing Opener

Leech Lake cormorant culling will commence again now that the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener is history.  The Opener was held on Rainey Lake but cormorant management was suspended during opening week-end because of the massive number of anglers participating in the opening of the 2006 walleye season. The 2006 plan is to kill more birds than in 2005.

           

A cormorant culling operation that began last year on Leech Lake. Sharpshooters from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services in Grand Rapids killed 2,993 cormorants on the lake last year; the plan this year is to take up to 4,000 birds. The goal is to reduce the cormorant population on Leech Lake's Little Pelican Island to 500 nesting pairs.

           

The culling is a joint effort between USDA, the DNR, and the Leech Lake Band. New legislation allows the sharpshooters to use suppressed .22-caliber rifles. Silencers will help to reduce disturbance to cormorants. Biologists from the Minnesota DNR and Leech Lake Reservation are also working aggressively this spring to restore the health of Leech's famed walleye fishery.

 

The agencies, along with contracted services from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Wildlife Services program, are ramping up three activities to strengthen the fishery: walleye stocking, rusty crayfish research and cormorant control.

 

WALLEYE FRY STOCKING

The DNR appears to be on target for stocking 20 million walleye into Leech Lake this spring under an agreed to plan. That's because DNR fisheries crews were able to collect and meet their quota of nearly 700 quarts of eggs from the Boy River walleye spawning run. Egg-taking operations at Hackensack began April 12 and ended April 23. Leech Lake will be stocked with Boy River walleye because they are genetically compatible with walleye in Leech Lake. The bulk of the fertilized eggs are in the Bemidji fish hatchery, where they are incubating. DNR fisheries staff estimate the eggs will hatch in two to three weeks, depending on water temperatures, and stocked into Leech within 24 hours of hatching.

 

Henry Drewes, DNR northwest regional fisheries manager, said there is a "strong possibility" that an additional 3 million may also be directed to the lake. "We are very pleased with spring egg take operations on the Boy River," said Drewes. "Barring unforeseen circumstances we should have sufficient

fry to meet all of the Walker area fry stocking needs."

 

RUSTY CRAYFISH RESEARCH

Boaters near Bear Island, Battle Point, Pipe Island, and in Miller's Bay of Leech Lake will notice several sets of small buoys. They were set out to mark a research project area that was initiated this week by the DNR and Bemidji State University (BSU), with assistance from the Cass County dive team. The project will help the DNR understand how rusty crayfish, an exotic species, might be impacting walleye egg hatch rates in the lake.

 

Some speculate that the rusty crayfish might be consuming walleye eggs, thus lowering the natural reproduction in the lake. Volunteers from the Cass County dive team are counting crayfish in 16 locations in the lake during morning and nighttime dives to assess how many crayfish are present in known walleye spawning areas of the lake. BSU researchers are also monitoring crayfish behavior and feeding patterns in laboratory aquaria in another part of the research project.

 

CORMORANT CONTROL

The USDA Wildlife Services--under contract with the Leech Lake Division of Resource Management and funding from the DNR--has initiated the second year of cormorant control operations on the Little Pelican Island nesting colony. This action, part of a federally reviewed and monitored plan, is being conducted because information suggests the fish-eating birds have had a negative impact on the lake's walleye population.

 

The Leech Lake Division of Resource Management is striving to cull the number of cormorants down to 500 nesting pairs on the island, which is tribally owned and managed. Last year, the nesting population was reduced to about 700 nesting pairs before the cormorant eggs began to hatch and other colonial nesting birds, including the threatened common tern, returned to the island. Sharpshooters will also take some cormorants as they return from feeding flights as part of an ongoing diet study, now in its second year. Upon completion of the diet study, the agencies involved will re-evaluate how many cormorants the lake can support without having a significant negative effect on game fish populations.

 

Boaters and anglers are encouraged to keep a safe distance from the island, as the sharpshooters will be using firearms to dispatch the birds on the island and in the air as they return from feeding flights. The Leech Lake Division of Resource Management has placed buoys in areas around the Pelican Island complex that boaters should avoid.


New walleye regulations for several NE lakes

Several lakes in Northeast Minnesota will have new special walleye regulations starting this spring that are designed to maintain or improve walleye populations on the effected lakes. The new regulations went effect on the May 13, which is opening day of 2006 walleye season.

 

Lake Vermilion, near Tower and Cook, will have a 17- to 26-inch protected slot limit with one fish allowed over 26 inches. All walleye 17- to 26-inches long must be immediately returned to the lake. There will also be a four-fish daily and possession bag limit for walleye on Lake Vermilion. The new regulation was adopted in response to increased fishing pressure and walleye harvest in recent years. Creel surveys in 2002 and 2003 documented the highest walleye harvest ever observed on Lake Vermilion, well above the long-term safe harvest level for the lake. The goal of the new regulation is to

keep the harvest at a sustainable level and maintain the quality of the walleye fishery.

 

A special walleye regulation will also go into effect this spring on a chain of lakes near Ely.  Farm, Garden, South Farm, and White Iron lakes and the North Branch of the Kawishiwi River from Farm Lake 4.8 miles east to the long portage will have a 17- to 26-inch protected slot with one fish allowed over 26 inches. All walleye 17-to 26-inches long must be immediately returned to the water. The daily and possession bag limit for walleye will remain at six fish. The goal of the new walleye regulation is to increase walleye numbers on Garden Lake Reservoir (Farm, Garden, and South Farm lakes), maintain current walleye numbers on White Iron Lake, and to increase the numbers of medium and larger size walleyes in all of the lakes in this chain.


Cook County 2006 fishing closures to protect spawning walleye

Minnesota DNR announced several fishing closures in Cook County during the beginning of the 2006 fishing season to protect concentrations of spawning walleyes. Closures on Minnesota-Ontario waters are made in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and affect both sides of the border.

           

The following closures will be in effect through late May:

- Sea Gull River from Sea Gull Lake through Gull Lake to Saganaga Lake approximately 1/3 mile north of the narrows is closed through May 26

- Saganaga Falls on the MN-Ontario border where the Granite River enters Saganaga Lake is closed through May 31

- Maligne River (also known as Northern Light Rapids) on the Ontario side of Saganaga Lake is closed through May 31

- Channel between Little Gunflint and Little North Lakes on the Minnesota Ontario border is closed through May 31

- Cross River (inlet to Gunflint Lake) from the Gunflint Trail to Gunflint Lake is closed through May 26.

These closures apply to fishing only; travel is permitted through these areas. The closures are intended to protect concentrations of walleye that may be vulnerable to over harvest. All closed areas will be posted. For more info call the DNR office in Grand Marais at (218) 387-3056.


Wisconsin

Cormorant culling under way in Green Bay

Green Bay (AP) -- Sharpshooters are starting to kill some double-crested cormorants on selected islands in Green Bay now that the large fish-eating birds have rebounded after being virtually wiped out during the 1970s. The effort to shoot about 900 cormorants started last week to control the growing population and to provide bird carcasses for research.

 

Government crews are also planning to coat the birds' eggs with corn oil to prevent hatching at nearly 6,000 nests, nearly half of all the nesting sites in the bay from the city of Green Bay to near Peninsula State Park in Door County.

 

There are an estimated 12,880 cormorant nests in Green Bay, Wisconsin DNR officials said. Sharpshooter plans call for marksmen under contract from the U.S. Department of Agriculture using shotguns and .22-caliber rifles with silencers to shoot 550 cormorants on Cat Island in the southern end of Green Bay. They are also to shoot 50

cormorants on Jack Island and 300 cormorants on Little Strawberry Island, just west of Peninsula State Park.

 

Tom Hauge, director of the agency's Bureau of Wildlife Management, emphasized the DNR has no intention of wiping out the bird and is conducting a thorough environmental assessment to guide cormorant management after this year. "We think that cormorants are like some other species in Wisconsin," Hauge said. "At some fundamental level, we have to ask, 'How many cormorants do we really want on the Great Lakes?"

 

A Great Lakes survey in 1970 found only 89 nests, according to the USFWS, after exposure to DDT nearly wiped out the bird.  But making it illegal to kill the cormorant without a permit and banning DDT paved the way for a comeback of the bird, and Gov. Jim Doyle signed legislation last month requiring the DNR to administer a program to control the cormorant population.


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