Scientists: Invasive snail more prevalent than thought, poses grave danger to waterfowl



By Howard Meyerson

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Scientists studying the health of Great Lakes coastal wetlands report that faucet snails have been found in many more waters than anticipated. The invasive snail, native to Europe, poses a threat to native snails and to waterfowl.

“These snails are extremely competitive with native snails,” said Neil Schock, a wetland technician with the Institute for Great Lakes Research at Central Michigan University. “They outcompete and out-produce and they are hosts to three different intestinal flukes (parasites) that cause mortality in waterfowl.

“Here in Michigan we haven’t seen that (dead ducks) as much, but Minnesota has had die-offs and they have been seen in (other parts of) the Midwest. One I know of killed 4,000 to 9,000 waterfowl, a good portion of those were scaup.”

The parasites, called trematodes, caused massive waterfowl die-offs in Minnesota and Wisconsin waters that are part of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Geological Survey reports that 22,000 to 26,000 birds have died from them on northern waters in the refuge dating back to 2006. The four-state refuge lies within the Mississippi Flyway where nearly 40 percent of the continent’s waterfowl migrate.

“The magnitude of the impact is yet to be seen, but I expect to see some impact,” said Donald Uzarski, director of the CMU Institute for Great Lakes Research.  “I anticipate we will see further and rapid spread of the snail. Continue reading

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New DNR deer specialist Chad Stewart ready to talk with state’s hunters

By Howard Meyerson

Michigan DNR's new deer specialist, Chad Stewart.

Michigan DNR’s new deer specialist, Chad Stewart.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – After eight years working for the state of Indiana as a deer research biologist, Chad Stewart is looking forward to working with Michigan deer hunters. The 36-year-old Pennsylvania native began his new duties with the Michigan DNR just as the 2014 firearm deer hunting season wound down.

“I had a couple of exciting weeks,” Stewart, the agency’s new deer specialist, said of the clamor from disgruntled hunters after the season during which many saw and killed fewer deer than in 2013.

“Hunters are hunters and they have certain expectations. When they are not met, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Indiana or Michigan,” Stewart said. “If people are upset, it’s something we need to be responsive to, and have open and honest discussions about what is happening.”

Stewart plans to do just that. A statewide deer symposium is among the ways he will reach out to hunters in 2015. He now works out of the DNR’s Rose Lake Field Office and takes over for long-time deer specialist Brent Rudolph, who will be working on social science and economic issues within the DNR’s wildlife division. Continue reading

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Take A Wintry Walk – On Top Of The Snow! Snowshoe Experiences and Trails in West Michigan

A group enjoys a guided snowshoe hike at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park where wooden snowshoes can be rented. Photo credit: Dave Kenyon, Michigan DNR

A group enjoys a guided snowshoe hike at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park where wooden snowshoes can be rented. Photo credit: Dave Kenyon, Michigan DNR

When the snow piles up and the winter woods grow quiet, there is no better time to get out on snowshoes. Designed to keep hikers from sinking deep, and let them walk at an easy pace, snowshoes can open up a winter landscape filled with natural wonder.

If you are interested in taking a naturalist-led winter hike, or just want to rent snowshoes and go out on the trails, you might enjoy my recent piece on the City of Grand Rapids Blog, called Experience GR. It lays out where you can rent and when guided hikes are offered,

“We’ve seen where animals bed down and a few weeks ago we saw a snowy owl,” says Elizabeth Brockwell-Tillman, interpreter at the Gillette Nature Center located at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon. The park is one of a few places near Grand Rapids where guided snowshoe hikes and/or snowshoe rentals are offered. Read More: Take A Wintry Walk.

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Michigan salmon catch limit remains five in 2015, but is that a good thing?

Captain Brian Butts, owner of Sea Flea Charters, helps Ashley Wiersma hold a big salmon she caught while fishing Lake Michigan in 2013. Far fewer that size were caught in 2014. Photo: Howard Meyerson

Captain Brian Butts, owner of Sea Flea Charters, helps Ashley Wiersma hold a big salmon she caught while fishing Lake Michigan in 2013. Far fewer that size were caught in 2014. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

Anglers will be able to catch five salmon a day once the 2015 fishing season opens, but is that good news or bad? State fisheries officials say they are looking at new ways to determine what the daily limit should be.

A proposed change has been talked about for several months now. It was presented to anglers January 10 at the annual Ludington Fisheries Workshop, held by Michigan Sea Grant.

“We are working on getting acceptance for using a predator-prey model to determine daily limits,” said Todd Kalish, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Lake Michigan basin coordinator. “The predator-prey ratio, in my mind, is cutting-edge science.”

Science over social pressure

What that means is the annual decision to raise or lower the daily limit would be based on the volume of forage in the lake.

Until now, the decision relied on two other factors: charter angler success — what percentage of the trips result in three fish per outing; and the catch rate per angler. The new approach will be science-based rather than performance-based.

Why is it important? Chinook salmon feed mostly on alewives — and the number of alewives remains low.

U.S. Geological Survey staffers who conduct the annual lakewide forage surveys said the 2014 trawl results are not finished, but things don’t look good.

“Based on my ‘eyeballing’ of the trawl catches in 2014, I would expect the alewife lakewide biomass estimate to be low … in the same ballpark as the estimates for years 2004-2012 … maybe even a little bit lower,” said Chuck Madenjian, research biologist with the Geological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center in Ann Arbor and co-leader for the annual bottom-trawl effort on Lake Michigan. Continue reading

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Winter Survival Fire Lighting Skills – Why Don’t We Teach Them?

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Lighting a fire in the winter woods can be a challenge, particularly in really deep snow. Can you do it? Is having a pocket BIC lighter enough? And should you? Some might say no.

Phil Werner, author of the Section Hiker Blog, raises a question about whether Leave No Trace advocates have stymied learning fire-building skills, particularly important in cold conditions. His discussion is followed by some interesting comments, one in particular by a LNT  Master Educator.

The video shown is not to be missed. It is excellent demonstration of simple methods to build a fire and contains some important pointers. If you’re thinking about winter camping, or even long-distance day touring, on snowshoes, skis, or by dog sled, this will be a valuable piece to check out. Stay warm.

Read More: Winter Survival Fire Lighting Skills – Why Don’t We Teach Them? 

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2015 Outdoor expo season anticipates bigger crowds, more displays

Boat manufacturer's are  planning to show new designs this year.

Boat manufacturer’s are planning to show new designs this year.

By Howard Meyerson

Winter weather may be unpredictable in Michigan, but outdoor enthusiasts can count on one thing: there is always a robust lineup of outdoor shows planned which can help to pass the winter months. Fourteen are scheduled between now and spring. Each is tailored to a specific audience, from campers and paddlers, to boaters, hunters and anglers.

Show producers say they expect a good turn-out this year. Consumer confidence has grown and manufacturers hope to catch that wave by showing their latest designs and products.

“I expect things will be up a bit,” said Ben Nielsen, manager for the Ultimate Fishing Show Detroit, the gateway event for the outdoor show season. It opens January 8 at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi. Continue reading

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Backpackers? Who Needs Their Tourism Dollars?

Howard Meyerson:

Well said.

Originally posted on Trail Talk Blog:

IsleRoyale4thIn this latest Trail Talk blog we wonder about Glen Arbor’s opposition to a proposed backpacking trail through Sleeping Bear Dunes and why wouldn’t tourism dollars from trail users be welcomed in a tourist town?

Are you beginning to think about this summer’s adventure? If Isle Royale National Park is in the picture don’t forget that publishes Jim DuFresne’s classic Isle Royale National Park: Foot Trails & Water Routes and has it on sale in our e-shop for a special price.

By Jim DuFresne

In 1964 Joe Mack was elected as the state senate who represented most of the Upper Peninsula and in the 1970s emerged as the nemesis of the growing environmental movement in Michigan.

Jim DuFresne Jim DuFresne

The Ironwood Democratic hated the thought that on the doorstep of his hometown was the Porcupine Mountains, a wilderness state park full of 300-year-old hemlocks that his logging buddies couldn’t touch…

View original 848 more words

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U.P. biologist Kevin Swanson named new DNR bear, wolf, cougar specialist

By Howard Meyerson

Kevin Swanson is the Michigan DNR's new large-carnivore will be based in the Upper Peninsula. Photo: Michigan DNR.

Kevin Swanson is the Michigan DNR’s new large-carnivore will be based in the Upper Peninsula. Photo: Michigan DNR.

Grand Rapids, Mich. – Kevin Swanson believes his biggest challenge as Michigan’s new large-carnivore specialist is likely to be the debate about wolves, but black bears and cougars aren’t far behind. The Ishpeming native recently began his new duties at the Michigan DNR’s Marquette field office.

“The wolf debate is the biggest challenge. I’ll be representing our biologist’s views, assessing all sides of the debate, and bringing those recommendations to the Natural Resources Commission,” said Swanson, who was named Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist of the Year in 2012. His former post was habitat biologist for the 380,000 acre Shingleton state forest unit.

“There are no big changes ahead for the wolf program plan, but it’s important for people to know that it doesn’t preclude having a wolf hunt,” Swanson said. “Bear issues are also very controversial. The houndsmen and bait-hunting groups don’t see things the same way. I’ll be handling the bear program and plan to bring those differing points of view to the table. We’re in the process of making recommendations for the 2015-16 regulation cycle.”

Swanson, who grew up hunting, and still lives in Ishpeming with his wife and three children, was selected for the post from a field of candidates from around the country. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Northern Michigan University, and master’s degree in forestry from Michigan Technological University. People who know him say he is a likeable guy. Continue reading

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Michigan DNR trying to grow hunter access on private farm lands

Michigan's Hunter Access Program pays farmers to allow hunters on their lands. Photo: Dave Kenyon, Michigan DNR.

Michigan’s Hunter Access Program pays farmers to allow hunters on their lands. Photo: Dave Kenyon, Michigan DNR.

By Howard Meyerson

I’ve heard a lot of southern Michigan hunters complain over the years about diminishing access to private hunting lands. Specifically, they talk about farms where they or friends once hunted. For one reason or another that access disappeared.

In some cases, the lands were sold, or farmers began to limit access because of problems with hunters. Still others closed their property because they were offered good money for private hunting leases. The end result was fewer private farms to hunt in southern Michigan.

But it appears that is changing. The Michigan DNR recently announced that it will receive a $1.2 million federal grant to expand its Voluntary Public Access-Hunting Incentive program. You may have heard of HAP (Hunting Access Program), which pays farmers to allow the public to hunt their lands.

It was created in 1977, a popular idea that quickly mushroomed. By 1981, at the peak of the program, hunters were able to access 792 southern Michigan farms and 188,000 acres. Today the HAP list offers only a fraction of that. The low point came in 2010 when only 47 farms and 7,400 acres were enrolled. The decline was due to all of the mentioned reasons along with state budget constraints. The DNR couldn’t pay farmers as much as they got from private hunting leases. Continue reading

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The Magnesium Fire Starter Scam

Maybe you’ve purchased one – just in case. But does it work? This informative piece by the Fortune Bay Expedition Team suggests that not all magnesium fire-starters are equal. When down to the wire, you’ll want the real deal. FBET also shows you another way to get a fire started with a chewing gum wrapper and battery.  Take a look. The Magnesium Fire Starter Scam | Fortune Bay Expedition Team.

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