Minnesota Outdoorsman - Minnesota Fishing and Hunting Reports
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Out-of-state anglers convicted of walleye poaching on Erie

by: staff and news report

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Six non-resident anglers were recently convicted of over-bagging on Lake Erie walleye and sentenced in Ashtabula Municipal Court according to the Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife.

A surveillance operation coordinated by the Division of Wildlife in July revealed suspicious activity involving walleye fishing in Lake Erie’s central basin. State wildlife officers uncovered “double-tripping” activity as well as fish being passed from one boat to another on the water. According to the investigation, the anglers would catch their daily bag limits of walleye and then return to the lake the same day and unlawfully catch a second limit of walleye. The anglers also used different boat ramps every day to prevent detection by officers. Six individuals visiting from out-of-state were arrested and charged with catching a combined 99 walleye over their legal daily limits.

During their sentencing in Ashtabula Municipal Court, each angler was ordered to pay a fine and restitution for 99 walleye, totaling a combined $9,360 in court costs and restitution. The judge also revoked their Ohio fishing licenses for three years. All six anglers were added to the Interstate Wildlife Violator’s Compact, which could cause them to lose their fishing rights in 46 other states.

The 99 walleye that were caught were donated to charitable causes.

The following six people were arrested and found guilty on catching a combined 99 walleye over their legal daily limits.

• Lawrence B. Davis, 61, Sutton, W. Va.
• Jeffrey H. Hamrick, 61, Sutton, W. Va.
• Bernard L. Malone, 67, Fairmont, W. Va.
• Brandon M. Malone, 36, Fairmont, W. Va.
• Darrell A. Shaver, 36, Morgantown, W. Va.
• Keith A. Shaver, 58, Gassaway, W. Va.

Captive elk on Burnett County farm tests positive for CWD
By Wisconsin DNR Reports

MADISON – The Wisconsin DNR was notified by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection that a captive elk on a captive elk farm in Burnett County tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

State law requires that the Wisconsin DNR enact a ban on feeding and baiting of deer in counties or portions of counties within a 10-mile radius of a captive or free-roaming domestic or wild animal that tests positive for CWD or tuberculosis.

As required by law, this will create a three-year baiting and feeding ban in Burnett County and two-year baiting and feeding bans for Barron, Polk and Washburn counties beginning Sept. 1. All four counties are already considered CWD-affected due to the 2011 wild CWD positive deer detection in Washburn County.

Hunters should check the DNR’s baiting and feeding webpage frequently for updates, as new baiting and feeding bans may be enacted in 2019 with new CWD detections. Note: the map on this page is updated on the day new bans go into effect. Hunters can also contact local wildlife staff to determine if baiting and feeding bans are in effect in their county. No counties statewide will be removed from the ban during the 2019 deer hunting season.

For more information regarding baiting and feeding regulations and CWD in Wisconsin and how to have adult deer tested during the hunting seasons, visit the DNR’s website, dnr.wi.gov, and search “bait and feeding” and “CWD sampling,” respectively. To report a sick deer on the landscape, search keywords “sick deer” or contact a local wildlife biologist.

Massive juniper tree-cutting project aims to aid sage grouse
By Associated Press

MURPHY, Idaho — The largest-ever project in the U.S. to remove thousands of juniper trees to help imperiled sage grouse has started in Idaho.

Junipers provide perches for raptors that attack and kill sage grouse. Junipers also force out sagebrush and other plants that produce bugs that sage grouse eat. Sage grouse also feed on the sagebrush during the winter.

Overall, sage grouse numbers have dwindled from an estimated 16 million before European settlement of the West to no more than 500,000 today in 11 western states.

The project that began last spring in Idaho aims to remove junipers on 965 square miles of state and federal land.

“What we’re doing here is turning the sagebrush steppe habitat that’s marginal nesting habitat for grouse into immediate, quality nesting habitat for grouse,” said Josh White of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sage grouse are chicken-sized, ground-dwelling birds considered an indicator species for the health of vast sagebrush landscapes in the West that support some 350 species of wildlife. Experts generally attribute their decline to road construction, development and oil and gas leasing.

The project that is estimated to take 10 to 15 years could become a template for other western states as junipers have expanded because of fire-suppression efforts. Juniper-removal projects have been carried out before, but not on this scale.

Environmental groups fought the Idaho project contending it was being driven by grazing interests.

“When you remove vegetation and disturb the ground, that’s when invasive species come in,” said Scott Lake of Western Watersheds Project, citing fire-prone cheatgrass in particular.

But federal officials gave the final approval earlier this year. Some cutting was done in the spring, and the pace picked up in the last three weeks with crews of 50 to 60 workers with chain saws cutting down junipers.

“Historically, fire would have kept these trees in check,” said Ben Sitz of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. “We’re trying to preserve the diversity we have.”

The project is designed around sage grouse breeding grounds, called leks, where males perform elaborate rituals. The project area contains numerous leks, both active and abandoned as junipers moved in.

Radio-telemetry on sage grouse has determined that leks ideally have no or few trees within a 6-mile radius, which gives nesting sage grouse hens the best chance to raise their chicks. That means each lek needs about 115 square miles of treeless sagebrush. The project aims to cut down junipers within that distance of leks.

Junipers are being cut where sagebrush still covers most of the ground. Thicker stands of junipers that have pushed out sagebrush are being left as those areas would take decades to become suitable sage grouse habitat. But those thicker stands could be targeted for a future project.

Rancher and Owyhee County Commissioner Jerry Hoagland said ranchers want the junipers removed to improve cattle grazing.

Ranchers have “been recognizing the effects of the junipers over the years,” he said, noting cut areas have led to more water. “We’re getting lots and lots of stream flows running again that haven’t run for 70, 80 years.”

Only a small percentage of the area involves state-owned land, but not treating it could leave thousands of acres of federal public land unsuitable for sage grouse. “We’re all working together to try to find ways to achieve mutually agreeable outcomes,” said Dustin Miller, director of the Idaho Department of Lands.

Bottom-dwelling algae is a side effect of invasive mussels
By Mike Schoonveld

A recent column I wrote for Michigan Outdoor News highlighted research ongoing at Good Harbor Reef near the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. These studies could be the precursor of efforts to suppress or possibly even eliminate the zebra and quagga mussel scourge that has befallen the Great Lakes.

More than 25 years ago, when these closely related mussels invaded the lake, their populations proliferated to incalculable numbers and immediately began to affect the lake’s food web. The mussels filter feed on plankton and phytoplankton in the water and compete directly with fish and other organisms for food and vital nutrients. The result has been a nearly complete reordering of fish populations since the mussels arrived.

There are other indirect consequences to the ecology of mussel-infested lakes.

One is increased sunlight penetration as the water becoming clearer from the reduction in plankton and phytoplankton. Lake Michigan has now taken over from Lake Superior as the Great Lake with the clearest water for no other reason than zebra and quagga mussels.

Another consequence is the “fertilization affect” from massive amounts of mussel doo-doo being deposited at the lake’s bottom.

The increased light penetration and fertilized substrate combine to encourage bottom-dwelling filamentous algae to grow, spread, and sometimes proliferate into massive mats.

Before the zebes and quaggas showed up this type of algae was seldom encountered. Now, it’s relatively common, sometimes clogging on fishing lures and lines, interfering with fishing nets set by commercial fishermen or fish biologists and worse.

Outbreaks of avian botulism are becoming a regular occurrence in some areas where it was previously rare or non-existent. Avian botulism is a disease caused by a neurotoxin released by the botulinum bacteria. It can kill birds that eat invasive round goby fish, which in turn feed on zebra mussels that eat the bacteria and accumulate the toxin within them. There’s a direct link between the presence of botulism bacteria and filamentous algae infestations.

Currently, there’s no solution to control or eradicate zebra or quagga mussels completely from the Great Lakes. It’s hoped research projects such as the ones ongoing at Good Harbor Reef can form a foundation on which other plans and projects can be built to eventually come up with a workable solution.

‘Butterfly Man’ helping save monarchs, swallowtails
By Associated Press

EVERGREEN PARK, Ill. — Inside his Evergreen Park garage, Bob Erlich lifts the lid from a glass aquarium. Careful not to disturb the lime green chrysalises hanging from it, he dips his hand inside and gently guides a black swallowtail butterfly into the world.

The insect flutters in his palm, spreads its wings and then takes flight, landing atop a pink coneflower growing along the edge of the driveway.

The butterfly is one of more than 60 monarchs and swallowtails that have been released into the wild this last week of July, bringing to nearly 1,000 the number that have joined the local environment so far this year, thanks to the elaborate metamorphosis lab Erlich has designed on his property.

Inside four aquariums and 10 containers grow caterpillars and butterflies at all stages of life. Erlich finds them as tiny eggs on plants along walkways and roads, and then brings them back to his home for safekeeping until they can complete their precarious cycle to maturity.

The 72-year-old devotes four hours a day to counting, monitoring, labeling and cleaning away tiny specks of waste from the containers.

The monarch butterfly undergoes one of the most arduous migrations in the animal world. Because its numbers have been declining, there has been an international push to protect them. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a study is currently underway in America to determine whether the species warrants federal protection.

Meanwhile, many including Erlich believe the insects, and other pollinators, are in desperate need of attention.

They’re part of our natural story, he said. They belong here, he adds. They contribute and their numbers are declining, he points out.

But not in Evergreen Park, where Erlich’s daily release system often has neighbors distinguishing good butterfly days from average ones.

“This is a rewarding thing to do,” he said. “I’m doing something to help.”

His devotion to butterflies has consumed his free space and heartened his soul. And it bloomed at a time when he needed inspiration most.

Erlich wasn’t always a butterfly guardian. He wasn’t even an avid gardener until a decade ago. The father of five is a relative newcomer to the world of monarchs and swallowtails and the plants they thrive on.

His foray into the natural world began in the dark economic days of 2007, when his career as a traveling jewelry salesman ended abruptly.

Inspired by a newspaper story about a woman who nurtured a caterpillar through the stages of metamorphosis, he one day walked into an Oak Lawn garden shop hoping to buy some milkweed.

“All I wanted to do was attract some butterflies,” he said.

The owner told him to go outside and look around. Milkweed, she’d said, was everywhere.

“So I walked to the end of my block and found 40 milkweed plants,” he said.

“But when I dug six of those plants out of the ground, there were caterpillars on them. I thought, ‘Oh my God, what do I do?'” he recalled. “I had to take care of them.”

Now, 12 years later, Erlich’s front and back yards, his garage, part of his basement and his time are dedicated to growing and releasing butterflies, and tending to all the plants necessary to make that happen.

Last year he released 1,700 monarchs and 1,300 black swallowtails into the environment. Hundreds more got their start in his homegrown labs and were then transferred to his “recruits,” friends and fellow gardeners who delight in monitoring the winged creatures until they are ready to be released.

“People like to watch them grow and emerge,” he said.

But it’s a rare thing to see it happen in the wild, he said. And so, like him, many have opened their homes or garages to caterpillars and larva and pupa.

So far this year, Erlich has released 1,000 butterflies. Others in his network have released even more.

But he has yet to meet anyone who fronts the operation the way he does, what with his 300 fennel plants, 70 pots of parsley and countless square feet devoted to milkweed, dill, asters, coneflowers and goldenrod. The milkweed that sprouts from a crack in the driveway is just as celebrated as the plants featured in his landscape design.

“I have three to four people come here when they run out of food for their swallowtails,” he said. “Nobody can grow enough food to take care of them. But I do.”

Everything he grows, from the blue vervain to the shasta daisies, are either sustenance or a stopping point for his beloved butterflies. Everything growing outside fuels everything that is happening inside.

To accomplish his goals, his home had to undergo a metamorphosis of its own. At the same time that he began searching along railroad tracks for milkweed, he decided it was time for the 40-year-old evergreen bushes in his front yard to go. He pulled them out, dug down a foot and a half, removed the rock and fertilized the soil.

Where annuals such as impatiens and geraniums once sprinkled a bit of color there are now tall native perennials, which serve to both beautify the neighborhood and protect pollinators.

Erlich has shared his talents with the Evergreen Park Public Library, where he gives presentations and tends to the flower gardens he started more than a decade ago.

Along the south and west side of the library, tall compass plants sway their yellow blooms on the breeze, drawing bees and butterflies. Out front, a plot of zinnias, daisies, tropical milkweed and lantana are an example of what average gardeners might grow if they want to attract their own butterflies.

Library director Nicki Seidl calls Erlich “an amazing individual, one of our local heroes.

“He is such an evangelist for his cause. He gives away plants, he collects eggs, he visits people’s home to help them do the same,” she said. “Yes, it’s a beautiful garden, but he has such passion for the monarchs and the swallowtails and these native plants. They all beautiful but they also preserve their environment.”

Because the library doesn’t have a “green can” for yard waste, at the end of each growing season, Erlich chops down the foliage and hauls it away in his “gardening” car, a 1998 Pontiac used only to haul plants and dirt. Back at his house, he grinds the plants down, mixes them with horse manure and dead leaves and uses the mixture to fertilize the soil.

“It’s all useful,” he said. “It’s good stuff.”

Each Memorial Day weekend, the library and Erlich host a native plant sale.

“People are really getting into native plants. They want to help the bees, they want to help the butterflies,” he said.

All of it helps the natural environment, he said.

“Butterflies don’t go to petunias, they don’t go to impatiens or geraniums. They go to zinnias. They go to native plants,” he said.

The plants provide the fuel they need for their long journey south to Mexico each fall.

But for a short time, Erlich said, he savors the notion that “when they see my garden, they think they’re home.”

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