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home : outdoors : outdoors August 22, 2017

4/14/2017 7:27:00 AM
Science on Tap focuses on Wisconsin wildlife

Beckie Gaskill
Outdoors Writer

Scott Craven was the Science on Tap speaker this month and spoke with the a full house at the Minocqua Brewery about wildlife in Wisconsin last week. The event was also streamed live at the Minocqua Library as well as on the Internet, allowing anyone interested to view the event live as it was happening. All Science on Tap programs are streamed live this way and are also archived and can be found via a link on their website www.scienceontapminocqua.org. Videos are archived on the Trout Lake Station YouTube page.

Craven is an emeritus UW-Extension wildlife ecologist and wildlife specialist. He attended UW-Madison, where he earned his masters and doctorate in wildlife ecology. He joined the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology in 1979 as a faculty member, after working in that same department as a grad student.

He opened his discussion with mentioning most of Wisconsin's wildlife populations are doing remarkably well. Many, he said, were at an all-time high.

He was excitedly awaiting the 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Survey on Hunting, Fishing and Outdoor Recreation in the United States, he said.

"The magic number that most people in my business wait for is, OK, how many hunters are there in the United States?" Craven said. The trend in the past few decades, he said, was down. With hunters representing the major funding source for conservation, this drop has caused a great deal of consternation. In the last eight years, however, he said, the amount of money raised for conservation has skyrocketed. This is mostly due, he said to the previous administration efforts in the way of gun control which caused people to go out and buy guns and ammunition at a very high rate. There is also a great push to increase the numbers of hunters in many states across the country, including Wisconsin. These attempts are seen with things such as reduced license fees and programs to get kids into hunting and fishing. Recruitment, retention and activation are the main focus of these tactics. Increasing the number of outdoorsmen and women is the mainstay of increasing the amount of money going toward conservation efforts, as most sportsmen know.

He then spoke about the Conservation Congress spring hearings, which were just held Monday night. One of the biggest questions of recent years, he said, had to do with whether there should be a dove hunting season in Wisconsin.

"Suddenly everyone was up in arms because we were going to hunt the bird of peace here in Wisconsin," he said. Retrospectively, the season, he believes, has even helped the dove population. People started to pay attention to the needs of these birds, he said. Farmers started to plant sunflower fields for the doves and for hunting purposes.

One of the questions this year was whether there should be a sandhill crane hunt in Wisconsin. His mention of this brought gasps from the crowd, but he reminded attendees cranes are hunted in other states across the country. No matter how a person felt about creating this hunting season, he urged attendees of his talk to also attend the spring hearings.

Craven then discussed the County Deer Advisory Committees (CDACs) and the roll they play in managing the deer herd. The CDACs recommendations were ironed out at the March meetings, he said, and were available for public comment up until the 13th. He also mentioned the Deer Metrics now available on the DNR website. For those interested in deer numbers, harvest numbers and deer management can be found there. Simply go to the DNR website dnr.wi.gov and search "deer metrics" to find all of that information. He did touch on the human element of CWD in relation to deer hunting, such as the death of so many deer camps, where hunters simply quit hunting due to the disease. He did not speak much of the disease, but referred attendees to another presentation recently put up on the Science on Tap website, given last month by Mike Samuel. He directed people to that presentation to learn more about the disease and its possible effects. He also pointed to the Northwoods specifically, where many are still unhappy about the size of the deer herd and many are also skeptical about the supposed increase in harvest numbers in the Northern Forest Zone.

In other numbers, however, he said there was some great and positive news. Eagles are doing very, very well, he said. Loons and eagles, once in peril, have become more plentiful and secure in the state. In 70 of 72 counties, he said, there are nesting eagles. Only Milwaukee and Walworth counties do not have nesting pairs of eagles. Bears have also been doing well, he said.

Grouse are very popular birds, Craven said, and they follow a 10 year cycle. We are about two years into the upswing in the cycle, which he called great news for those who enjoy viewing and hunting them. During the upswing, northern Wisconsin is a destination for many hunters from around the county, which is a good thing for the economy of the Northwoods. Even waterfowl numbers have been doing very well. For the last three years, continental waterfowl populations are higher than they have been since they have been counted.

DNR Project SnapShot is also opening up in Oneida County, and Craven touched on that as well. Project Snapshot provides trail cameras to individuals who then put the cameras up and monitor them, regularly downloading the photos their camera takes to the website. From there viewers can look through all of the photos and classify them as to what animals they see and how many. Eventually this program will be rolled out to every county in the state, and it is hoped these cameras can help with population estimates and, ultimately, management decisions for a variety of species. This is a great citizen science opportunity for those looking to know what animals are around their landscape.

Craven provided attendees with a wealth of knowledge, both current and historical, regarding populations of many species in Wisconsin. Science on Tap presentations such as this one are available online, live as they happen. The program is put on by UW Madison's Trout Lake Station and Kemp Station. The May 3 presentation will be about Gardening in Wisconsin. Presentations start at 6:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month.

Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at bjoki@lakelandtimes.com.

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