Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan natural resources officials will start the new year considering a possible wolf hunt in the state.

Governor Rick Snyder recently signed a bill that establishes the gray wolf as a game species.

But that doesn’t mean there will be a wolf hunt in the state. That will be up to the state wildlife commission.

Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Ed Golder said the commission will start looking into the issue in January.

State Senate passes bill that could lead to gray wolf hunting season

Nov 30, 2012
USFWS

A controversial piece of legislation that would make the gray wolf a game species has passed the Michigan Senate.

The bill, introduced by Escanaba Republican Tom Casperson, paves the way for a possible hunting and trapping seasons for wolves.

If the bill becomes law, the state’s Natural Resources Commission would be allowed to determine if a hunt were needed.

There are nearly 700 wolves in Michigan today, up from under 300 just a decade ago. The wolves, removed from the endangered species list this past January, are concentrated in the western Upper Peninsula.

DNR confirms three recent cougar sightings in Upper Peninsula

Nov 28, 2012
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The Department of Natural Resources has confirmed three recent cougar sightings in the Upper Peninsula.

Two photos of a cougar with a radio collar were taken in October in Menominee County, while a third photo was taken of a collarless cougar in November in Marquette County.

The DNR does not employ radio collars to track cougars, making the origin of the cat something of a mystery.

North Dakota and South Dakota are the nearest states that make use of collars to track cougars, and the animals are known to travel hundreds of miles in search of new territory.

mwanner_wc / creative commons

Hunters in much of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula will have a cap on the number of deer they can take home this season. A disease that’s killing thousands of deer has prompted the state to enforce new hunting restrictions.

Last winter was unusually warm and that’s helped create fertile breeding ground for the biting fly that spreads Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease. It has infected deer in a record 30 Michigan counties; killing at least 13,000 deer this year. EHD does not affect humans.

Brent Rudolph runs the deer and elk program at the Department of Natural Resources.

He doesn't look all that thrilled, but he did fight this thing for two hours, so maybe he's a little tired.

mwanner_wc / creative commons

Thousands of deer have died in Michigan due to a virus in the last few months.

State wildlife officials hope to hear from deer hunters this week as they try to track the disease.

This past weekend, thousands of Michigan deer hunters took to the woods.  A few were legally allowed to hunt deer, but most of them just to track deer they will try to bag when bow season starts next month.

MI DNR website

The Times Herald in Port Huron reports that a Lakeport resident found a 3-foot-long sturgeon this week on a beach.

 The newspaper reports that a 4-foot-long sturgeon also washed ashore in Fort Gratiot, northeast of Detroit.

Michigan Natural Resources fisheries biologist Mike Thomas says it's not unheard of for small numbers of the fish to wash up in one week, but he is "kind of watching what's going on."

The Utica Shale
Michael C. Rygel / Wikipedia Creative Commons

Two of North America’s biggest natural gas corporations, Encana and Chesapeake Energy, are under scrutiny today after the Reuters news agency intercepted at least a dozen emails from 2010 between the competing companies that might show evidence of price-fixing in Michigan’s oil and gas lease market. 

Reuters alleges that the emails suggest top company officials discussed a plan to divide up counties in Michigan auctioning "prime oil- and gas-acreage" in order to avoid a costly bidding competition.

Both companies deny the allegation, though they admit to discussing the possibility of entering into a joint venture in Michigan.

Yesterday, Reuters reported:

Shares of Chesapeake Energy Corp and Encana Corp tumbled Monday after a Reuters investigation showed that top executives of the two rivals plotted in 2010 to avoid bidding against each other in a state auction and in at least nine prospective deals with private land owners.

Following the report, the state of Michigan pledged to determine whether the two energy giants acted two years ago to suppress land prices there.

In Michigan, private land owners can sell the drilling rights on their properties, and the state’s Department of Natural Resources holds auctions to sell state-owned rights called "oil and gas leases" biannually.

Around 2008, this market gained national attention when the Utica and Collingwood Shale oil and natural gas fields drew interest as potential natural gas mother lodes in northeast Michigan. Companies looking to access the reserves thousands of feet underground through a new process called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, started purchasing these rights. Bids for the drilling rights per acre soared to record highs in the May 2010 auction. 

Michigan DNR / Facebook

This morning the Michigan Department of Natural Resources released an update on the Duck Lake Fire, still burning in the Upper Peninsula.

According to the DNR, the fire, located in Luce County, was roughly 21,450 acres is size and about 55 percent contained, as of this morning.

From the DNR press release:

(photo courtesy of Dr. Mohamed Faisal)

Michigan officials are reminding fishermen -- and women --  that bait restrictions apply in some waters as a way to slow the spread of a viral fish disease.

Gov. Snyder signed legislation aimed at improving Internet access in Michigan's rural areas.

According to Snyder's office, the new law will allow easier access for telecommunications companies to install Internet infrastructure.

More from Gov. Snyder's office:

Senate Bill 499, sponsored by state Sen. Tom Casperson, will allow easier access for telecommunications companies to install facilities along state-controlled rail-trails – former railway lines converted to walking and bicycling paths. Companies will pay not more than $500 in application fees to the Department of Natural Resources, plus a one-time fee of 5 cents per linear foot used. Revenues will go into the Michigan Trailways Fund or the Natural Resources Trust Fund.

“Keeping costs low will encourage more companies to expand wireless Internet access to Michigan’s rural areas, essential to continuing our economic reinvention,” Snyder said.

The bill now is Public Act 138 of 2012.

Ken Thomas / wikimedia commons

There's been a spate of black bear sightings in West Michigan over the past few days with at least one birdfeeder as a casualty.

Residents in Greenville, about 25 miles northeast of Grand Rapids, saw a bear wandering around a residential neighborhood and sightings have also been reported in nearby Lowell and Vergennes Township this week.

Wildlife authorities with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources don't know if it's the same bear being spotted, or more than one.

Bear sightings in general in many parts of the Lower Peninsula have become more common over the past few years.

Last year, the Environment Report's Rebecca Williams took a look at these southward-drifting bears and spoke to Adam Bump, a bear specialist with the MDNR:

[Bump] said a lot of the time, the bears are young males that get pushed out during the breeding season. They’ll head down looking for new territory.

“It’s not that we’re completely full up in the north – it can’t take one more bear – it’s just that we’re getting more taking the chance and moving south.”

He said bears like to travel along rivers and forested corridors and they appear to be finding good routes to travel...

Bump said some female bears appear to be moving south too. And some might be setting up camp... and having babies.

“We think we have an established population now as far down as Grand Rapids, possibly into Ionia County. We're getting more and more reports of bears in southern Michigan, even bears that are too young to have moved, so they had to have been produced in southern Michigan.”

This past February, Williams and producer Mark Brush got the chance to tag along with MDNR biologists in Oceana County as they tranquilized a black bear to replace a radio tracking collar.

Now that the warm weather is here, the collared bear is likely loping around in search of food.

You can see the bear in a deep sleep in the video below.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

World Resources Institute

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources auctioned off state-owned oil and natural gas drilling rights on more than 90,000 acres yesterday.

Here’s a recap of the auction results:

  • Total acres up for auction: 108,164.70
  • Total acres leased: 91,225.42
  • Total money raised: $4,118,848.60
  • Average bid per acre: $39.90

These auctions are typically held twice per year, in May and October.

The money raised from these biannual auctions has been steadily increasing since 2000, hitting peaks in 2008 and 2010.

In the first auction of 2008, the state leased all of the 149,000 available acres for more than $13 million. The last time the state had a 100 percent lease rate was in 1981.

The first auction in 2010 had a 99.6 percent lease rate and raised an unprecedented amount: more than $178 million.

The average bid per acre for that auction was $1,507, which far exceeds the average bids at any other auctions over the last 10 years, all of which have been under $100.

-Suzanne Jacobs, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Protesters are expected Tuesday morning outside of a planned auction of oil and natural gas lease rights on public land.

Lease rights on more than 100 thousand acres of public land will be available in the auction in Lansing.

Mary Uptigrove is the acting manager of the Minerals Management Section of the Department of Natural Resources.    She says much of the land on the auction list is there by the request of the drilling industry.

“They may know…areas where… current development is occurring….and they want to explore for additional development,” says Uptigrove. 

The Department of Natural Resources has started a program to help people resolve issues of encroachment on public land.

MDNR officials say they want to work with people who are trespassing, by having either a permanent-structure or historical-encroachment.

They say they're writing to property owners with known encroachments on public land, telling them they're eligible to resolve their cases without penalty.

Applications will be accepted through December 31.

Captive Russian boars
Peter Payette

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has filed its first legal action under an order that outlaws some breeds of exotic swine.

The Michigan DNR has filed a legal action in Cheboygan County against the Renegade Ranch Hunting Preserve for refusing entry to state inspectors and harboring prohibited breeds.

This is the first legal action taken by the Michigan DNR since the state started enforcing the order on April 1.

*Correction - An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Michigan DNR is banning "some species of exotic swine." The MDNR is banning certain breeds not species.  It has been corrected above.

flickr - caninest

In the last few years, illegal wolf kills in the Upper Peninsula have been going up as more sportsman become convinced that wolves are harming the deer population.

The antipathy toward wolves might change now that the species is no longer federally protected, but it also might change as more research is done on other predators in the UP.

Howard Meyerson of the Grand Rapid Press, reports on deer predation research being conducted in Michigan's Upper Peninsula by Mississippi State University students.

So far, the research is showing a somewhat surprising result: that coyotes are a top predator of fawns in parts of the western UP.

From the Grand Rapids Press:

...what researchers found this past winter, the third year of a western U.P. deer mortality study, is that coyotes were the No. 1 predator followed by bobcats. Wolves came in fourth after a three-way tie among hunters, unknown predators and undetermined causes.

“I was somewhat surprised to see coyotes play as large a role in fawn predation as they did...,” said Jerry Belant, an associate professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management at Mississippi State University.

screen grab from a video of Godzilla the turkey / Freep.com

It's not quite Hitchcock movie territory, but it's close.

Luckily for her, Edna Geisler doesn't have to deal with thousands of malevolent birds, but one particularly ornery fowl is making life rather difficult for the Commerce Township resident.

As the Associated press reports, Geisler has been facing daily bullying from a wild turkey "willing to bump, scratch and harass her" if she  so much as sets foot in her front yard.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Rebecca Williams and I recently tagged along with biologists from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to watch them tranquilize and re-collar an 11-year-old black bear in Oceana County.

The bear is one of many bears researchers are watching as part of the Southern Michigan Bear Habitat Use and Movements study.

Here's the video we made from that trip:

Michigan's archery season began this morning.
Charles Dawley / flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan's new hunting program for children will start this year, with licenses on sale starting March 1.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced Friday that the Michigan Natural Resources Commission approved the program aimed at introducing children under the age of 10 to hunting and fishing.

It's called the Mentored Youth Hunting program.

A recent law eliminated the minimum hunting age, allowing kids under 10 to hunt with an adult who's at least 21 years old. Under the rules for the new youth program, the adult must have previous hunting experience and possess a valid Michigan hunting license.

A Mentored Youth Hunting license will cost $7.50. Details about hunting rules are posted on the DNR's website.

user metassus / Flickr

As of last Friday, wolves in Michigan are no longer a federally protected “endangered species.”

On December 21, 2011 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced in Washington that Gray wolf populations in the Western Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin have exceeded recovery goals and are stable enough to be removed from the Endangered Species List.

The current populations in each state are:

Gray wolves in Michigan are no longer on the federal government’s endangered species list.

The decision shifts the responsibility for managing wolves to Michigan wildlife officials.

It also means that farmers and pet owners can shoot wolves that attack livestock or dogs.

Ed Golder is with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“The important thing here is that people have greater power to address issues with wolves and we certainly want to help with that,” Golder said. “We encourage people to find non-lethal means to deal with wolves and we are available for consultation on that, but where these particular instances are occurring with livestock and with dogs, people have some power that they didn’t have before.”

Even though wolves in Michigan have been removed from the federal endangered species list, Golder said wolves remain on the state's “protected species” list -- and it is still illegal to hunt or trap wolves that don’t pose an immediate threat to dogs or livestock.

The gray wolf was once nearly extinct in the Upper Midwest. There are now nearly a thousand gray wolves in Michigan, mostly in the Upper Peninsula.

*Correction - an earlier version of this story said "wolves remain on Michigan’s “threatened species” list." The animals remain on the state's protected species list. The copy has been corrected above.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan G. Wilson-Crow / USDA

A good part of the drought-ridden state of Texas was on fire this past year. USA Today reports this spring, firefighters battled "seven of the 10 largest wildfires in state history."

A total of 40 staff members from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have helped battle the blazes in Texas since mid-June. The MDNR said the last of the crews returned home on November 18. The MDNR also sent four tractor/plows to Texas.

From a MDNR press release:

"Fighting wildfires is dangerous, which is why we are happy to report that all of the Michigan DNR staff returned unharmed," says Scott Heather, section manager for the Resource Protection and Cooperative Programs of the Michigan DNR. "Additionally, the State of Texas will reimburse the department for all of the costs associated with having the staff and equipment down there for 22 weeks."

Heather says final accounting hasn't been done yet, but he estimates the state spent around $200,000 to $250,000 on crew and equipment to battle the fires in Texas.

State officials say this was the longest period of time they've sent staff and equipment to another state to fight fires. Michigan firefighters battled two of the largest fires in Texas, "the Bastrop County Complex and the 101 Ranch, saving many homes."

This year's firearm deer hunting season is off to a safe start. That's according to state officials who said no incidents related to injury or safety have been reported so far.

MLive.com reports:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Today across Michigan many businesses are closed, absenteeism is up and even state legislators are taking the day off. This is Michigan’s unofficial state holiday, the first day of firearm deer season.  

Hunter Gabe Van Wormer and I recently went walking through some woods just north of Lansing. The area is hemmed in with suburban neighborhoods. But there are deer in these woods.  

user harrisMI / Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The state is increasing snowmobile permit fees for the 2011 season.

 The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday that this season the price for a permit is $45, an increase of $10 over last year's price. The fee will be $45 through the 2015 snowmobile season. A state law signed in 2008 provided for the incremental increase in snowmobile trail fees, which support maintenance and grooming of the state's snowmobile trail network.

Fire Officer Randy McKenzie / MIDNR

Want to roast some marshmallows this weekend? 

Natural resource officials in the state have a message for you - "with the romance, comes responsibility":

The Associated Press reports that campfires account for about one in 10 wildfires. From the AP:

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says warm summer temperatures and a lack of rain have combined to make the risk of wildfires especially high.

The agency says the highest risk is in the western half of the Upper Peninsula and in the central counties of northern lower Michigan, areas that are especially dry.

There's only a slight chance of rain over the weekend to lessen the danger.

The DNR recommends taking precautions to keep campfires under control and extinguishing them by dousing them with water before leaving.

user 3rdParty / flickr

The state will be closing twenty-three state forest campgrounds beginning in May. The campgrounds are not state parks. They’re camping sites along rivers, lakes or trails. Most of the sites to be closed are in the Upper Peninsula.

Mary Dettloff is with the state Department of Natural Resources.

"These are primarily rustic camping sites. There’s no electrical hook up like there is at a state park. State Forest campgrounds tend to cater to people who are into more of just a tent camping experience."

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is closing the campgrounds because they’re not heavily used and the state doesn’t have money to maintain them. Dettloff continues:

"Not only did we pick the ones that are underperforming in terms of bringing in revenue but they’re also ones that are close to other state forest campgrounds. So we’re not going to be denying the opportunity to use the state forest campgrounds to people because there will be other ones nearby that will remain open."

The trails and land around the campgrounds will still be available to visitors after the campsites are removed.

Jhritz / Flickr

New analysis by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment says state forests were hit hard last year by the emerald ash borer and a variety of other ailments and invasive pests.

According to the Associated Press, in a report released yesterday, the DNRE said:

...people continue to make the invasive species problem worse by moving firewood infested with exotic organisms. The unwelcome critters also work their way into nursery stock and wooden pallets that are hauled around the state.

Lynne Boyd is chief of the Forest Management Division and says insects and foreign species are a big danger to Michigan's 19.3 million acres of woodlands. Industries connected to Michigan forests such as timber and recreation provide 136,000 jobs and pump $14 billion into the state's economy each year.

The Traverse City Record Eagle reports:

The Michigan Department of Agriculture has set up a quarantine to limit the ash borer's spread — including a firewood checkpoint at the Mackinac Bridge linking the Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula. People caught hauling firewood into the U.P. can be fined or even jailed. Even so, the ash borer has been found in several U.P. locations after killing more than 30 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan.

Pages