Shacks moving onto stronger ice, as bear cubs start to be born

DNR REPORT - The New Year arrived with some very moderate temperatures that were accompanied by rain in the southern part of the state, while the north received some additional snow. But temperatures took a sharp drop during the week accompanied with strong winds. Sub-zero temperatures were reported with wind chills down to minus 30.

The most snow fell in the far north, and that allowed snowmobile trails to remain in good condition in a handful of counties across the north, but trails remain closed or only partially open in southern and far northwestern two-thirds of the state, according to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report.

Cross-country ski trails remain good at the northern forests including the Northern- Highland American Legion, Governor Thompson, Brule River and Flambeau River. Some trails remain open in the southern half of the state but are in poor or icy conditions, while others have closed.

The cold snap has improved ice conditions on many lakes. In the north, many area lakes now have permanent shacks placed and some people are venturing out using ATVs.

Ice thickness on inland lakes varies but averages in the 5-8 inch range.

With the changing temperatures, however, the ice is not at full strength and should be carefully checked before walking out onto it especially in the south. Lake Mendota reportedly froze over Jan. 1 but with some areas of thin ice.

The waterfowl, turkey, pheasant and gun deer seasons are now closed. Rabbit, squirrel, coyote, fox and misc. other hunting and trapping seasons remain open.

The archery deer season remains open through Jan. 8 in most areas and through Jan. 31 in Metro Sub-units.

Now that the fall turkey season is over turkeys are being seen feeding in fields, with groups of 10 plus being common.

Bear cubs are being born in dens now.

DNR wildlife staff counted waterfowl and bald eagles in every county of the state as part of the annual Mid-Winter Waterfowl and bald eagle surveys, which are run concurrently. Wisconsin and 13 other states in the "Mississippi Flyway" all count waterfowl during the same week each January to get a flyway wide estimate.

About 40 percent of all North American migrating waterfowl and shorebirds use the Mississippi Flyway.

Staff counted thousands of Canada geese, and dabbling ducks, mostly mallards, in the inland areas, and diving ducks including golden eyes, buffleheads and mergansers on the larger open water areas and along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Winter raptor viewing is very good right now with birders reporting good numbers of bald eagles at open water and it appears to be a good year for meadow voles, which in turn means rough-legged hawks, short-eared owls and kestrels are relatively easy to find on sunny days.

Great-horned owls are calling regularly at dawn and dusk as they prepare to initiate nesting. Owls are territorial, and one of the primary reasons that owls call is to verbally defend their territories from other owls of their own kind.

Great horned owls will continue calling well into February.

The first of the popular candlelight skis began last weekend at Wisconsin state park system properties, but cold weather and wind chills in the forecast resulted in Blue Mound State Park cancelling its event.

So search the DNR website for "candlelight" to check for cancellations and event details or call the parks to confirm, and remember pets are not allowed on groomed ski trails.

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