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Wisconsin Outdoor Report and Calendar
January 28, 2016
The Wisconsin Outdoor Report is updated weekly by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The entire state with the exception of the far southeastern corner received snow this week, with the heaviest band of 6 to 8 inches through central Wisconsin.
This allowed a few more counties through central Wisconsin to open snowmobile trails, with fair conditions, and conditions across the north are now good to excellent, on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report. Quite a few parks and forests throughout central and northern Wisconsin and some in the south were able to groom cross-country ski trails and conditions are generally good to very good. However, temperatures rose late in the week and are forecast to be even warmer over the weekend, so snowmobile and ski conditions could change rapidly. A half-dozen candlelight events are scheduled for this weekend, including the Friday night Red Cedar Trail event that showcases a beautiful lit wall of ice on the bluffs along the trail. For a complete list of events search the DNR website for "candlelight."
Ice fishing pressure varies widely across the state as anglers in different regions experience challenges from seasonally finicky species, to accessible water. The walleye bite has still been inconsistent, while panfish were providing a more consistent catch rate. Moderate success has also been noticed for northern pike. Many of the more shallow and weedy lakes are starting to experience lower oxygen levels at greater depths, so those looking for northerns may want to move their bait closer to the surface. Early trout anglers have still been pretty much out of luck, as many streams are iced over, or remain heavily iced in on the banks.
Anglers at some southeastern Lake Michigan harbors have been catching some brown trout and steelhead on open water. Many anglers took to the ice along Door County with last weekend's nice weather. Anglers in Little Sturgeon were out in high number this week as the bite for whitefish was good at Lime Kiln Road and Big Rock Place.
Deer are moving in larger and larger numbers across the state and more bucks are dropping their antlers. Remember, these are the last few days of the archery deer season in metro units. Turkey, weasel and rabbit sign is also prevalent and an occasional opossum was seen during the recent warm-up. People in the north and central part of the state are catching an occasional glance of elk. Kentucky and Wisconsin staff and partners are currently in Kentucky trapping elk for the next cohort heading to Jackson County. Kentucky has authorized trapping of up to 50 elk annually as part of a five year effort to bring 150 elk to Wisconsin.
As we move into February, several other mammals, such as fox and coyote, are entering breeding seasons and raptors like eagles, hawks and owls are in the midst of their mating and egg laying seasons.
Common feeder birds now are hairy and downy woodpeckers, redpolls, black-capped chickadees, blue jays, white- breasted nuthatches, American goldfinches and red-breasted nuthatches. Decent numbers of winter finches including siskins and redpolls have shown up at bird feeders. These species are somewhat irruptive across the Upper Midwest. Now is a great time to confirm nesting great-horned owls pairs for the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas project. Winter waterfowl and bald eagle viewing is at peak right now with good ice cover and concentrated patches of open water. Lower Mud Lake in Dane County has more than 100 wintering tundra swans along with good numbers of gadwall, shoveler, mallards, Canada geese, common mergansers and goldeneyes.
A three-minute audio version of this report can be heard by calling 608-266-2277.
Upcoming State Natural Area Workdays
Green County - Get outside and help restore the Stauffacher Unit of Muralt State Natural Area by joining in a volunteer workday on Jan. 30 from 9 a.m. to noon. Help cut and pile brush and enjoy the beauty of this savanna and prairie in the process. No skills needed -- you will be trained onsite. Dress for the weather and wear clothes that are OK to get beat up, long pants, long sleeves, gloves (we will have extra). This workday depends on snow cover. If the workday is cancelled due to weather conditions, a message will be left at 608-282-5403 at least two hours before the event. If there is no cancellation message, the workday will continue as scheduled. If you are interested, please contact Alex Wenthe at email@example.com or 608-282-5403 to receive notices about whether the activity will go as planned.
Winnebago County - Cut and/or pile brush at Oshkosh-Larsen Trail Prairies State Natural Area the week of Feb. 1. Visit one of the northernmost prairie remnants in Wisconsin. If not maintained by fire or mechanical thinning, shrubs and trees can shade out native prairie plants at this site. Help cut and pile brush, learn about prairie restoration, meet knowledgeable people, and enjoy the beauty of a Wisconsin natural gem. No skills needed; you will be trained on site. If you are interested please contact Kevin Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-416-3377. But if you don't get around to notifying, come anyway!
Stay up to date with all state natural area volunteer opportunities through the DNR website. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane
Jackson County Elk Update
Wild elk returned to Jackson County in August 2015, when 23 animals were released from their temporary home in a holding pen after arriving from Kentucky. Since their release, these elk have been busy exploring new landscapes and adjusting to the many recreational users who frequent their Jackson County and State Forest home. The elk experienced their first breeding season, and are now learning how to survive a Wisconsin winter.
Department of Natural Resources biologists are documenting elk movements and survival as they acclimate to Jackson County through the use of satellite and GPS tracking collars. This technology provides department staff with daily location information. Currently, 17 of the 23 elk (74 percent) are alive at this mid-winter update - six mortalities since August have resulted from vehicles (two) and wolf predation (four). "It's always a big disappointment to learn of a mortality given how hard we have worked to restore these majestic animals to the county. However, losses are an expected and unavoidable part of a project like this. Our objective of translocating 75 animals to Jackson County is based on anticipating some initial loss in the foundation herd." said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR deer and elk ecologist. "No elk were lost during 2015 deer hunting seasons, and we would like to thank hunters for their continued commitment to always knowing their target and what is beyond. We also want to thank our elk project partners for putting up billboards to remind the public to exercise caution when driving in the area." Kentucky and Wisconsin staff and partners are currently in Kentucky trapping elk for the next cohort heading to Jackson County. Kentucky has authorized trapping of up to 50 elk annually as part of a five year effort to bring 150 elk to Wisconsin. All elk captured this winter are expected to arrive in Jackson County this spring, and will be released after fulfilling all required health testing, quarantine and acclimation periods. This year's effort is expected to conclude the Jackson County reintroduction effort - elk trapped in future years will supplement the current Clam Lake area herd.
Stay tuned for additional updates as the elk reintroduction project continues. For more information regarding elk in Wisconsin, search keyword "elk."
For more information - Tom Hauge, Wildlife Director, 608-266-2193; Bob Nack, Big Game Section Chief, 608-264-6137
Statewide Birding Report as of January 28, 2015
Decent numbers of winter finches including siskins and redpolls at bird feeders. These species are somewhat irruptive across the Upper Midwest. Great-horned owls are paired up and have begun nesting. Now is a great time to confirm nesting pairs for the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas project. Great horned Owls use the nests of crows and other raptors or natural platforms. Winter waterfowl and bald eagle viewing is at peak right now with good ice cover and concentrated patches of open water. Lower Mud Lake in Dane County has more than 100 wintering tundra swans along with good numbers of gadwall, shoveler, mallards, Canada geese, common mergansers and goldeneyes. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg
Online chat: How to make your bird sightings count for conservation.
Do you love birds? Feed or photograph them? Watch them from your backyard, local park, or nearby wildlife refuge? If so, then with just a few extra minutes of effort you can become a citizen scientist and make a big difference in helping protect Wisconsin's bird populations. Join us for an online chat at noon on Tuesday, February 2, to learn how through projects like eBird, the Great Backyard Bird Count, Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, and more! - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
DNR Northern RegionSuperior DNR Service Center area
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Copper Falls State Park - Skiing and snow shoeing are in full swing with most trails in good to excellent condition. 6 inch packed base with generally twelve inches of snow in the park. Some ice fishing is taking place on Loon Lake. The annual candle light ski will take place on Feb. 6, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Several miles of groomed and tracked trail for both classic and skate skiing will be lit with candles, bonfire; some light concessions will be sold by Friends of Copper Falls State Park as a fund raiser. - Todd Hintz, superintendent, Copper Falls
Pattison State Park - Cross-country ski trail conditions are excellent, with 3 inches of new snow this week. The trail system was groomed Jan. 27 after receiving another 3 inches of snow. Track was not set since it was snowing and more was forecast. Track will be set no later than Friday. - Kevin Feind, property supervisor
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties - Ice conditions continue to be quite variable on lakes across the Northwoods and ice thickness is ranging from 8 to 10 inches on most waters. There is 4 to 6 inches of snow on top of the ice and there have been numerous reports of slush showing up on many lakes. The first few motor vehicles have been seen out on the ice, but caution is still urged as ice thickness can vary on a body of water and be much thinner in undisturbed areas. Ice fishing success seems to have reached its mid-winter lows and action has become more sporadic than in the past several weeks. In addition, there have been some lakes that are experiencing very poor fishing success while others are having some consistent and fair action. As such, it is advised that anglers check with local bait shops to find where the hot spots. With that said, walleye success has continued its erratic trend across the area with some anglers reporting fair success and others complaining about coming home skunked. On several lakes, it seems to be a real finicky bite for walleye the past few weeks--that the fish are in a particular habitat (mud/sand flats), at a specific depth (5 to 8 feet), feeding for a short period of time (about 20 minutes, and an hour before dark) and hitting a certain size bait (large fathead or small sucker minnow). And if you're not meeting all those conditions, you may not be catching many walleye. A few anglers have figured this out and have been reporting some decent catches of walleye in the 12 to 16-inch size. Panfish have provided a bit more consistent action, though it has slowed up a bit in the last week. Some nice catches of perch and crappie have been made, with keeper bluegill being a bit tougher to find. The perch have been hitting small fathead minnows in 5 to 10 feet of water, and the crappie have been biting on small finesse plastics fished several feet off the bottom in the deeper water areas. Northern pike success has been fair, with some decent action during the mid-day hours on golden shiners or large suckers near any old weed beds. One side note--many of the shallow and weedy pike lakes are starting to see lower oxygen levels down near the bottom. The northerns will still be active but anglers may need to move their bait closer to the surface where oxygen levels are often higher. In addition, aeration systems have been operating on many lakes and recreationalists should steer clear of the barricaded areas around these open-water spots. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail was groomed on Friday, Feb. 22. The plan is to groom again on Thursday, due to snow in the forecast for each day for the rest of the week. Last Monday and Tuesday we received about an inch and we're supposed to get up to 3 inches by the end of the day. The classic track looks pretty good throughout the trail system. The skating lane is snow covered but it definitely needs more snow to make it smoother and easier to groom. On the whole the trail is fair but with our new snow layer, it will get better. Be sure to check out the entrance kiosks and adhere to the regulations when using the trail. It is a beautifully unsettled and exciting trail. You can ski for miles and many times not see another person. The snowmobile trail has been rolled but has not been groomed. In the Georgetown area there is a connector Trail 85 on Corridor 12 right at the Sawyer County line that is unsafe and closed. With the snow in the forecast hopefully snow levels will improve the trails condition. Right now the trails are not in good condition. The snowshoe trails at Slough Gundy and at Lake of the Pines are open and have been used. They are fast moving due to the snow depth. If you are interested in an explorative experience the Old Oxbo Ski Trail has been mowed yearly. This trail has not been groomed or signed, but is being used for snowshoeing. Fishing on the Flambeau River State Forest has been really slow. Connors Lake, Lake of the Pines, Mason and Evergreen are being ice fished and folks seem to have fun regardless. The Flambeau River still has some open spots so it is treacherous and very risky to be out on it. Because of the light snow depth and mild temperatures of late, the wildlife are doing great. Turkey, weasel, rabbit and deer sign is prevalent. If you know where to look you can get an occasional glance of elk. They are very good at being obscure and fading into the background. There is logging activity on the forest. Hopefully temperatures hold below freezing so they can continue to work. Weather Forecast for Winter, Wisconsin says we will be getting snow everyday thru Saturday and temperatures in high 20s to 30s. The week of January 31 will get colder and more chance of snow. Join us for our 24th Annual Candlelight Ski at the Flambeau River State Forest. The event will be held from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday Feb. 6, 2016, at the Flambeau Hills Trail Head. A 1.8 kilometer loop of trail will be groomed tracked and lit with over 600 candles. The trail is for skiers or hikers and winds through the heart of the forest. The trail is wide enough for diagonal striders and skate skiers. Hiking and snowshoeing are also permitted during this event. Picnic tables and a large barbecue grill will be available near the trail head for persons who wish to cook their food. Hot dogs, chili & spiced tea will be provided. The forest staff add to the goodies with snacks and desserts. Large warming fires will also be built and maintained throughout the night. The forest staff promotes this as a casual family-type outing and hopes that families and friends come and spend the evening with them. The candles should provide a luminescent atmosphere for all to enjoy. Starting at 5 p.m. that Saturday all day-use fees at the trail head will be waived. The Flambeau Hills Trail Head is located on County Highway "W" 21 miles west of Phillips and 15 miles east of Winter. - Diane Stowell, visitor services associate
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Snow levels are getting a little deeper making for better snowshoeing, but one doesn't need them to get out and enjoy the serenity of the season. Our diehard feathered friends are keeping busy at area bird feeders and there haven't been any new visitors from the north. Common feeder birds here now are hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, redpolls, black-capped chickadees, blue jays, white- breasted nuthatches, American goldfinches and red-breasted nuthatches and maybe a pileated woodpecker if you're lucky. Trout Lake Forestry Headquarters near Boulder Junction has 10 inches of snow on the ground. This is not a lot of snow for this time of year. This is beneficial to the deer herd that has had back to back harsh winters but may not help replenish lake and stream water levels. Fortunately rains last November and December filled some marshes and bogs and have stream levels running above normal for this time of year. Low snow totals also help people who fish, move about the lake. Ice fishing tournaments are going strong but access is still restricted to foot travel, snowmobiles or ATVs as lake ice thickness is not uniform on many lakes. Scheduling for volunteer campground hosts for the upcoming camping season is well underway. At this point there are still a couple of openings. If interested in becoming a campground host contact Joe Fieweger at 715-385-3355 ext 113 or email@example.com to discuss the available opportunities. - Kimberly Krawczyk, Visitor Services Associate
NH-AL cross-country ski trails are in good condition. Escanaba and Madeline trails were groomed and tracked Jan. 28. The McNaughton Trail skate loop was leveled and groomed and all other loops leveled and tracked Jan. 28. The Raven Trail was tracked Jan. 28. There are shallow tracks under the heavy conifers on the Red and Yellow loops, but overall good conditions. - Tony Martinez, trails coordinator
Antigo DNR Service Center area
Langlade County - In the Antigo Area we received an additional 2 -3 inches of snow. Snowmobile trails are in fair condition at best. Cross-country ski trails are in good to very good condition. Snowy owls continue to be frequent visitors to the farm fields surrounding Antigo. - Eric J. Borchert, wildlife technician, Antigo
DNR Northeast RegionNorthern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
Marinette County - A few pike anglers have been observed north of Peshtigo Harbor area. The Dam at Hattie Street on the Menominee River has one gate partially open and has blown the ice out by the Dam. The 6th Street Slip on the Menominee River has been producing some nice walleye lately and is seeing the most fishing pressure in the area. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Oconto County - Northern pike fishermen are starting to show up in good numbers from the Oconto Breakwater Park to Oconto Park I. Dead smelt fished on bottom or large shiner minnows have been producing some fish, most anglers are walking on the ice. Oconto Park II has been producing some perch, sunfish, bluegill, and the occasional bullhead jigging with wax worms in and around the launch area. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Brown County - Most of the fishing pressure has been in the Voyageur Park area with anglers reporting catching some perch and walleye. The walleye bite seems to be best early morning or late afternoon. Jigging with plastics or minnows have been the baits of choice. Anglers at Long Tail Point report poor water clarity and fishing for perch slow.- Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Door County - Many angler took to the ice with the nice weather we have been having, but many anglers from Volk's Landing up to Sugar Creek reported a tough bite for whitefish later in the week and into this weekend. Those fishing for whitefish were fishing in 8-20 feet of water with the deeper depths producing the most. Most anglers have been accessing the ice by ATV or sled with a few anglers driving vehicles on the ice. Ice depths have varied from 8-16 inches of ice reported around the Dykesville area. Please remember to check local ice conditions before taking to the ice. Anglers in Little Sturgeon were out in high number this week as the bite for whitefish was good at Lime Kiln Road and Big Rock Place. Many anglers took to the ice all around Little Sturgeon, accessing the ice mainly by ATV or sleds but the occasional angler was driving on. Be careful as the ice thickness still varies in all locations with reports of 6-15inches reported by anglers. From Sturgeon Bay north along the shore up to Murphy Park the ice is very rough with some dark ice areas out there. No anglers were seen in these locations this week. - Emily Kurszewski, creel clerk, Sturgeon Bay
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Peninsula State Park - The purple, yellow, green, blue, orange, and red loops of the cross-country ski trails have been groomed and are in good condition. - Jessica Doell, visitor services associate
Potawatomi State Park - About 5 inches of snow fell Jan. 25-26, so ski trails should be in good shape for the coming weekend. Ski trails were last groomed the evening of Jan. 26. All snowmobiles trails in the park and county are now open. Fishermen are venturing out on the ice. Some perch and northern have been caught off the park's shoreline. Be careful when going out on the ice. The U.S. Coast Guard ice breaker has been breaking ice for large ships making their way to Sturgeon Bay shipyards for winter repairs. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate
Whitefish Dunes State Park - The red, yellow and green trails are groomed for classic cross-country skiing only. Trails were rolled and packed Tuesday with the 5 inches of new, wet snow. Temperatures got too warm to track, and more grooming is expected Wednesday morning. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - The area received 3-6 inches of snow this week. Most places have 6-8 inches on the ground right now. Snowmobile trails have been groomed, but do not know if they are open yet. Ice conditions vary from 6-12 inches on most lakes, Wolf River has many open spots. No report on ice fishing success--does not seem to be much pressure locally. Early catch n' release trout fishing is an impossibility as streams are currently iced in. Ruffed grouse season closes Sunday, still some birds to be chased around. Coyotes have been moving on frozen streams big time. Their breeding season is right around the corner, ditto for fox. Bucks should be starting to drop their antlers any time now, although the dandy I saw yesterday at Leer creek still had his rack. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Hartman Creek State Park - The park received about 4 inches of snow on Monday. The park's ski trails were groomed on Tuesday, January 26 and are in excellent condition. The Cronies bike club also groomed the park's single track trail and it is in excellent condition. - Sue McElrone, ranger
Oshkosh DNR Service Center area
Winnebago County - Sturgeon spearing season is fast approaching for the Lake Winnebago System and the weather has gone back and forth. Ice conditions were very poor up to a couple weeks ago. Currently, there is 13 to 14 inches of ice in most bays but vehicle traffic has been limited to snowmobiles or ATVs throughout Lake Winnebago. It doesn't take long for ice conditions to change, especially on Lake Winnebago. Know the ice, be prepared for anything and always expect the worst while doing your sturgeon spearing scouting. Now is the time to begin preparing for an alternate way to get your spearing shanty onto the lake if ice conditions do not allow for a truck. The sturgeon spearing season is scheduled for Feb. 13 to 28, unless harvest caps are reached. - Jason Higgins, conservation warden, Oshkosh
DNR Southeast RegionMilwaukee DNR Service Center area
Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee
DNR does not verify or guarantee the reported ice conditions, and anglers should proceed at their own risk. Please use extreme caution as conditions can change rapidly.
Sheboygan County - In Sheboygan, the Sheboygan River is partially open below the 8th Street bridge, but there are ice floes moving through that section of river. The harbor is iced over in portions of Harbor Centre Marina, and anglers have been seen fishing off of the docks.
Ozaukee County - The Port Washington harbor is open near the power plant discharge and in the north slip. Brown trout and occasional steelhead are being caught, and anglers have been using a variety of baits such as spawn, shiners, crank baits, and plastics.
Milwaukee County - The lower Milwaukee River and Milwaukee harbor is iced up. Freighters have broken up the ice, but conditions are not conducive to recreational boating. The mouth of the Menomonee River stays open during the winter due to the warm water discharge from the Valley Power Plant, and the MMSD office building provides good access for anglers looking to catch brown trout. McKinley Marina is iced over, and anglers have reported up to 9 inches of ice. However, the ice thickness varies considerably due to aerators running in the area.
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Pike Lake Unit - Cross Country Ski Trails: Trails were last groomed on Jan. 27. The trails are in good condition. Hikers are allowed on the trails west of Powder Hill Road because of cross country ski trails are currently groomed. Winter hiking/snowshoe conditions include 6 inches of snow with patches of ice. Ice fishing is booming on Pike Lake. The lake's Ice Fisheree is planned for Saturday, Feb. 30, 2016. Red-tailed hawks are frequently seen together, as we expect them to be mating during this time, and getting ready to lay their eggs. Bald eagles have been spotted flying above both Pike Lake and Loew Lake. Pike Lake's white-tailed deer and turkey are frequently spotted during the day by hikers recently. - Lisa McCabe, assistant naturalist
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - The forest received 5 to 6 inches of new snow over the night of Jan. 25-26, and the groomers have been out grooming and resetting track on the Greenbush and Zillmer ski trails. Trails are rated very good to excellent as of Jan. 27. However, warm temperatures are in the weekend forecast, so please be sure to check back for the latest trail conditions. The Fond du Lac county snowmobile trails are currently open; however, the Sheboygan County trails are closed. For the latest snowmobile trail conditions, please check with each county's website: - Deb Harder, visitor services associate
Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - It's a great time to take advantage of the last few days of archery deer season in the metro unit. Hunting conditions are excellent, with a light dusting of new snow, longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures forecast for the next few days. Washington County snowmobile trails remain closed due to lack of an adequate snow base. An immature bald eagle has been hanging around the Theresa Marsh impoundments north of Highway 28, just west of Highway 41. Mating, and some egg laying activity for raptors (eagles, hawks, and owls) is occurring right now. Various woodpeckers, juncos, cardinals and other winter bird species have been active at bird feeders. Pike Lake Wildlife Management DNR staff are taking advantage of the frozen conditions to repost parts of two Theresa Marsh waterfowl refuge boundaries. New rules and boundary changes and go into effect Sept. 1. Boundary reconfigurations of the two refuges will result in opening up about 900 acres of primarily non-wetland habitat to hunting and other access. About 1,500 acres of the core wetland areas will remain in refuge status. Last Saturday, Wildlife Biologist Diane Robinson led a winter hike on Theresa Marsh. She identified tracks of numerous mammals including coyote, raccoon, squirrel, rabbit, deer, various small mammals, and otter tracks near the main dam. Ice fishing conditions have been pretty good with lots of action on local lakes. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford
DNR South Central RegionDodgeville DNR Service Center area
Blue Mound State Park - Cross Country Ski trails are open and in good condition. Pleasure Valley has a few icy spots, but the rest of the trails are snow covered. For current up to date conditions, please call the park at 608-437-5711. A trail pass is required for skiing and can be purchased at the park office or trailhead kiosk. Please note pets, hiking, biking and snowshoeing is prohibited on groomed ski trails. Hikers and snowshoers are encouraged to use the Mt. Bike trails. The two 40-foot observation towers are open year-round but not maintain for winter use. Blue Mound's is taking applications for campground host from April through October. The next candlelight ski and hike will be on Feb. 6, 2016, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. - Kevin Swenson, park manager
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - With the recent snow, all snowmobile trails in Columbia County are open. Trail conditions vary throughout the county. Snowmobilers are encouraged to call the Columbia County snowmobile trail hotline at 608-227-7433 prior to operating as weather/trail conditions can change at any time and trails may close. Ice fishing on the lakes in southern Columbia County continues to be marginal. - Ryan Volenberg, conservation warden, Poynette
Dane County - Just a reminder that there are still a few days left in the Metro deer season. After the recent snowstorm and warmer weather deer movement has been good during daylight hours. Recent snows have activated bird feeders again! Of note birders are reporting decent numbers of winter finches including siskins and redpolls at bird feeders across Dane County. These species are somewhat irruptive across the Upper Midwest so take advantage of this opportunity if you can! Great-horned owls are paired up and have begun nesting in Dane County. Now is a great time to confirm nesting pairs for the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas project. Great horned Owls use the nests of crows and other raptors or natural platforms. Winter waterfowl and bald eagle viewing is at peak right now with good ice cover and concentrated patches of open water. Lower Mud Lake in Dane County has more than 100 wintering tundra swans along with good numbers of gadwall, shoveler, mallards, Canada geese, common mergansers and goldeneyes. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg
Devil's Lake State Park - The lake has finally frozen over, but it did so very late in the season. Ice fishermen have been out, but keep in mind the late freeze. At Devil's Lake, ice fishing is moderately popular. Anglers catch northern pike, brown trout and other fish during the winter. Park staff members do not monitor the lake ice condition, thickness or safety; conditions can change from place to place and from day to day. You must use your own judgment in deciding about venturing onto the frozen surface of the lake. During the winter, trails will often be snow-covered or icy, so trails are not recommended for winter hiking; however, trails are not officially closed, so use your own judgment about exploring the trails. Hikers may not hike on the cross-country ski trails when trails are snow covered. Ski trails are skiable, but are not in great condition. Snowshoeing has been increasing greatly in popularity in the last few years. At Devil's Lake, you may snowshoe on any trails except the cross-country ski trails. The popular bluff trails near the lake are steep and stepped in places, and are not ideal for snowshoeing. You might try the Roznos Meadow, Grottoes, Sauk Point, East Bluff Woods and Uplands Loop trails for snowshoeing. There will be a candlelight snowshoe event on Saturday, Feb. 20. More details are coming. - Richard Hesed, visitor services associate
Governor Nelson State Park - Cross-country ski conditions are good. The park received an estimated snow fall of 3-4 inches with complete coverage. Trails were pack Wednesday for the skate lanes. The classic tracks were not set for fear of exposing grass, but the tracks have been set by the skiers. - Rene Lee - park manager
DNR West Central RegionLa Crosse DNR Service Center area
Pepin County - There are deteriorating snowmobile trail conditions with Pepin County's trails recently closing. Ice conditions are good with anglers having fair to good success. Deer are dropping antlers regularly with reports of many sheds being found. - JJ Redemann, conservation warden, Durand
Vernon County - Tree sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, cardinals, black-capped chickadees, woodpeckers, horned larks, white-breasted nuthatches, blue jays, American goldfinches, and tufted titmice are the majority of songbirds currently active in the area. Many people who feed songbirds have reported sporadic feeding activity at their feeders this winter, as moderate snow depths have allowed songbirds the luxury of obtaining enough food from the fields and forests. Unfortunately, people who feed songbirds during the winter have been deprived of the enjoyment that winter feeding provides. That can certainly change in a hurry, though, with a significant snow accumulation. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Black River Falls DNR Service Center area
Black River State Forest - Ski trails were groomed on Tuesday, Jan. 26 and are in good condition. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid to high 30s this weekend. Join us this Saturday, Jan. 30 from 6-9 p.m. at the Smrekar warming shelter for the annual candlelight ski, hike, and snowshoe event. A 1.5 mile ski trail and a 1 mile snowshoe/hiking trail will be lit with candle luminaries. Warm up around a bonfire or in the indoor heated shelter. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - The ski trails at Hoffman Hills Recreation Area are holding steady with good conditions. We don't plant to groom trails this week with the warmer weather and rain in the forecast. There is a solid base for skaters and there were tracks set for striders last week. Snowmobile trails look to be closed or are closed due to warmer weather in Dunn and Eau Claire Counties. Check Travel Wisconsin for up to date information. - Calvin Kunkle, ranger
Red Cedar State Trail - The Red Cedar State Trail was groomed for skiing on Wednesday, Jan. 27. Trail is in good condition for the candlelight ski coming up this Friday, Jan. 29. If skiing isn't your thing we also will have trails setup for snowshoeing and hiking. See the events calendar for more details. Snowmobile trails look to be closed or are closed due to warmer weather in Dunn and Eau Claire Counties. Check Travel Wisconsin for up to date information. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Adams County - The eagles are in good numbers below the Petenwell Dam. Also the snowmobile trails are closed in Adams County and you will need to call the Adams County Parks Department at 608-339-4230 for trail information. - Wade Romberg, conservation warden, Friendship
Buckhorn State Park - Cross-country ski trails were groomed on Jan. 27 and are in fair to good condition for skiing. - Heather Wolf, park manager
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