Because feelings run so deep in the wildlife and environmental arena we are making this a "moderated" blog. All comments will be read by the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy before being posted. Please keep your comments factual, smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Spy Something.....

This was taken in Luce County, MI by Ken with one of his trail cameras.  Look to the left of the screen and you will see the subject of this photo.  This animal is sitting on a propane tank (there is a hook on the propane tank) and this animal is sitting on top of it. 

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cat v. Dog

J. from Kalamazoo asked us this question:

I was wondering if there have been any cougar sightings in Kalamazoo or Van Buren counties? Back in June, our 17 lb. cat vanished and this past week, we had another large cat disappear. The neighboring mobile home park had 7 inquiries about missing cats this week and another neighbor said their cat was missing, as well. In years past, we had coyotes in the neighborhood but as our area developed, they disappeared. We could always tell when the coyotes had captured prey, as the yelping could be heard for some distance. This time around, no noises and multiple disappearances. We have lots of deer in our neighborhood, as well, and our dog is disturbed by something in the vacant lot next door (our neighborhood is heavily wooded). Could it be a cougar?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pseudorabies Found in Michigan

Pseudorabies was found in a wild hog trapped in Midland County in June.  The animal was one of five wild hogs trapped in back-to-back nights on a farm north of U.S.-10.  The trapping effort was part of a program in that area involving the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy.

Pseudorabies is a disease potentially devastating to domestic swine.  Yet, Michigan Department of Agriculture Director Keith Creagh downplays the recent find, saying it was "not unexpected."  Creagh has vehemently fought a ban on rraising/possessing wild hogs in Michigan, but also say the state must reduce its wild hog numbers.  Is there a disconnect here?  Click here to read the Gongwer report written in August of 2011.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Strange Politics Threaten Feral Hog Ban

Michigan has a problem on its hands.  Please see our latest editorial. 

Trading A Landscape For A Bridge

While many citizens are aware that Michigan has a growing wild hog problem, few know about the strange politics threatening to eliminate the ban on these invasive pests.  Michigan has a feral hog problem because game ranches began stocking wild hogs with razorback or Eurasian blood lines for their shooting clients in the 1990s.  By 2001, some of these animals had escaped and began proliferating in the wild, and causing the same type of damage to agricultural and natural resources as occurs in many other states.  No amount of hunting and trapping can reverse this situation until the stream of escapes from game ranches and breeding facilities is stopped. That’s why the Michigan DNR issued a possession ban on non-domestic swine last December.

This ban order included a July 8, 2011 enforcement date, but several game ranchers elected to use the intervening six months to lobby for anti-ban legislation instead of phasing-out their hog stock.  This legislation was introduced in the Michigan House in May, and proposes to replace the DNR ban with a set of fencing standards and other requirements that experts say will not contain these escape-artist animals.  Moreover, most game ranches have deer and other species to offer their clients in lieu of hogs.  As a result, informal vote counts showed that the ban order was comfortably ahead of anti-ban legislation in both the House Agriculture Committee and the full House following the Committee’s four hearings.                                                                          

However, House Speaker Jase Bolger, of Marshall, and several representatives from districts with major game ranch operations continued to push for anti-ban legislation.  Speaker Bolger has been a consistent opponent of a ban, and his role has generated a large amount of speculation about his motives because he does not have a game ranch constituency and does have an agricultural district that would be badly damaged by feral hogs.  But, the Speaker also has a staff member who used to work for one of the most aggressively anti-ban Michigan game ranch operators.     

Whatever the motivation, Speaker Bolger was so determined to obtain anti-ban legislation that he used his leadership powers to move it directly to the full House when it became apparent that the House Agriculture Committee would not approve it.  This “discharge” process is rarely used, and was extraordinary for legislation that could not gain Committee approval following four well-attended hearings.

The full House seemed to provide the Speaker with another impossible hurdle, but the Snyder Administration quickly stepped in and began assisting him.  Governor Rick Snyder, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, and some of the Governor’s top aides launched an intense vote wrangling effort in the House that allowed anti-ban legislation to pass on June 30.   The pressures were particularly intense on Republican House members, and representatives Mike Callton, Bob Genetski, Holly Hughes, Joel Johnson, Kenneth Kurtz, Matt Lori, Aric Nesbitt, Amanda Price, and Bruce Rendon deserve special mention for ignoring these pressures and joining a large majority of the House Democrats in voting against anti-ban legislation                                                                   

The Snyder Administration’s involvement has been peculiar for its intensity and lack of interest in facts.  The common assumption in Lansing political circles is that the Governor is assisting the Speaker on feral hogs in exchange for the Speaker’s help on some other issue.  And this help is widely assumed to involve delivering Republican House votes for a publicly rather than privately financed new bridge across the Detroit River.  In other words, the feral hog threat to Michigan’s $71 billion agricultural industry and priceless natural resources seems to have become a pawn in a cold political bargain.

The Michigan Senate will vote on the same anti-ban legislation in September, and the Governor has pressured the DNR to extend its ban enforcement date until after that action.  Our Senators are obviously going to receive the same top-down pressures that turned the House vote.  But Senators are more independent, and citizens can help save the DNR ban by asking their Senator to ignore the politics and vote against anti-ban legislation.   The anti-ban bills that need to defeated are HB 4503, HB 4504, HB 4505, HB 4506, and HB 4699, and the website at identifies our State Senators by district and provides contact information for each of them. 

Michigan has all of the ingredients for the “Hogs Gone Wild” devastation that is commonly shown on reality television if our political leaders do not start treating feral hogs as a dire threat instead of a political bargaining chip.   

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Emeral Ash Borer

Many Michigan land owners have had trouble with the emeral ash borer; espcially when it comes to their ash trees.  Personally, I know that my parents have lost some ash trees to these insects. 

After you are done reading perhaps you will tell us of your problems that you have had with these insects and/or solutions to saving your trees.  Comments are welcome.

The outbreak of emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive, exotic insect, has left many Michigan woodlot owners wondering how to best utilize ash trees.  There are still lots of spots in our state that have not yet been affected much by EAB and cutting larger ash trees (greater than 15 inches in diameter) before EAB moves in certainly makes good economic sense and could play a role in disease control.  But, it is sometimes tough to predict how soon EAB will hit some of those (currently) disease-free trees.  Inquiries to local Michigan Department of Agriculture may yield some insight about how quickly landowners need to act.

Once a tree is infested by EAB, the leaves start coming off and new shoots start to sprout near the base of the tree.  The ash wood will retain most of its lumber value for a year or two after that, perhaps bringing $80 to $100 per thousand board feet.  But once the bark starts falling off, timber buyers will likely consider the wood suitable only for making pallets and the value drops off dramatically.   Thus, landowners wanting the most cash for their trees must move quickly to attract buyers.  There is a lot of ash available to be cut, but most of it is smaller than timber buyers seek and many landowners don’t have enough of it to warrant a logging project.  So, landowners with big ash trees and good volumes can still expect a number of timber buyers to bid.
Ash trees killed by EAB have value as firewood, provided that wood is not moved outside quarantined areas.  Ash logs split and dry fairly easily and have long been favored by homeowners who heat with wood and campers alike.  And there are unique local markets for ash wood.  For example, some Native Americans occasionally purchase ash wood for basket-making.

The ash tree (white ash, green ash, and black ash) has great importance in Native culture as it was and still is the tree used to make baskets and other utility containers, according to Eva Menefee, of the Oneida Tribe.  “Many of the most beautiful baskets that have lasted throughout the years were those made from wood of the ash tree,” she added.  “While this tree was not one of the defined sacred plants, through tradition, the ash tree played an important role in the daily lives of Native people.  It was used for thousands of years, to provide Native peoples with material to make items that were used daily and on special occasions.”
Landowners who aren’t interested in selling ash wood can opt to leave some or all of the larger (greater than 12 inches in diameter) diseased trees standing.  That will benefit cavity dwelling wildlife, especially woodpeckers, owls, song birds, squirrels, raccoons and opossums.

In 1988, the Forest Service not only began retaining dead and dying trees after timber harvests, it began experimenting with different methods of creating such habitat components in stands where they were absent.  In one effort the Forest Service and the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy joined in a partnership to create snags by topping trees at a height of 20-25 feet with a mechanical shear.  This was found to be a cost effective way to help cavity nesting wildlife.  Ash trees tend to develop valuable cavities in about six to seven years regardless if the trees are killed by EAB or a mechanical method.

You Can Save Your Ash Tree
Most homeowners in the Lower Peninsula have already lost the ash trees in their yard.  But if you have a specimen tree or two that you want to keep alive, the following is recommended:

Purchase the soil insecticide imadacloprid at your garden center or box store.  A common brand is Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Insect Control.  Follow the instructions to mix the appropriate amount for the size of tree(s) and spread around tree, about 18’’ from the trunk.
Before drenching the soil remove all mulch and organic material so that the insecticide gets into the soil immediately.  Don’t treat your tree if the soil is water-logged.  Treat ash trees once annually in mid-fall or mid to late spring.

Keep it Wild!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Flies on the Beach

This is an amazing story that was published in our newsletter, The Wildlife Volunteer, earlier this year.  It is amazing to think that a third or fourth generation Monarch butterfly can fly back to a place that they have never been before, and know their way.  After the article there are some fun facts of the life cycle of a Monarch butterfly.  I hope that you all enjoy this article as much as I did.  Also, if you would like to become a member of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy you would recieve The Wildlife Volunteer as part of your membership.  Please contact the Conservancy if you are interested.

Thank you,

Please let me know what you think about the article.  Comments are welcome.

And onward they come in an endless string stretching hundreds of miles to the east, from Canada and the Eastern Upper Peninsula.  Their line goes back countless millennia to a time when those who would change the environment lived in caves.  How does this creature know to follow the beach as it begins its 2500 mile trip to the forests of north central Mexico? 

Each year in August I go to the beach to witness their herky-jerky dance westward occasionally flirting with the water’s edge of a lake called Michigan.  They flit and they flat past me as I stand motionless on the beach.  If I’m still enough they may land on my head or my arm.  The air to the east is filled with butterflies as far as can be discerned and every 15 seconds one passes by. In the Manistique area the best fly watching seems to be mid-August.   

Most of the butterflies following the lakeshore west tend to pile up on the Stonington Peninsula where they rest before making the big water crossing, perhaps the most perilous part of their pilgrimage.  They wait until a north or northeast wind aids them in their crossing.  After hitting the Dorr Peninsula, in Wisconsin, the rest of their trip is over land all the way to Mexico.  The only insect in the world that migrates like a bird will spend the winter in a grove of oyamel fir trees near El Rosario.

The monarch butterfly was first described by the early taxonomist Linnaeus in 1758.  It is called a milkweed butterfly of the family Nymphalidae.  Members of the family can be found on several continents.  The monarch has the peculiar behavior of going south to overwinter.  Most insects winter in place as adults or as eggs. 

Since most insects live less than one year, how does the monarch return to its northern range to breed every year?  Easy – the trip spans multiple generations, as many as four.

In late winter, a 7-month old butterfly in Mexico may breed and then begin the northward journey to Texas where she will lay her eggs on a milkweed plant.  Two months later the new adults will wing farther north to find milkweeds for egg-laying.  Monarchs that lay eggs in Michigan are the third or fourth generation of the year.  It is thought that the offspring of these butterflies will return in four generations to breed in roughly the same location.

After the last generation of the year, born in Canada and the Northern United States, reach adulthood they face the arduous task of keeping their bloodline alive by going the distance, to Mexico, to winter.  But how do they find this ancestral wintering ground, never having been there?  DNA!  No animal on earth better symbolizes the mystery of DNA messaging than the monarch butterfly.

Scientists have discovered the monarch possesses a time-compensated sun compass that depends on an internal clock based in their antennae.  Recent research has also shown that monarch butterflies can use the earth’s magnetic field for orientation.  But only DNA guidance can explain how 2 month old adults beginning a journey in Michigan will end up in the same exact trees their great, great grandparents used to overwinter a year earlier.

To win World War II, the allies had to break the Nazi communication codes.  Because of our increasingly unpredictable climate, mankind will have to decipher the DNA code that governs monarch behavior, to get clues how to protect these beautiful and unique creatures.

Witness the Spectacular

The flutterby takes place in late summer and early fall on the north shore of Lake Michigan.  Delta County’s Stonington Peninsula, and in particular, the cedar trees and lands surrounding the Peninsula Point Lighthouse Park at the end of the point becomes the resting place for thousands of monarchs waiting to cross Lake Michigan.

The Park is managed by the U.S. Forest Service’s Rapid River/Manistique Ranger District office in Rapid River.  To get daily updates on the monarch migration on the Stonington Peninsula call (906) 474-6442, extension 110.

The life cycle of the miraculous monarch butterfly has four distinct stages:

  1. The eggs are laid on milkweed plants during spring and summer breeding months. 
  2. The eggs hatch after 4 days revealing worm-like larvae, the caterpillars.  The caterpillars consume their egg cases, then feed on milkweed and store a toxin called cardiac glycoside which is poisonous to birds and mammals.  During the caterpillar stage, monarchs store energy to carry them through the non-feeding pupa stage.  The caterpillar stage lasts around 2 weeks.
  3. In the pupa or chrysalis stage, the caterpillar spins a silk pad on a twig or leaf, and hangs from this pad by its last pair of prologs.  It hangs upside down in the shape of a ‘J’, and then molts, leaving itself incased in an articulated green exoskeleton.  At this point, hormonal changes occur, leading to the development of a butterfly (metamorphosis).  The chrysalis darkens and the exoskeleton becomes transparent a day before it emerges, and its orange and black wings can be seen.
  4. The butterfly emerges after about two pupal weeks and hangs from the split chrysalis for several hours until its wings are dry.  Meanwhile fluids are pumped into the crinkled wings until they become full and stiff.  Finally the monarch spreads its wings, quivers them to make sure they are stiff, and then flies away, to feed on a variety of flowers, including milkweed flowers, red clover and goldenrod.
Keep It Wild!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Asian Carp Debate Heating Up

There is now ample evidence that the electrical barriers that the Army Corps of Engineers are counting on are not completely effective.  But ACE seems oblivious to the facts.  While the Great Lakes states are seeking to protect fishing and boating industries that generate about $25 billion annually, the ACE is more concerned about protecting shipping and tourism in the Chicago area.  The electronic barriers have bought the agency and politicians time, but the evidence is mounting that time is really on the side of the carp.

Many citizens are concerned about the Asian carp crisis.  But the complexity of the issues is overwhelming to much of the public.  Around the same time the positive DNA samples were posted, the Detroit Free Press published a five-part series of articles by Tina Lam that clarified some of those issues, and provided useful historical background on the Asian carp invasion.  Key points included:

·         Federal and state governments actually played a major role in releasing Asian carp into the environment.  Government biologists planted Asian carp in sewage lagoons and other waters in hopes the exotic species could help in pollution control.  Some fish subsequently escaped.  Officials admit they raised Asian carp in the 1970s and 80s when nobody seemed too concerned about invasive species.

·         Government officials failed to recognize the extent of the problem as it grew; now Asian carp are in a third of the rivers in the central U.S. from Louisiana to Minnesota.

·         Most of the public’s attention has focused on the adequacy of the electronic barriers to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, but there has been little interest in getting rid of the menacing carp in the countless rivers and streams in 26 states where they have already taken over.

·         A national strategy to combat Asian carp that was drafted five years ago has sat on the shelf as no funding has been provided for its implementation.

·         The government’s current reaction to Asian carp is still a patchwork, with funding for carp control only available to the geographically-restricted Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  What is needed is a coordinated, national effort supported by all states in the Mississippi River, Ohio River, and Great Lakes watersheds.

To view the Free Press’ articles see

Monday, August 1, 2011

Miracle Solution for "Skunked" Pets

Chemist Paul Krebaum discovered a miracle cure for eliminating the odor from pets that have been "skunked." Combine one quart of three percent hydrogen peroxide (available from the drugstore), 1/4 cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and one teaspoon of liquid dish soap, such as Ivory. Immediately apply to the stinky pet, then rinse thoroughly. The result is astonishing, according to Gina Spadafori, who recently provided the recipe in the Sacramento Bee. The solution is not available in sotres because it cannot be bottled. The merging of the hydorgen peroxide and baking soda creates a lot of oxygen in a hurry. This reaction, which is key to the solution, would cause an explosion in the closed container. The oxygen combines with the molecules that make up the skunk odor and neutralizes them.

Keep It Wild!