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, September 28, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Harvest Social 2011


Hosted by the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy & Clinton County Department of Waste Management

Saturday, October 8 – 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. – Rain or Shine!  Bengel Wildlife Center – 6380 Drumheller Rd – Bath  

·        1:30 p.m. – Wayne JacksonJoin Mr. Wayne Jackson in a historical journey dating back 10,000 years.  With Mr. Jackson, a Tuscarora Indian, as your guide you will travel back in time and explore the Anasazi and Hopewell cultures through storytelling and dance. 

·        3:00 p.m. – Endangered Species! -  Visit with animals brought by the Potter Park Zoo Society.  Mostly endangered species and some common Michigan animals.  Learn more about these animals and even touch them! 

The following activities will run throughout the day –

Explore the Bengel Wildlife Center grounds by taking a habitat hike or bog tour

Take a horse-drawn wagon ride and learn about the history of prairies in Michigan.

Bob for apples, create a craft, carve a duck head or go on a nature scavenger hunt.  Win a prize!

Learn about honey bees, visit the Dancing Crane Gift Shop and more.

The Harvest Social is Open to the Public and Most Activities are Free
(there is a .25 fee for some activities) – Rain or Shine!

Who Will Be Here
Wayne Jackson
The Potter Park Zoo Society (with animals)
P.J.'s Percherons L.C. (Horse Drawn Carriage Service)
Risks Apiary and Honey House
Farmers Market
Harris Nature Center

Please JOIN US for a day of fun!

The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tennessee Declares War on Wild Hogs

Tennessee has done an “about face” on wild hogs.  State officials no longer consider wild hogs as game animals and will try to eradicate the invasive exotic species.

“Back in the early 20th Century, Tennessee and North Carolina were the epicenter of “wild boar” hunting in the eastern United State,” noted researcher Dr. John Mayer, of South Carolina.  “North Carolina now has a bill in the state legislature to remove the game status of wild pigs statewide…Tennessee has now decided to change its stance on wild pigs as big game…..”

Despite environmental and agricultural threats, Tennessee has, until now, been ambivalent about wild hogs.  State biologists even periodically trapped hogs around the National Park and other areas and released them in several state game areas.  That long-standing practice has now been dropped under the new plan.
With wild hogs now placed in a “nuisance” category, Tennessee allows aggressive action to get rid of the animals, especially on private land.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Did you know that for only $40 a year you can become a member of Michigan Wildlife Conservancy?  With a donation of $40 you will receive a copy of each issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Wildlife Volunteer.  With the great articles and information given it is always interesting and fun to read.  If you would like to become a member please contact Jennifer at or see our website at 

I don't know if you have heard or not but we do have a Facebook page.  We have many members, great articles and lots of information.  LIKE us!  If you have any questions feel free to ask and we will answer them as quickly as possible.  Please click here

Also, let us know if there is an issue you would like to know more about.  I will use it as a subject for this blog or even perhaps use it as the subject for one of our stories in our newsletter. 

Thank you,

The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sturgeon Get Help From New Reef

Lake sturgeon will find prime spawning grounds next spring thanks to a new reef underway  in the St. Clair River.  The reef is being constructed of limestone and other types of rock and is modeled after a reef installed three years ago at the head of Fighting Island in the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.  The Fighting Island reef was the 2008-2009 Featured Project of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy and the first Canada-U.S. jointly funded fish restoration project in the Great Lakes.  The Conservancy was the only U.S. non-profit organization to make a substantial financial contribution to the Fighting Island Reef and also provided valuable technical assistance during the design and cost analysis phases of that unique project. 

The Conservancy is also playing a key role in the St. Clair River reef construction, administering a $75,000 construction grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Grant Program.  The Conservancy is working with University of Michigan Sea Grant Program personnel as well as the Fish and Wildlife Service.  The total cost of constructing the reef will be more than $335,000.  Most of the cost is being covered by other federal grants which will also fund a long-term research project to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of reef building in the Great Lakes.

Once common and widespread, the lake sturgeon dramatically declined around 1900; it now has a limited distribution in the Great Lakes region, and is a threatened species in Michigan waters.  Inland populations in Michigan are sparse and restricted primarily to the Manistique, Menominee, Sturgeon, and Indian Rivers in the Upper Peninsula, and the Cheboygan River (including Burt, Mullet, and Black Lakes) in the Lower Peninsula.  Occasionally, sturgeon show up in other rivers such as the Kalamazoo, Grand, Muskegon and Saginaw.

Lake sturgeon spend a lot of their time in waters 20 to 40 feet deep.  They spawn in May or June in a variety of depths, typically 6 to 28 feet.  While on river spawning grounds, sturgeon often break the surface with porpoise-like jumps.  Females lay several hundred thousand eggs at a time, become sexually mature at 25 years of age and spawn every 4 to 6 years. Males mature at age 15 and spawn every other year.  Some individual sturgeon have lived 150 years.  Sturgeon feed on sand or muck bottoms where they suck in bottom organisms including crayfish, snails, and larvae of mayflies and other insects.

The new reef is located at the head of the Middle Channel in the St. Clair River delta.  Project planners with the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service consider the site nearly ideal.  The water currents and bottom type are well-suited for reef construction.  The site is near an old coal cinder dumping grounds that lake sturgeon have been spawning on and just upstream from a large wetland complex which will ensure that larval sturgeon will be carried to good nursery habitat as they leave the spawning beds.

The St. Clair River historically served as an important spawning grounds for many other native species as well as sturgeon.  But channelization, loss of coastal wetlands, filling/armoring shorelines, water pollution, and dredging limestone bedrock and gravel caused the sturgeon population to drop to less than one percent of its former abundance.  Many conservationists doubted whether the area’s once famed lake sturgeon fishery could ever bounce back.  However, with improvements to water quality over the past 40 years, federal scientists have begun to test whether small, strategically-placed spawning reefs can benefit the unique species.  The Fighting Island reef’s success helped pave the way for the St. Clair River reef and this new effort may be a catalyst for a series of reef projects in the future.  Young sturgeon are already coming off the reef at Fighting Island and planners expect the St. Clair reef to also be successful.

The St. Clair River reef will likely benefit walleyes, whitefish, the endangered northern madtom  and other fishes in addition to sturgeon.  “We will continue to monitor the Fighting Island reef as well as thoroughly evaluate the St. Clair River reef,” said Jim Boase, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The slow growth and longevity of the sturgeon requires long-term studies to determine impacts of reefs on the population, but we will gradually gain important clues.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Natural Salt Licks: A Glimpse of the Past

The term “lick” is an old name for places where deer and other wildlife come to lick salt.  Such North American sites are typically fed by saltwater springs.  Michigan originally had licks in places such as Saginaw and the appropriately named Saline, but salt licks gained their greatest fame in Kentucky Territory.  The settlers who pushed across the Appalachians into present day Kentucky and Tennessee in the 1770s found numerous licks there, and prized them for the game they attracted and the salt that could be extracted in iron boiling pots.  Salt was almost as important as game on the frontier because of its use in preserving meat and tanning hides. 

These trans-Appalachian licks also became famous for the bones of animals that had gotten mired in the soft soil or been ambushed by predators.  These included the bones of Ice Age species like mastodons and giant ground sloths.  In fact, Kentucky’s Big Bone Lick is commonly described as the birthplace of American vertebrate paleontology because of its importance in understanding extinct ice age fauna.

Nearly all of the natural salt licks that dotted the Eastern United States in pre-settlement times were changed beyond recognition by salt works and other development in the 1800’s.  However, I had an unusual opportunity to visit an unspoiled salt lick that provides an interesting glimpse of an all-but-vanished part of our natural history.

I never imagined seeing a large lick in an unspoiled condition like Daniel Boone and his contemporaries found them until I was fishing in Northern Ontario a few years ago.  One of my Canadian friends had mentioned visiting a remote salt lick during his days as a trapper.  After he described the lick as a large one that was heavily used by wildlife and scattered with animal bones, three of us quickly decided it would be more interesting to visit this lick than go fishing.

The lick that we found in thick boreal forest in the Lake Nipigon region of Ontario consisted of a large patch of clay with salty water percolating through it to the surface.  We visited the lick in heavy rain when it probably had more standing water than usual, but my photograph still provides a sense of how thoroughly the surface was churned by animal tracks.  The photograph also shows the surrounding forest that contained several well-worn animal trails leading to the lick.

While the rain and sticky clay prevented us from conducting a thorough examination, the lick was roughly square and at least 100 by 100 feet in size.  It did not have any vegetation except some scattered clumps of grass.  The salty water appeared to be seeping up to the surface in numerous locations, and there was no sulfuric smell or other distinctive odor.  We did not find any evidence of other human visitors to the site, and did not see any large animals there on a very stormy day.  However, one of my companions saw two moose using the lick when he re-visited it in better weather a few weeks later.

Most of the tracks that literally covered the lick were moose tracks, and most of the bones scattered around it also appeared to come from moose.  However, we also saw wolf, bear, and caribou tracks.  Bone counts could be misleading because moose bones undoubtedly persist much longer than ones from smaller animals.

It is extremely unlikely that this remote lick has ever been studied, but Ontario scientists did examine some similar-looking but more accessible licks in the same Nipigon region in the 1980’s.  Among their findings, the scientists confirmed that these springs were being pushed up to the surface through fractures in the bedrock by hydrostatic pressure and were very salty.  They also tentatively concluded that this salt was being dissolved out of the bedrock instead of coming from ancient seawater.

Our own historical licks in the U.S. functioned in the same basic way, but probably had a few chemical differences from these northern ones.  They also had the potential to hold more fossils because of the timing of the great glacial retreat.  Southern Michigan has produced a large number of Ice Age fossils like mastodons, mammoths, woodland musk oxen, and giant beaver for hundreds of years after the ice front receded northward.  But none of these animals ever slurped salt from the lick that I visited because Northern Ontario was still covered by the Laurentide ice sheet when they mysteriously disappeared about 11,000 to 12,000 years ago.