A Northwoods Almanac for July 22 – August 4, 2016
Four Thoughts on Moose
1 - The legal status of moose (northwestern subspecies Alces alces andersoni) varies throughout the upper Midwest.
- In Michigan, moose occur in the Upper Peninsula and on Isle Royale. A 2013 survey estimated about 451 moose in the U.P., but a 2015 estimated a 28% decline to about 323 moose. Moose are classified in Michigan as a species of special concern, but the status does not afford the animals or their habitat any protections. They are designated as a game animal, but the state has yet to authorize a hunt.
- In Minnesota, the moose population has declined precipitously – down 50% from a decade ago – and hunting was discontinued in 2013. The moose is now considered a species of special concern, with no hunting season.
- In North Dakota the statewide population is stable to increasing, particularly in the northwestern prairie country, and is large enough to warrant a fall hunting season – the state issued 203 permits in 2015.
- In Wisconsin, numbers are exceedingly low, perhaps 20 to 40, and there is no hunting season. Moose are not listed in Wisconsin as endangered, threated, or a species of special concern.
In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a status review for the U.S. population of northwestern (“our”) moose. A 60-day information request period is currently underway, which closes on August 2. Before making a finding on whether to list the U.S. population of northwestern moose as threatened or endangered, they must gather and analyze available information, a process expected to take several years.
2- Shortly after after a moose was shot and killed on its reservation on 7/6, the Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa's tribal council passed an emergency rule banning the killing of moose within the reservation. The tribe issued this statement: “The tribe does not condone shooting moose, recognizing the rarity of the animal in this region.” The rule makes it illegal within the reservation to take, attempt to take, harass, intentionally kill or wound or attempt to kill or wound or transport or possess any moose, as well as white or albino deer, elk, cougar, gray wolf, badger, lynx, marten, flying squirrel or wolverine. The statement further reads: “As in any community, one person’s actions do not dictate the community’s feelings on this issue.” It’s important to note that the tribe has jurisdiction on hunting on its reservation, and prior to this incident, it was not illegal for a tribal member to harvest a moose.
3- There are still moose in our area. I received this email from Jill Wilm on 7/10: “Forgive the quality of this photo, but we were riding our motorcycles and came around a curve to see what looked like someone's mule on the loose clomping down Cty. J outside of Mercer. Of course, it was soon obvious what it really was [a young bull moose] when we got closer. It was quite a feat keeping my motorcycle in gear, reaching down for my ever-ready pocket camera with one hand and staying upright while I snapped the photos. We followed him at a respectful distance for about a half mile until he turned into a bog and disappeared.”
|photo by Jill Wilm|
On 7/14, Rosie Richter told us of a young bull moose she observed on Hwy. 47 just north of the intersection with Hwy. 182.
Still another young bull is being seen frequently over by Crab Lake.
Two years ago, a yearling moose was hit and killed by a car less than a mile south of our home in Manitowish on Hwy. 47. The adult cow, presumably the mother, was seen the next day watching as the DNR collected the carcass.
My point is this: While no one should be shooting a moose given their rarity, a few are still roaming in our area, and it’s plausible that a mated pair resides somewhere between Manitowish and Lac du Flambeau.
4 – The invective delivered at the Native American community should stop. It’s a great shame that this moose was shot, but it brings far greater shame on those who condemn an entire community for one individual’s actions. The much larger issue is how to address the precipitous declines in moose populations in Minnesota and Michigan, as well as New England states like Vermont and New Hampshire. Literally thousands of moose have died in northern Minnesota in the last decade due to health problems like parasites and infection. Researchers also suspect that climate change plays a role. Warming temperatures, especially in the winter, are apparently weakening moose and making them more susceptible to disease and ticks.
Nixon Creek White Water Lilies
Earlier this week, Callie and I paddled Nixon Creek, which meanders for several miles before emptying into the Manitowish River. The highlight of the trip was the initial paddle on Nixon Creek through an absolute profusion of white water lilies. The lily pads carpeted the creek from bank to bank, making paddling like a walk through molasses. The beauty of thousands of white water lily flowers was, of course, the antidote to the struggle, as was the complete silence we experienced on the creek. Water lily stems rise from extensive large rhizomes in the sediments, and we saw dozens of these floating on the surface, all about the size of softball bat. Since muskrats and beavers find the rhizomes to be a delicacy, they were the likely culprits.
Nixon Lake and Nixon Creek were designated as a State Natural Area in 2007 in an effort to protect the natural features of the undeveloped lake and creek. The lake covers 110 acres, but only has a maximum depth of five feet. Its shallow sheet of water supports spacious beds of aquatic plants, including wild rice, and yes, many more white water lilies, along with a riot of pondweeds, grasses, bulrushes, sedges, and wildflowers.
The creek flows through a beautiful sedge meadow, which supports numerous species of waterfowl. Our wildlife highlight was watching a female northern harrier circle above us and call and call. Harriers nest on the ground in wetlands and grasslands, so I’m unsure if we were close to its nest, and thus causing its agitation.
Last week, Mary and I led a hike at Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island for the Madeline Island Wilderness Preserve, a non-profit land trust that owns over 2,600 acres on the island. The highlight of the walk was one particular tree that was loaded with birds, including yellow-rumped warblers, cedar waxwings, and pine warblers. The adult birds were all feeding chicks from a hatch of tiny green caterpillars. They’d forage for the caterpillars, grab one, then fly over to a chick and feed it. They were seemingly unconcerned with our presence, so we got close-up, sustained views of the action.
Mary, Callie, and I have been watching our feeders in the last few weeks and have also noticed the number of adults that grab a sunflower seed, extract the seed from the hull, and then feed a chick. We have watched numerous purples finches feeding their young, as well as a male hairy woodpecker feeding a chick.
Most songbirds fledge within two weeks of hatching, which is no mean feat given that most chicks are born blind and featherless. Their growth rate is astounding really, but once they fledge, they still have a lot of growing up to do. Most new fledglings have almost no skills: they can’t feed themselves, can’t fly well, and can’t do anything to defend themselves. Nearly half won’t make it past their first week or two of young adulthood.
So why fledge so early? Because after staying two weeks in the nest, predators often have figured out where the nest is from watching the parents come and go. A fledged chick, capable of running and perching, can change hiding places and can hide separately from its siblings.
The parents are thus tasked with feeding the chicks for another two weeks or more until they really can fend for themselves. But as with most coming of age stories, the adults have to know when to help and when to let their young figure it out on their own. It’s interesting to watch, so keep an eye on your feeders to watch the progress.
July is a verdant time, and the flowers that do best in full sun are now at their peak. One species I truly enjoy is spreading dogbane - its perfume is as fragrant as any flower in the Northwoods. The stem contains a milky sap, very similar to a milkweed. In fact, the sap contains a toxic cardiac glycoside that is fatal to humans, dogs, and livestock – hence the name dogbane. It can, and will, be the bane of your existence if you choose to eat it.
Monarch butterflies are known for only utilizing milkweed, but will in fact feed and pupate on spreading dogbane. So, while searching for the gold-dotted pupal cases on milkweed, don’t forget to check out the dogbane.
The 11+ inches of rain that fell recently on areas around the Bad River Indian Reservation illustrates perfectly the destruction caused by a 100-year rain event. Mother Earth bats last in these events, and no matter how sophisticated our engineering wizardry, we’re not much of a match for this level of power. Thus, the danger of CAFOs and massive open pit mines situated along numerous streams leading into Lake Superior. Yes, we need metals, and we need livestock, but they must not be placed in areas of steep topography where numerous streams tumble down into world-class wetlands and the largest, most pristine lake in the world. It’s just common sense.
Clay Schroeder sent a photo of the second nesting of bluebirds in his field in Hazelhurst. He noted, “The first five have fledged, and the adults nested again laying four eggs. This one hatched today, July 10th.”
|photo by Clay Schroeder|
Kent Dahlgren sent a photo of a merganser taking-off from the water. Kent wrote, “Took the photo on Murphy Lake from a kayak in Presque Isle over 4th of July weekend. I didn't realize that they use their feet to help get airborne.”
|photo by Kent Dahlgren|
The peak Delta Aquarid meteor shower occurs in the predawn on 7/28. This is a modest meteor shower – look for an average of 15 to 25 per hour.
On 8/4, look after dusk for Venus 3 degrees north of the waxing crescent moon. On 8/5, look for Jupiter directly above the moon, nearly resting on it.