For this week, anyway, call it the Eagle State. Or, the Whitetail State.
The Badger State is about a whole lot of both right now.
On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported that the state’s eagle population has soared to record numbers. Aerial surveys found 1,465 bald eagle nests occupied in 2015 — 121 more than in 2013, the last year the statewide survey was conducted.
“It’s certainly a great story,” said Jim Woodford, an eagle surveyor and section chief for the DNR’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program. “Eagle populations have recovered from near-extinction in Wisconsin in the 1970s thanks to protections and a cleaner environment, and their numbers continue to increase and exceed our expectations.
“Ten years ago we thought 800 breeding pairs were likely, but the current total is well over that. We’ve seen them recolonize almost every county in the state while increasing even in those areas where they’re likely reaching carrying capacity and running out of room.”
According to the DNR, the recovery resulted from the national banning of the pesticide DDT in 1972 (and in Wisconsin in 1969), stiffer protection of eagles, improved water quality in lakes and rivers, nest protection, and the reintroduction of eagles in some areas. Eagles were removed from Wisconsin’s endangered species list in 1997 and from the federal list in 2007.
Wisconsin’s ongoing Adopt-An-Eagle Nest program and eagle license plates continue to help the cause, too. The DNR’s Adopt-An-Eagle Nest program allows sponsors, for a minimum contribution of $100, to receive an adoption certificate, an aerial photo showing the location of the “adopted” eagle’s nest, results from the surveys and a full-color eagle calendar.
The new license plate provides a $25 annual donation to the Endangered Resources Fund. The DNR is promoting it as a holiday gift, complete with a new printable holiday card.
And an early Christmas gift of sorts for deer hunters: A four-day antlerless hunt Dec. 10-13 that gives them additional opportunities to pursue and harvest antlerless deer. All deer hunters with a valid antlerless tag for the county and land type they are hunting, except qualified U.S. Armed Forces members and Class A and C disabled permit holders, may harvest antlerless deer during this four-day gun season, the DNR said.
Also, the Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey will remain active until all deer seasons have ended, and wildlife managers ask that hunters submit a report of what they saw during their time in the field. The information will provide valuable data used to improve population estimates for Wisconsin’s deer herd and other species, the DNR said.
Along those lines, Wisconsin’s County Deer Advisory Councils are now accepting applications to fill vacant seats, beginning in 2016. These councils provide local deer herd management recommendations to the DNR. For more information regarding CDAC recommendations, agendas and membership, search keyword “CDAC” on the DNR website. Any additional questions may also be sent to DNRCDACWebMail@Wisconsin.gov.
And the first day of the four-day deer hunt (Thursday, Dec. 10) also is the deadline to apply for 2016 black bear and spring wild turkey hunting permits. Go to the DNR website and search “bear” or “turkey registration” for more information.