DNR News: Grass carp survey, state park track chairs, Instagram lake sturgeon takeover

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News Digest - Week of July 22, 2019

an older man using a wheeled track chair to explore the beach at Muskegon State Park this summer

The Kali's Cure for Paralysis Foundation helped secure track chairs for use at five Michigan state parks. 

Here's a look at some of this week's stories from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of some of the images used below are available in this folder.

Track chairs help more people experience state parks

young boy wearing a gray hoodie and shorts, in a track chair, exploring the forest

After an accident left her paralyzed in 2006, Michigan native Kali Pung started the Kali’s Cure for Paralysis Foundation, aimed at financially supporting spinal cord research and rehabilitation. With the help of friends, family and others, Kali was able to raise more than $2 million in under 10 years.

Kali’s priorities include making Michigan state parks more accessible to people with injuries or disabilities, and through rigorous fundraising she was able to provide “track chairs” to Maybury, Muskegon and Tahquamenon Falls state parks, Belle Isle and Waterloo Recreation Area. This brief video shows Muskegon State Park's track chair in use.

These off-road, electronic chairs easily handle trails, snow, sand and even up to 8 inches of water, allowing users to explore areas of the parks where traditional wheelchairs might not be able to go. Chairs are rented out on a first-come, first-served basis at no cost to the individuals needing assistance. Pets and service animals may accompany track chair users but must follow park rules.

“Kali’s generous donation helps to ensure that more visitors can enjoy more of what Michigan state parks offer,” said DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson.

Though Kali’s chair donation came to Michigan state parks in 2017, Olson said that it took some time to get the program and the systems in place for people to be able to use the chairs. 

The track chairs are just one component of the DNR’s department-wide strategy to make outdoor recreation – beaches, campgrounds, fishing, hunting and trails – more accessible to everyone. Learn more at Michigan.gov/DNRAccessibility.

Questions? Contact Michelle Coss, 517-881-5884.

Grass carp summer survey work underway on Lake Erie

A grass carp crew of MSU, DNR and USFWS employees hold a grass carp captured in the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River

They don’t wear capes or leap tall buildings, but there’s a team of people doing some superhero-level invasive species work. This summer, they’re taking the fight to grass carp in Lake Erie.

Since 2014, the Michigan and Ohio departments of Natural Resources have partnered to address grass carp in western Lake Erie. Last year, with support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Michigan DNR launched a Grass Carp Response Team to tackle response actions in this area.

“Response and monitoring efforts are ongoing and involve several state and federal agencies, as well as universities,” said John Buszkiewicz, a Michigan fisheries biologist on the response team. “We are collaborating on telemetry studies to track the movement of ‘Judas fish’ – grass carp fitted with transmitters and returned to the water.”

Members of the Grass Carp Response Team have been surveying several Lake Erie bays and river mouths this summer, attempting to capture fish to install transmitters in and then track their future movements.

Grass carp have been captured in western Lake Erie since the 1980s, likely after escaping private ponds where they were stocked to control aquatic weeds. Though the practice previously was legal in most Great Lakes states except Michigan, today, all Great Lakes states and provinces prohibit the possession of live, fertile grass carp – with some states, including Michigan, prohibiting sterile grass carp, too.

Michigan DNR grass carp crew members Cody Salzmann and Kaitlen Lang tag a grass carp captured from the Maumee River, Ohio

Despite regulations, fertile grass carp still are being caught in Michigan and Ohio waters.

Invasive carp pose a serious threat to Great Lakes region’s ecology, economy and quality of life. Of the four invasive carp species in the U.S. – bighead, silver, black and grass carp – only grass carp are known to inhabit the Great Lakes.

An impressive network of real-time receivers installed across portions of western Lake Erie allows the Grass Carp Response Team to follow the fish and understand when they are grouping for spawning or feeding. “This allows for rapid response because the team can quickly mobilize to electrofish and net to remove grass carp,” said Buszkiewicz.

Ongoing monitoring (including reports from bowfishers, commercial fishing operations and a tagging study) helps the team target locations for routine electrofishing and netting surveys.

Learn more about grass carp at Michigan.gov/InvasiveCarp.

Media interested in additional information about the Grass Carp Response Team and its summer survey work should contact John Buszkiewicz, 248-296-2498 or Lucas Nathan, 517-284-6235.

Follow DNR social channels for latest nature news

Instagram group of Images of DNR fisheries staff doing lake sturgeon survey work on Lake St. Clair

Many DNR employees do the majority of their work in the woods or on the water, but that doesn’t mean people can't get a glimpse of how the department takes care of fish, wildlife, forests and more across the state.

The growth of social media has given the DNR several new ways to share, in real time, important habitat and species work, natural resources programming and outdoor recreation opportunities – especially with 480,000 followers across DNR social channels that include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

An Instagram takeover by fisheries staff at the Lake St. Clair Fisheries Research Station in June, for example, gave followers an inside look at the department’s lake sturgeon survey work. Many of the DNR’s 30,000-plus Instagram fans saw photos and videos of the crew capturing a sturgeon and then thoroughly examining the fish to gather length, weight and age information.

Finally, all fish were tagged before releasing them back into the water so it’s easy for staff to track when those fish are seen again. All of that information helps ensure the sustainable management and continued recovery of this iconic fish species in the St. Clair-Detroit River system.

It was a great opportunity for Instagram followers to see what fisheries crews do and to ask their own questions about this and other natural resources work.

Instagram also provides a fun way for people to share their outdoor stories. Anyone snapping a great shot of themselves or friends and family enjoying Michigan’s state parks, forests, trails, fish hatcheries and historic sites is invited to tag us @michigandnr for a chance to have those photos shared on the DNR  page!


Want to learn the ins and outs of bear hunting in Michigan? Hear from the experts at our Aug. 4 bear hunting clinic (in the field and in classroom) at Mitchell State Park in Cadillac.


Before you hit the water, woods or trails, be sure you have the licenses and permits you need. Explore all of your outdoor recreation options today at our eLicense store.


Help pull spotted knapweed and Canada thistle this weekend at Grandmere State Park, Yankee Springs Recreation Area and Pinckney Recreation Area.

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