DNR News: Wildlife watching, 'Winged Wednesdays' and tree stand safety

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News Digest - Week of Oct. 5, 2020

A group of common goldeneye ducks flies low across the cold water, blue sky above and snowy trees in background

Common goldeneye ducks fly low across the water (photo by Brent Eades/flickr on MiBirds)

Some of the items in this week's news digest reflect the impact of COVID-19 and how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is adapting to meet customers' needs. Public health and safety are our biggest priorities, and we will continue to share news and information about the safest, and sometimes new, ways to enjoy our state's natural and cultural resources.

Follow our COVID-19 response page for FAQs and updates on facilities and reopening dates. For the latest public health guidelines and news, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

Here's a look at some of this week's stories from the 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 the images used below, and additional ones, are available in this folder.

Be on the lookout for sandhill cranes, elk and more

bugling elk

Chilly October mornings are a great opportunity for wildlife viewing in Michigan. Walking through the dew-covered grasses toward a marsh edge, you might come across the prehistoric-looking sandhill crane. Or perhaps, just before dusk in the Pigeon River Country State Forest, you’ll hear the bellowing bugle of a bull elk.

Throughout the season, sandhill cranes migrate farther south for the winter but take respite in Michigan's lower counties before the next leg of their journey to southern states. Standing 5 feet tall with 6-foot wingspans and unmistakable bright red heads, they are a stunning sight. Sandhill cranes can be found feeding on seeds and grains in agricultural fields or browsing on wetland plants, insects and amphibians in marshlands throughout Jackson and Washtenaw counties. For more on these birds and where to view them, visit this Michigan Audubon webpage.

In the depths of the Pigeon River Country State Forest near Gaylord resides Michigan’s wild elk herd. As the breeding season approaches, elk are more active and can be seen in forest openings, the males bugling for attention from females and working to establish dominance over other suitors. There are 13 elk viewing areas throughout the Pigeon, providing optimal opportunities to watch the herd. To find viewing areas and plan your trip, check out the elk viewing guide.

Fall is breeding and migration season for many wildlife species, so animals are on the move. Make the most of it by visiting Michigan.gov/Wildlife for information on trails, times and areas to improve your chances for a successful viewing experience.

‘Winged Wednesday’ text updates give birders a boost

ruby crowned kinglet

Of all the wild creatures we share the planet with, birds are among the most beautiful. They’re everywhere but can blend into the background of busy lives. During the COVID-19 quarantine, many people found themselves with more time to appreciate the birds in their backyards – some for the first time.

Downloads of two of the most popular bird identification apps spiked and – like most outdoor gear and equipment – things like binoculars, bird feeders and birdseed were harder to find as they were snagged by these newly minted ornithologists. Google searches for “birds” reached an all-time high in the U.S. in early May and searches for “the best binoculars for birdwatching” increased 550%, according to USA Today.

Now, with the migration season upon us, previously unseen birds are starting to show up in many of Michigan’s communities, enjoying layovers on their way to winter destinations. While many of us are spending more time at home, why not explore these beautiful species that add pops of color and interest to our yards and communities?

To encourage novice birders, the DNR is providing Winged Wednesday text updates on birds being spotted in state parks. With a new bird and new park highlighted each week, the team behind the effort hopes to help birders make meaningful connections to this lifelong pursuit. 

Ready to get started? Text BIRD to 80888 or register online to sign up for Winged Wednesday weekly text updates.

Questions? Contact Maia Turek at 989-225-8573.

Tree stand safety tips for hunters

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As more hunting seasons open up, it’s a good time to brush up on safety. If you’re using a tree stand or an elevated platform during your hunt, keep these tips in mind:

  • Wear a full body harness that is properly attached above your head.
  • Always maintain three points of contact when climbing up to or down from the stand. 
  • Ensure your tree stand is securely attached and stable before using it.

Watch this short video about tree stand safety for more good ideas.

No matter how you choose to hunt, make safety your top priority. The Michigan DNR teaches tree stand safety, safe firearm handling, first aid and other important skills as part of our hunter education program. Read more hunting safety tips or earn your online hunter safety certificate at Michigan.gov/HunterEducation.

Questions? Contact Lt. Tom Wanless at 517-284-6026.

Successful Trails Week Challenge looks to next year


Droves of Michiganders headed outdoors late last month to demonstrate their love and appreciation for Michigan’s spectacular network of nonmotorized trails.

In fact, more than 6,000 participants traveled a collective 83,069 miles over a span of eight days on Michigan’s local, county, state and federally managed trails.

It was all part of the inaugural Michigan Trails Week Challenge. Over eight days during Michigan Trails Week (Sept. 20-27), the DNR and the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance invited Michiganders to pay tribute to trails and – together –walk, run, ride, hike, bike or paddle 100,000 miles.

“We want to thank the more than 6,000 participants who took part in the first-ever Michigan Trails Week Challenge,” said Michelle Coss, DNR Parks and Recreation Division volunteer and donor coordinator. “Not only did we come close to our collective 100,000-mile goal, but we were thrilled with the 1,800-some photos that were submitted. These photos told the story about how Michiganders connect to nature and are proud to live in the Trails State.”

Participants generously raised more than $11,000 to fund various trail projects across the state.

Additionally, Peninsulas created a commemorative Michigan Trails Week Challenge pin and sticker for the event. For just $10 (including shipping with code MICHIGANTRAILS2020), you can show your Michigan trails pride and feel good knowing 10% of the proceeds goes toward supporting trail programs.

Coss also said that the weather for the 2020 challenge could not have been more beautiful, and plans are already in the works for next year. 

ICYMI: New invasive species prevention webinars

NotMISpecies webinar banner

You’ve probably heard a lot about invasive species, but do you know what is being done in Michigan to prevent and control them? NotMISpecies, a new, monthly webinar series provided by Michigan’s Invasive Species Program, has the answers.

Each hourlong webinar will feature people on the front lines of invasive species response sharing what they are doing to prevent and control non-native species that pose a threat to Michigan’s environment, economy and, sometimes, human health. A question-and-answer period will follow each presentation.

The series kicks off at 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, with a look at how science and technology are fueling a multijurisdictional response to grass carp in Lake Erie.  

Delicious but Dangerous” at 9 a.m. Nov. 17 examines the hazards caused by thousands of burrowing invasive red swamp crayfish and how this species’ habits complicate removal efforts. 

The series takes a break for the holidays and returns Jan. 22 with “Hemlock Rescue” – a look at the labor-intensive effort to inventory and treat eastern hemlock trees infested with hemlock woolly adelgid. Topics for future sessions will be added throughout the year. 

Each webinar will be presented live, with recordings available for viewing approximately one week after the live event. For more information on each NotMISpecies webinar, including registration links, visit Michigan.gov/EGLEEvents.  


Looking for a fun outdoor experience for the whole family? Get your tackle box and rods and reels ready and check out our Family Friendly Fishing Waters map


Revving up to ride the state's ORV trails? Make sure you have a license, permit and an ORV safety certificate; it's required to ride on public and private land.


Your input is still needed for the DNR's 10-year action plan for state forests. Read the Forest Action Plan and submit your comments by Oct. 12.

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.

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