News Digest: Owl-viewing etiquette, Outdoor Skills Academy and new invasive species webinars

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News Digest - Week of Jan. 18, 2021

northern hawk owl

Winter is a great time to spot owl species like this northern hawk owl, but mind your manners!

Some of this week's stories may reflect the impact of COVID-19 and how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has adapted to meet customers' needs and protect public health and safety. We will continue to share news and information about the best ways to enjoy our state's natural and cultural resources.

Follow our COVID-19 response page for FAQs and updates on access to facilities and programs. For public health guidelines and news, visit and

Here's a look at some of this week's stories from the DNR:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at

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

Photo ambassador snapshot: a winter walk

tahquamenon hike

Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Photo taken by Gresham Halstead.

You can find our photo ambassador series at Explore photos and learn more about the nearly two dozen photo ambassadors, Michigan photographers with a love of the outdoors who were selected to help showcase the unique and gorgeous scenery of Michigan’s state parks!

For more on the program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.

With Michigan owls, know your birding etiquette

snowy owl

Leafless trees and frozen landscapes make winter a great time to glimpse some of Michigan’s avian species.

One visitor to Michigan during the winter months is the snowy owl. This large, magnificent owl always attracts a lot of attention. When owl-spotting, keep in mind these snow-white owls are a bird of the northern tundra and are not often around people.  They might not seem startled by the presence of people, but that doesn't mean you should get too close. It is best to view these magical owls from a distance, with binoculars or a spotting scope so as not to disturb them. 

"It is a common misconception that snowy owls arrive in the Great Lakes weakened and starved," said Erin Rowan, MiBirds program associate with DNR and Audubon Great Lakes. "Winter tracking of snowy owls in southern Canada and several states in the U.S. shows that more often than not, wintering owls are quite fat and healhty! It's important to remember that winter in general tends to be a stressful time for birds and snowy owls in particular are exposed to new and unfamiliar threats in our urban landscapes."

For many of Michigan's native owl species, winter is breeding season. Great horned owls start their courtship in January, offering an amazing chance to listen for owls calling to one another on calm moonlit nights. While it might be tempting to use audio recordings to lure owls closer to you, please refrain, or play the recording only once or twice. Hearing another owl’s call can be very stressful for the owls because they may believe there is an intruder in their territory. 

Above all, be respectful of these magnificent birds as you enjoy all the winter owl watching opportunities Michigan has to offer.

Questions? Contact the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

Learn ins and outs of ice fishing with Outdoor Skills Academy

ice fishing

Winter fishing? Yes please! It's an ideal time to fish – with a great way to get to areas of a lake that can't be reached without a boat during the warmer months – and the DNR Outdoor Skills Academy can help boost your ice fishing know-how with upcoming Hard Water School classes.

The classes will be held outdoors at the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center, located in Mitchell State Park in Cadillac.

Hard Water School, a one-day, introductory class on ice fishing, will be offered Saturdays, Jan. 23, Feb. 20 and March 6. Focusing on techniques for pan fish, walleye and pike, the class will cover everything from how to set up equipment and how, where and when to fish to ice safety and rules and regulations. Cost is $35, which includes one-on-one instruction from a pro, lunch on the ice, bait and a goodie bag.

Advanced Hard Water School, Feb. 5-7, is a mixed virtual/on-ice class teaching more advanced ice fishing skills. Each participant will pick a specific topic of interest and be assigned a pro fisherman from Team USA, HT Enterprises, Clam Outdoors, Vexilar or Ice Force to learn from. We will have one pro to every five students. The first, virtual lesson will include gearing up, rigging and preparing to fish in detail, with the following two days of instruction spent on the ice and fishing. Cost is $75, which includes a box lunch Saturday and Sunday, bait and door prizes/goodie bags.

Participation for all classes is limited to 20 students, and COVID-19 safety protocols will be followed.

For more details and to register for classes, visit

Questions? Contact Ed Shaw at 231-779-1321.

NotMISpecies webinar series returns this week

NotMISpecies webinar banner

Want to learn more about efforts across the state to prevent and control harmful land and water invaders? Check out the the Michigan Invasive Species Program’s NotMISpecies webinars.

The live, monthly series features people on the front lines of invasive species response, sharing their work with non-native species that pose a threat to Michigan’s environment, economy and, sometimes, human health. A question-and-answer period follows each presentation.

The series returns 9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 22, with “Hemlock Rescue,” a look at the labor-intensive effort to inventory and treat eastern hemlock trees infested with hemlock woolly adelgid.

Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 9 a.m., “Ahoy, Boaters!” considers the relationship between recreational boating and the spread of aquatic invasive species and explores activities and resources available through Clean Boats, Clean Waters and MI Paddle Stewards – two programs helping boaters and lake associations identify invasives and prevent their spread.

“Why Spotted Lanternfly?” (9 a.m. Thursday, March 25) focuses on the threat posed by one of the newest invasive pests on Michigan’s watch list. Learn about how Michigan works in concert with other states and the federal government to determine which species are real threats and to prepare for their potential arrival.

Tuesday, April 20, at 9 a.m., “Not in MI Waters” dives into the world of technicians and biologists responding to new aquatic invasive plant detections. Find out how they are using the science of early detection and response to control European frog-bit, parrot feather and other recently introduced species.

Questions? Contact Joanne Foreman at 517-284-5814.


Looking to get active this season? Check out our winter activities page for tips, events and guides to make your outdoor time spectacular.


Did you know many state parks have winter camping options? Find a park, reserve your spot and have a great time. Don't forget your Recreation Passport!


There are plenty of ways to help your favorite park or recreation area. Check out the volunteer calendar for stewardship workdays at a park near you.

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