DNR News: 'Lodge and Learn' classes, 007 the muskie, 2020 fire report & more

Share or view as webpage  |  Update preferences

News Digest - Week of June 7, 2021

RAM center sign framed with yellow leaves

New "Lodge and Learn" classes at the RAM Center are available starting this month.

As our state works to reopen to the public, some of this week's stories may reflect how the Department of Natural Resources has adapted to meet customer needs and protect public health and safety. We will continue to share news and information about the best ways to discover and enjoy Michigan's natural and heritage resources!

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

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

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.

Photo ambassador snapshot: Seriously Superior shoreline

long view of the sandy, rocky beach, blue sky and shoreline waves at Muskellonge State Park in Luce County

Want to see more pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador Natalie Hardy at Muskallonge State Park in Luce County? Visit Instagram.com/MiStateParks to explore photos and learn more about the photo ambassadors! For more on the program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.

Outdoor Skills Academy offers new location, classes, guest speaker

RAM lodge & learn outdoor skills academy

Whether you’re an outdoors newbie building up your recreational skills or an experienced veteran searching for a fresh hobby, the DNR Outdoor Skills Academy has a class for you!

Starting this month, the academy will offer classes at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center on Higgins Lake in Roscommon. The RAM Center recently opened for individuals, families or small groups to “Lodge and Learn,” a chance to stay amid Michigan’s northern woods while building outdoor recreation know-how.

Check out these upcoming classes:

  • Walleye Fishing Clinic, June 19 – Pro walleye tournament angler Dan Miller will cover walleye fishing from A to Z.
  • Bush Craft, Wild Mushroom and Wild Edibles Clinic, Oct. 8-10 – Instruction on wilderness safety, bush craft (surviving and thriving in the natural world), wild edibles and how to find, identify and handle a variety of Michigan's edible wild mushrooms. 
  • Ice Fishing for Beginners, Jan. 8, 2022 – How to set up equipment and how, where and when to fish, electronics, ice safety, and rules and regulations. 
  • Advanced Hard Water School, Feb. 25-27, 2022 – Learn from the ice fishing pros. Each student will pick a topic of interest and be assigned a pro fisherman.

The RAM Center isn’t the only place to catch one of these invaluable classes. The new North Woods Survival Skills Clinic will be at the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center in Cadillac Aug. 14. The class will cover skills needed in an outdoor survival situation, including navigation; wilderness first aid; and how to safely prepare water for drinking, safely start a fire without matches, make cordage (rope from plants), make a log stove and identify animal tracks and scat. Participants also will learn how to shoot a bow and arrow.

New this year, too, is a talk and book signing with guest speaker Denny Geurink at the Bear Hunting Clinics at the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center Aug. 7 and Aug. 8. Geurink – former syndicated outdoor columnist, Field & Stream magazine editor, host of the "Outdoor Adventures" TV show and owner/operator of the No. 1 brown bear outfitting company in the world for over 20 years – wrote two books, including "In the Land of the Bear," a look at his adventures hunting brown bears in Siberia and traveling in Russia.

For more details and to register for classes, visit Michigan.gov/OutdoorSkills.

Questions? Call the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center at 231-779-1321.

2020 fire report reflects cooler, wetter year

prescribed burn on field with fire equipment

Nationwide, nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by people. When wildfires happen, DNR firefighters are there to put them out.

The newest DNR wildland fire report is now available, sharing details about the 2020 firefighting season and staff activities. 

DNR firefighters responded to 203 fires last year, starting in March and ending in December. The fires burned a combined 960 acres of land, with the most resource-intensive fire igniting in Grayling May 21, requiring air support and the assistance of partner agencies. A dry autumn extended fire season and resulted in an unusual 13 November fires. 

The low number of fires and acres burned in 2020 reflect a cool, wet year, contrasting with previous years and the way 2021 has been shaping up. This year, firefighters already have responded to 219 fires with 2,088 acres burned.

“The most common cause of wildfire was escaped yard waste burns of leaves and brush,” said DNR fire supervisor Dan Laux. “Other common causes were sparks from equipment and campfires.”

With fewer blazes to put out in Michigan, fire teams turned their efforts to improving forest road infrastructure by fixing culverts – structures that allow water to flow under a road, railroad or trail – grading roads, building bridges and removing hazardous trees. They also assisted with tree planting, storm cleanup and timber preparation efforts. Emergency incident management teams that include DNR fire staffers helped Midland-area communities following flooding and provided support for COVID-19 emergency efforts in Detroit. 

Further afield, 99 dispatches of firefighters and technical staff were authorized to help with a devastating western wildfire season in California, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona, Utah and Wyoming. These experiences allow firefighters to sharpen their skills to be more effective here at home, and Michigan is always reimbursed for sending assistance to other states. 

DNR pilots flew fire-detection flights during high-risk times, provided aerial support to battle large fires and assisted with forest health and wildlife surveys. 

The Forest Fire Experiment Station and the Roscommon Equipment Center program, a mid-Michigan facility which designs and builds fire equipment, finalized production of a fire plow for fire suppression in rough terrain. Designers also began work to upcycle retired military equipment into rugged new firefighting engines.

Questions? Contact Paul Rogers at 616-260-8406.

Baby animals are best left in the wild

fawn curled up in grass

As the weather continues to warm, baby wildlife will venture out of their nests or dens. If you have a chance to see this new generation of wildlife, remember to enjoy it from a distance and leave these babies alone. 

"Fawns are a common sight this time of year, and it is not unusual to find them by themselves in backyards or neighborhoods," said Hannah Schauer, a DNR wildlife communications coordinator. "The mother deer will come back to nurse and care for her baby when she feels it is safe to do so." 

A baby animal on its own rarely is abandoned; its best chance for survival is in the wild, so never remove a wild animal from its natural setting.

"By hiding her babies and going elsewhere, the mother is helping them stay safe from predators by not drawing attention to where her babies are," said Schauer. "In addition, youngsters like fawns have excellent camouflage to make them harder for predators to find." 

Eventually, the young animals will be strong and fast enough to be on their own or accompany their mother while she looks for food. 

Fledgling birds hopping around on the ground also are a normal sight this time of year. These young birds are getting old enough to start trying to fly and need more space than their nests provide. Even when the chicks are starting to fledge and leave the nest, the parents will continue to feed and care for them. 

Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Unless a person is licensed, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal in Michigan. 

Learn more about what to do if you find a baby animal in the wild and see a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators at Michigan.gov/Wildlife or contact DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

Uncovering the secret travels of Muskie … James the Muskie

james the muskie fish

Muskellunge, a prized sportfish, are known as the fish of a thousand casts because of the difficulty many anglers have in catching them. Their movements and behaviors are shrouded in mystery, but a multiagency team of researchers is using state-of-the-art technology to reveal patterns of muskie movements in the Great Lakes. 

Scientists from the Michigan DNR, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Ohio DNR and United States Geological Survey began tagging muskies in the Detroit River in 2016, with subsequent batches of fish tagged in the Canadian and American waters of Lake St. Clair. 

Muskies primarily were captured by local fishing group partners who caught the fish before tagging. Each fish was surgically implanted with an acoustic transmitter that emits coded pings unique to each fish and has a battery life of at least seven years. These signals can be detected by a network of listening stations throughout the Great Lakes as part of the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System.

Detections revealed broad movements of fish from Lake St. Clair into the Detroit River and even Lake Erie. One fish, nicknamed James because of his tag number 007, amazingly traveled from his original tagging location in the Detroit River all the way to Buffalo, New York, during the summer of 2016. By January 2017, James was back in the Michigan waters of Lake Erie, and in May 2017 was only a few hundred yards from where he had been captured the year before – a stealthy round trip of at least 620 miles! Remarkably, James repeated this movement in following years and is still providing scientists with data on his movements.

Tagging and tracking of muskies is ongoing, with researchers hoping to use fish movement patterns to identify unique groups of fish, which can inform overall estimates of population size and provide vital information to fisheries managers.  

To learn more about this mysterious Michigan fish species, visit Michigan.gov/Muskie.

Questions? Contact Jan-Michael Hessenauer at 586-242-8844.


Anchors aweigh! Boating is a great way to beat the summer heat. Whether you want safety tips, registration information or maps on where to boat or find harbors, the DNR boating page has it all. 


Looking for a fun new activity for the kids? Check out the What in the Wild card game! Proceeds support our "Go Wild for Michigan's Wildlife" curriculum package for educators.


Whether on water or land, you're the first defense against invasive species. Keep an eye out for invasives and report your observations to help protect your favorite recreation spots.