T.R. Michels

T.R. Michels is a professional guide who specializes in trophy whitetail, turkey and bear hunts in Minnesota. He has guided in the Rocky Mountains for elk and mule deer, too. He publishes the Trinity Mountain Outdoors website at www.TRMichels.com.

Posts about Environment

Bear Research & The Research Center; The Unsung Heroes

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: June 9, 2011 - 9:51 AM

I received this e-mail this morning. I think it shows the struggles, and support, Dr. Rogers and the Research Center have gone through so far. Why not a little cooperation by the DNR and Legislators, who have said that (paraphrased) "if it is not done or supported by the DNR Commissioner, we won't do it" and "if it is not done or supported by the Legislature, I will not support it." What a great way of stonewalling the isseue - a regular "Catch 22".

Why doesn't someone see the benefits of protecting these bears for their research, educational and economic value, to the State of Minnesota and people around the world?

 

To Commissisoner Landwehr & theState Legislators:

In light of the fact that the DNR has made it illegal to kill the one and only White Colored Black Bear ever seen in Minnesota, for I belive a period of no more than two years ... which had absolutely no research, educational or economic value ... and,

If these bears truly belong to the people of the State of Minnesota, and not solely to the DNR or the hunters, and thousands of Minnesotan's want them protected. 

What is your objection to offering protection for these 9-20 research bears?

 

I think we would all like an answer to that question. Please - I implore you, answer that question.  

Why not listen to what the people want.- because they have spoken. I currently have 263 comments e-mailed to me from people around the world, asking, begging, for protection for these bears. And there are more on the way. The Lily The Black Bear page on Facebook has over 132,000 "likes". The Protect Minnessota's Research Bears has over 1000 likes. Does this not tell you any thing?

 

Here is the e-mail: 

 

.."unsung heroes of the success of the Bear Center and what it has done for Ely.."


The unsung heroes of the success of the Bear Center and what it has done for Ely are the public officials who had vision years ago.

In 1994, Mayor Mike Forsman saw the potential and wrote a letter to the Science Museum of Minnesota to get things started. Shortly, his brother Paul established an EADA committee to begin planning. Citizen Roger Skraba attended the first committee meeting and presented many ideas that have been put into action.

In 1996, EADA leader Bill Henning and Pro Bono Attorney Bill Campbell helped establish the Bear Center as an official nonprofit, and the North American Bear Center board of directors was born. Faithful members of the board met monthly for over a decade to keep things going.

In 2004, Bill Rice of Indiana sleuthed out the building location. Ron Svatos of the St Louis Land Dept was his usual helpful self in providing details. Jack Willis and the Morse Township Board passed a resolution allowing the City of Ely to manage purchase negotiations. Mayor Frank Salerno assigned City Attorney Larry Klun to do the legal work. For Larry, it was a labor of love to find the laws and process that would allow the City of Ely to sell the land to the Bear Center board. Larry presented his findings to the City Council, and members Jerome Debeltz, Paul Kess, Mike Hillman, Butch Pecha, Dan Przybylski, and Mark Zupec voted unanimously to make the Bear Center an official public purpose authorized to buy the land. County Commissioner Mike Forsman and the County Land Department facilitated the transfer. Through it all, Nancy Larson and Connie Christenson from St Louis County Community Development provided guidance.

When the Bear Center opened on May 5, 2007, Mayor Chuck Novak helped behind the scenes. He came through again in 2008 when misinformation brought the Bear Center under threat from the MN DNR. Chuck recognized the value of radio-collared research bears to the Bear Center, regional economics, and science. He went to bat for our area.

This past year, the vision of all these people came to fruition in a big way when the Lily Den Cam became a worldwide sensation, bringing thousands of people to Ely from across the nation and around the world.

At the same time, the educational value of the radio-collared bears leaped upward as hundreds of classrooms across North America began each day watching the Lily Den Cam and then incorporated the bears into their lessons through the day.

The bears' 200,000 fans found other ways to help the area they had learned to love. They used their numbers to vote Ely the "the coolest small town in America." Next, they voted Bear Head Lake State Park "America's Favorite Park," winning $100,000 for the park while beating Yellowstone National Park by over 1.5 million votes). Recently, a bear fan in Florida discovered a contest to name "America's Favorite School" and the fans are bringing $20,000 to Ely's public schools.

Lily the Bear fans also initiated the Annual Lilypad Picnic, which brought hundreds of people to the Bear Center and Ely's shops, outfitters, restaurants, and resorts this past July. The Ely City Council boosted the Picnic by naming July 31, 2010, Lily the Bear Day. Now, happy picnickers have reserved Whiteside Park for the 2nd Annual Lilypad Picnic in July 2011 and are anticipating at least twice as many participants. Having it at Whiteside Park will concentrate them close to merchants.

Meanwhile, the DNR is wondering if a dozen radio-collared bears wearing bright ribbons are worth protecting and if hunters should be required to look twice for ribbons before shooting bears in the study area west of Ely. Hunters are answering those questions in the affirmative. For years, hunters have been saying, "If you don't want radio-collared bears shot, make it illegal." Some say, "Why should I pass up a trophy radio-collared bear when a hunter who doesn't care about research can legally take it? Make it illegal so it's fair to all." Other hunters say, "Make it illegal so the people who shoot them are called lawbreakers, not hunters."

Regional benefits from the research bears are just beginning. Continued success depends entirely upon the radio-collared bears that hundreds of thousands are following worldwide. We all must do whatever we can to gain legal protection for the radio-collared bears that are the foundation for it all.

 

And then I received this e-mail:

Why protection of radio-collared bears is needed now:

 

1. The DNR asking hunters not to shoot radio-collared bears has not worked. Last year, 11 (23%) of 48 radio-collared bears were shot. That percentage is no different from the portion of bears that hunters kill in the overall population.

2. Responsible hunters say shooting radio-collared bears should be illegal. They say it is unfair to be asked to pass up a radio-collared trophy only to have the next hunter legally shoot it and be lauded because he turned the collar in.

3. The dozen radio-collared bears near Ely and the 2-3 dozen in the DNR’s studies are a tiny fraction of the 20,000 bears in Minnesota.

4. Minnesota’s bear studies are now about how bears live—not how they die. Radio-collared bears with data histories are too valuable to science to be shot like any other bear.

5. In the trust-based studies around Ely, the loss of any radio-collared bear in the single bear clan being studied is a huge setback. A collar cannot simply be placed on another bear. This study is providing more data on black bear behavior, ecology, social organization, language, and bear-human relations than any bear study ever has. The data histories on the older bears in that study make them irreplaceable in my lifetime. The data from these bears becomes more valuable each year.

6. The DNR study includes the oldest black bear on record—37 years old and counting.

7. The dozen radio-collared bears around Ely are part of the biggest public bear education program ever done. Through social networking, these bears have acquired a following of over a quarter million (over 128 thousandon Facebook alone) that follow them on Den Cams and daily research updates on bear.org.

8. The dozen radio-collared bears around Ely are part of the biggest classroom bear education program ever done. Over 500 schools follow these bears daily in their classrooms. Teachers and students watch the live Den Cam and read the daily research updates on bear.org. Individual radio-collared bears are part of their science,reading, and math classes along with the lesson plans, traveling Black Bear Boxes, and other educational materials now available on bear.org (click on Education).

9. The dozen radio-collared bears around Ely have generated a huge amount of good will. Their quarter million followers want to help the area where "their" bears live. They have donated thousands to the Ely Area Food Shelf, voted Ely the "Coolest small town in America," produced $20,000 for Ely’s Schools, produced $100,000 for Bear Head State Park as well as $600,000 to reduce debt for Ely’s North American Bear Center.

10. The radio-collared bears around Ely boost Minnesota tourism.

A. The annual Lilypad Picnic alone draws hundreds of tourists to Ely for extended vacations.

B. Thousands come to Ely specifically to see the North American Bear Center where the radio-collared bears are the basis for most of the exhibits and keeping those exhibits updated. Attendance in 2010 was 33,843.

C. The radio-collared bears are the subjects of a continuing series of TV documentaries, each with audiences of over a hundred million. These documentaries (4 in the last two years) advertise the area in a way that could not be bought.

11. In summary, Minnesota’s radio-collared bears have become too valuable to science, education, tourism, and regional economics to be killed like any other bears. This feeling is supported by the Ely City Council, 68 of 70 Ely business owners, the Ely Chamber of Commerce, nearly 4,000 petitioners, 679 of 685 people who wrote letters to Governor Pawlenty, ~800 of ~900 people who responded to the Duluth News Tribune’s opinion poll, etc.

 

 

 

 

June 2011 Bear Research Update

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: June 6, 2011 - 12:18 PM

It has been a while since I mentioned it, but I am conducting my own Black Bear Research Study through the Wildlife Activity Research Project (WARP). I’m currently in my third year of research into the daily and seasonal behavior of black bears on about a 1000 acre unfenced wildlife preserve in northeast Arkansas, This is all done via six ultra high tech 24 hour per day, 360 degree rotational infra-red (night vision) capable, audio capable cameras, situated on six large corn feeders. I estimate I am studying as many as 25 bears, including 5-6 large boars. Much of the first years research results, and comments on the study, are located at the bottom of the home page of my Trinity Mountain Outdoors website at www.TRMichels.com.

Some of the interesting things we have learned so far are that bears are nowhere near as nocturnal (nighttime active) as previously thought. Through the spring and summer, and part of the fall, they are as active during the day as at night, if not more so. They also are not as inactive as previously thought in high temperatures. I’ve seen big, fat, black, boars, with a luxuriant fur coat, moving around in broad daylight when the temperatures were higher than 90 degrees – on several occasions.

www.UseeWildlife.com. Plus you can help my research by participating in the bear research project as one of our volunteer bear reporters. While you learn mainly about the behavior and biology of black bear sows and cubs on the Bear Center web site, you can learn about boars and juveniles on the UseeWildlife web site.

You can also join our "Protect Minnesota’s Research Bears" campaign by logging on to that page on Facebook, and better yet, by sending your comments about why you think the bears should be protected to me at TRMichels@yahoo.com. I’d like to have 1000 letters to present to the State Legislature, DNR Commissioner Landwehr and Governor Mark Dayton before next fall. I only have about 120 now, so if you want to help protect the bears, send me your comments – please.

On a side note, I’ve been asked to be one of the speakers at the Lilypad Picnic, whch is designed to show appreciation for the researchers at the North American Bear Center and the Wildlife Research Institute, and to help protect the bears. The dates are July 22-24, 2011, in Ely, Minnesota. For tickets, lodging availability and other information log on to the Lilypad Picnic 2100 page at

http://www.lilypadpicnic.com/index.html. There will be opportunities to tour the center, and take pictures of some of the bears, as well as other fun events. I look forward to seeing you there – in fact if you would like to go, I am offering a bus tour to the event. Contact me at TRMichels@yahoo.com .

One interesting thing we found is that during years when there is poor mast (nut) production from oak, hazel, hickory and other nut bearing trees, the sows (females) may all fail to produce cubs the next spring, even though they were successfully bred and conceived that spring. If the sows are stressed due to a lack of summer/fall forage, then, during the fall and winter/hibernation months, in order to survive, the bodies of the female bears resorb the growing fetus back into their own bodies, so they do not have to provide needed nutrition for themselves, to the fetus. When this occurs the sows may synchronize their birthing sequence, so that none of them give birth the following spring, This may result in all of the sows giving birth to cubs during the same years, as opposed to some sow giving birth during even numbered years and some giving birth in odd numbered years. This occurred in my research area a couple of years ago. With the result that most of the sows now give birth to cubs during the same year.

Interestingly, these Arkansas bears are all descendants of transplanted bears from Minnesota, Ontario and Saskatchewan (American Black Bears - (Ursus americanus) because the subspecies of bear in Arkansas, the Louisiana Black Bear (Ursus americanus luteolus) was extinct due to over hunting. Since photoperiod (the number of hours of light each day), and temperatures, which are both determined to some extent by latitude, affects when bears emerge from their dens, breed and go into hibernation, one of the things I will looking at is if and how bears from northern latitudes will change their breeding and denning dates due to the higher temperatures and photoperiod. I would expect, over time, that the bears in Arkanss would begin to dome out of their dens earlier if the temperatures are higher than they are her in Minnesota, that they might begin to breed earlier, and the they might go I into their dens later in order to take advantage of the longer growing season of nutritious foods in Arkansas. This might take several generations to occur; only time will tell.

So far, the boars (which are usually the first to emerge from their dens in the spring, are coming out at about the same time as Dr. Lynn Rogers bears here in Minnesota (about the last week of March or early April) because I keep in touch with him on an almost daily basis. As of yet we have not seen any sows with cubs, but I expect to, unless there was another poor mast crop last year, because we have not seen cubs in two years. We have seen some juvenile bears (ages 1-3 years old) and apparently some sow, because we have noted what we believe is breeding behavior in the last few weeks, just as Dr. Rogers has noted here in Minnesota.

If you want to watch the deer, bears, turkey, gray fox, armadillos, raccoons, and gray squirrels, as well as trumpeter swans and both bald and golden eagles, and a myriad of bird species at the worlds largest bird feeder (certified); you can do so for free by logging on to

Trumpeter Swan Facts

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: June 5, 2011 - 3:51 PM

Trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) reach lengths of 60 inches, with wind spans of up to 95 inches. They weigh from 21 to 35 pounds, and can live up to 25 years. Nesting trumpeters can be found in western Montana, along the borders where Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska meet, and in central Minnesota and east central Wisconsin. They were once common throughout North America, but due to market hunting for down and feathers, plus subsistence hunting and egg collecting, they were presumed to be exterminated by the 1880's. In 1919 two nests were found in Yellowstone Park.

 

Minnesota swan restoration began in 1996 by the Hennepin County Parks commission. In 1982 the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources began a recovery program. By 1994 the project and released 215 swans, and there was an estimated free-flying flock of 250 birds in Minnesota. These birds winter on the Mississippi River just north of Minneapolis. This wintering area currently hosts about 900 swans from mid-November through late February.

 

Swans are bottom feeders, using their long necks to search for plants and tubers to eat from the bottoms of ponds, lakes and rivers. They begin nesting in mid-April, with nests as large as sex feet across, they often use muskrat or beaver hives as nesting platforms. They lay from 3 to 8 eggs, but have only a 30% hatching success ratio. Incubation lasts 33 days.

 

Newly hatched swans, called cygnets, may gain 20% of their body weight each day; they are fully feathered by 7-8 weeks, but are unable to fly until 15 weeks, they begin daily practice flights in mid-September. Cygnets are gray-colored for their first year.

 

The young swans remain with their parents throughout the winter. They are usually chased away from the parents during their second winter, but may stay with their siblings up to two years, thus most of the small groups seen flying consist of a mated pair, and their young of the past two years. During their second year young swans choose a mate on the wintering grounds; they remain mated to until one of them dies.

 

Young swans usually nest the first time between 3 and 6 years of age, on nests in remote areas, where they claim a territory of 3-6 acres; with a long expanse of open water, which they use to taxi before they take flight.

 

Lead poisoning from shotgun shell pellets, illegal hunting, power lines, predators and loss of habitat are the main threats to trumpeter swans.

 

Listen to a

Swan Call.

http://trmichels.com/TMOAdventuresMagazine.htm

http://trmichels.com/SwanPhotos.htm Trumpeter Swan Mating Display Photos

TRMichels@yahoo.com for more information. Also tours to view the wintering swans north of the Metro Area from mid-November through early March.

TRMichels@yahoo.com

We are available 7 days a week for Natural History Tours for Birding, Wildlflowers, Wolf Howling, Elk Bugling, Bald Eagles, Tundra Swans, Sharp-teild Grouse, Prairie Chicken dancing, and much more.

We will be offering a Whooping Cane bus tour to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin, to view wild Whooping Cranes, and to the International Crane Institute in Baraboo Wisconsin, to view the cranes of the world - on July 14, 2011. There will be room for approximately 50 people. This will be a great opportuntiy to photograph several species of crane from around the world. Fo4r more information contact

Through Trinity Mountain Outdoors Nature Tours, I will be offering Trumpeter Swan tours to Crex Meadows in west central Wisconsin, any day from now until mid-October. Contact

You can view photographs and a mating sequence of Trumpeter Swans at

You can read about more bird and mammal facts on the Trinity Mountain Outdoors Natural History & Travel Magazine at

Reintroduced Whooping Crane News

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: June 3, 2011 - 1:05 PM

The two Whooping Cranes seen near Dennison a few weeks ago, do have radio tracking devices, but they can only be picked up by radio receivers. A few others in the population have platform terminal transmitters which ping an orbiting satellite on a scheduled duty cycle and those are the ones that the researchers receive information on on a regular basis.

The current concern for the cranes is people shooting the birds. Since Nov 30, 2010 a total of 5 Whooping cranes have been shot; 3 in one incident (Georgia) and 2 in another (Alabama). While the whole population is still considered young, the cranes are forming pair bonds, and mating, building nests, and even producing eggs, but they have been abandoning their nests before hatching. Some people think it is due to the very large concentration of Black flies in the Necedah area. Something that can be dome to control the Black Flies is a bacterium found in soil called Bti or Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis. Since 1982, it has been used successfully worldwide as a biological pest control agent to combat mosquitoes and black flies.

The first Wisconsin raised chick was produced in 2006 and followed its parents to Florida. Since then it has migrated successfully and has even paired with another crane and this year they produced a chick of her own. Of the 20 nests this year, 4 have produced chicks.

The Whooping Crane recovery team made the decision this year to not release any more cranes on the Necedah refuge, until such time as the cause of the nest abandonment issue is resolved. In they will move their base of operations for the ultralight-aircraft release to the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area in Green Lake County, WI. There is more nformation available on this on Facebook at:

http://www.facebook.com/OperationMigration

 

In theory the cranes that they work with this year will return in the spring of 2012 to the White River Marsh area. There are already some Whooping Cranes in the general vicinity and they are far away from Necedah, so the researchers have little doubt that they'll be able to find each other when the urge strikes them.

 

Hunters Guilty of Shooting Cranes

Two people have pleaded guilty in the death of a Whooping Crane, which was migrating from Wisconsin to Florida. Wade Bennett of Cayuga pleaded guilty March 30 in Vermillion County to false reporting. He was ordered to serve one year of probation and pay approximately $500 in fines and fees. The juvenile, who was considered the prime suspect received probation, fines and fees. Bennett was 18 when the crane was found dead on Dec. 1, 2009. The female Whooping Crane, one of less than 400 left in the wild, was the mother of the first whooping crane chick successfully hatched and fledged in the wild by cranes raised in captivity.

Hunters in southwestern Georgia found the carcasses of three whooping cranes. They were discovered on Dec. 30 near Albany, Calhoun County.Tom MacKenzie, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the three, all equipped with radio transmitters, had been tracked Dec. 10 in Hamilton, Tenn., where they were roosting. The US Fish & Wildlife service has offered a reward of $12,500 for information leading to the killers. The carcasses were sent to a lab in Oregon for examination.

Links to articles about the cranes and crane shootings.
http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/01/12/3-endangered-whooping-cranes-shot-in-Ga/UPI-24841294878519/#ixzz1OAaUvUFA

http://cs.birdwatchingdaily.com/BRDCS/blogs/field_of_view/archive/2011/04/19/killers-of-whooping-crane-in-indiana-receive-probation-1-fine.aspx

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/01/12/3-endangered-whooping-cranes-shot-in-Ga/UPI-24841294878519/

http://articles.cnn.com/2011-01-13/us/georgia.cranes.shot_1_whooping-crane-eastern-partnership-international-crane-foundation-feds-offer-reward?_s=PM:US

http://bringbackthecranes.org/media/2011/nr18February2011.html

 

Trumpeter Swan Facts

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: May 30, 2011 - 11:39 AM

Trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) reach lengths of 60 inches, with wind spans of up to 95 inches. They weigh from 21 to 35 pounds, and can live up to 25 years. Nesting trumpeters can be found in western Montana, along the borders where Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska meet, and in central Minnesota and east central Wisconsin. They were once common throughout North America, but due to market hunting for down and feathers, plus subsistence hunting and egg collecting, they were presumed to be exterminated by the 1880's. In 1919 two nests were found in Yellowstone Park.

Minnesota swan restoration began in 1996 by the Hennepin County Parks commission. In 1982 the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources began a recovery program. By 1994 the project and released 215 swans, and there was an estimated free-flying flock of 250 birds in Minnesota.

Swans are bottom feeders, using their long necks to search for plants and tubers to eat from the bottoms of ponds, lakes and rivers. They begin nesting in mid-April, with nests as large as sex feet across, they often use muskrat or beaver hives as nesting platforms. They lay from 3 to 8 eggs, but have only a 30% hatching success ratio. Incubation lasts 33 days.

Newly hatched swans, called cygnets, may gain 20% of their body weight each day; they are fully feathered by 7-8 weeks, but are unable to fly until 15 weeks, they begin daily practice flights in mid-September. Cygnets are gray-colored for their first year.

The young swans remain with their parents throughout the winter. They are usually chased away from the parents during their second winter, but may stay with their siblings up to two years, thus most of the small groups seen flying consist of a mated pair, and their young of the past two years. During their second year young swans choose a mate on the wintering grounds; they remain mated to until one of them dies.

Young swans usually nest the first time between 3 and 6 years of age, on nests in remote areas, where they claim a territory of 3-6 acres; with a long expanse of open water, which they use to taxi before they take flight.

Lead poisoning from shotgun shell pellets, illegal hunting, power lines, predators and loss of habitat are the main threats to trumpeter swans.

The sizes of the three populations of trumpeter swans in North America were assessed in 2000. Methods for the survey were similar to those of previous surveys, which generally occurred at 5 year intervals beginning in 1968. Collectively, a total of 23,647 swans were counted, which is about 3,900 (20%) more than in 1995 and 20,000 (535%) more than in 1968. Each of the three populations grew to record high levels in 2000. The Pacific Coast Population (PCP) remains numerically largest at 17,551, which is 8% higher than its 1995 estimate. The Rocky Mountain Population (RMP) increased 46% since 1995 to 3,666 swans. The Interior Population (IP) increased more than 150% since 1995 and now numbers 2,430 individuals.

The Interior Population are the birds that nest in the Upper Midwest States and south central Canada. Up to 1,500 of these swans have been wintering on the Mississippi River in Monticello, Minnesota, where the hot water discharge from an NSP Power Plant keeps the river from freezing. These birds can be seen from November through February each year.

 

I will be offering Trumpeter Swan Viewing & Photography Tours, weekdays and weekends, beginning about mid-November, or as soon as the water up north freezes and the swans begin to winter in Monticello, throuugh early March. If you have never seen or heard these magnificent birds up close, in large numbers, this trip is a real treat, for the whole family. The birds offer great opportunities for photographers. I will also be offering tours to view and photograph migrating tundra swans where they stop off on the Mississipi River in southern Minnesota, and rest before continuing east to their wintering grounds on the Atlantic coast. Tours will run from mid-October through Thanksgiving, or as long as they stay here.

Log on to www.TRMichels.com and click on Natural History tours to view the numerous other trips we offer - including Rocky Mountain National park in mid-September for bugling elk, moose and bigborn sheep; and Custer State Park in the Black Hills, for bugling elk, American bison, pronghorn, mule deer, white-tailed deer, the rare black-footed ferret and other photography opportunties in early September. Contact me anytime for dates and rates. TRMichels@yahoo.com

 

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