Cold, snowy winter is tough on wildlife, too|
|Despite this winter’s exceptionally harsh conditions—which is wearing down people and wildlife alike—meteorological spring arrives Saturday, and for some creatures anyway, love is in the air.|
Across Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resources reported this week that eagles have been seen pairing up and sitting on nests, including a couple that seem to have taken up residence near Remington Lake on Antigo’s northwest side.
Reports of snowy owls keep coming in across the state. Great horned owls and barred owls are still performing their mating calls, and may even be nesting now. Coyotes, red foxes, and raccoons are also in their breeding season.
But winter’s unrelenting grip is wreaking havoc on some bird populations.
One casualty is the wild turkey populations across the north woods. Turkeys get most of their food, such as seeds, acorns, and young plants, off the ground. But in parts of northern Wisconsin, that food is now buried under more than two feet of snow. Heavy snowfalls can also prevent turkeys from moving where food is available.
Bird expert Laura Erickson said the winter is making life tough for turkeys, with some individual birds' weights being "extremely low, while Scott Walter, an upland wildlife ecologist for the DNR, says the agency is seeing isolated pockets of dead turkeys, likely trapped and starved by deep snow.
Ruffed grouse, on the other hand, seem to be faring well as deep, soft, and uncrusted snow has facilitated their unique "snow roosting" behavior.
Diving ducks stranded in upland areas continue to be reported in high numbers, but they received some help from residents who became concerned after learning ice was keeping ducks from gathering food.
When conservationist Tom Kocourek heard frozen waterways were preventing the birds from finding food, the Two Rivers man called a marine contracting and engineering firm, which used a trawler to break up ice in Manitowoc and Two Rivers harbors.
“We figured we had to do something,” said Mike LeClair, president of Susie-Q Fish Co. in Two Rivers. “We have to keep the ducks going. Maybe the Lord will keep us going.”
Days after ducks had been spotted walking through streets in search of anything to eat, they were in the water, diving for food again.
“We were just blown away” by the effort, said Jim Knickelbine, executive director of Woodland Dunes Nature Center and Preserve in Two Rivers. “We are just so grateful for the interest and commend them for what they are doing. For this to have happened says good things about our community.”
In an average year, sandhill cranes, blackbirds, and various geese and ducks would now be making their first flights into southern counties, but this year has been anything but usual. DNR officials said extensive ice and snow cover have put spring migration on hold for now.
Two bald eagles perch in a tree along Remington Lake on Antigo’s northwest side this week.
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