Wildlife Update 2009

Botulism update: Last year, we had over 20 individuals walking the beaches looking for dead birds and fish. We found only one loon and few other birds. It was a relief from the previous year of finding over 80 loons and 50+ other birds. And we weren’t the only ones with such low numbers. It seems that this was common in Lake Michigan this year. Whether that had anything to do with the cooler water temperatures, the increase in water levels over the previous year and lack of algae, we aren’t sure. Once again, this fall we will organize volunteers to patrol the beaches. If you are interested and will be here, call me.
Also, a Great Lakes Botulism Coordination Network is being formed on a much broader scale. This Network will be a voluntary partnership of representatives of government agencies, academic institutions, and involved stakeholders whose mission is to:

  • Exchange information pertaining to type E botulism matters in the Great Lakes basin by working through the existing partnerships, establishment of new networking relationships, and building upon existing programs;
  • Communicate botulism information and advice (technical, policy or other) related to the ecosystem of the Great Lakes basin to stakeholders (including the public) through member organizations, as required;
  • Influence and support the coordination of botulism activities, including: laboratory research and field investigations, environmental management decisions, and response actions in the Great Lakes basin.

I’ll keep the membership updated on this.

Quagga Mussel Population on the increase: Quagga and Zebra Mussels are both invasives who have wrecked havoc in Lake Michigan. While the Zebra Mussels seem to be on the decline, its larger cousin, the Quagga Mussel seems to be increasing. Quagga live in the deeper waters that the Zebra don’t live in. Now the problem with the Quagga is that it competes for food (algae) that a critical link on the bottom of the lake food chain needs also. This link, an organism called diporeia, is an important food source for the bottom feeding fish such as whitefish (up to 80% of whitefish diet is diporeia). Diporeia population is declining, the whitefish are getting thinner (while they do consume Quagga mussels, they are low in nutritional value), and its population is also declining. Also declining are prey fish such as the alewife, bloater and sculpin that are critical for salmon and trout.

Baiting Ban: Last fall the Michigan DNR instituted a ban on baiting for deer hunters because one deer in a restricted area (pen) tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. This ban extended to feeding deer and other wildlife throughout the winter in an effort to stop the spread of CWD. In addition, 9000 deer were tested during deer season from around the lower peninsula and no evidence was found of CWD in Michigan’s wild population.
How did this affect Beaver Island? Deer were not fed this winter. This ban may have resulted in more deer deaths as we have had a severe winter with record snowfall (only ½ inch from the 105 year record amount), record cold temperatures and a high coyote population. Dr. Jeff Powers has been working diligently to convince the Natural Resource Commission to remove its ban for the future. Studies done in other states resulted in the removing of bans and reinstituting of deer feeding when it was found that this ban did nothing to control CWD in the wild.

Turkeys: The Turkey population may have declined somewhat this past year. Last spring’s weather severely affected the turkeys‘ reproduction rate. Few young were seen during the summer. The sizes of the flocks over wintering at feeding stations were also smaller and declined this winter with the severe weather and high coyote population causing more deaths.

Cormorants: Kevin Elsenheimer, state representative, has been meeting with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials regarding the state’s cormorant problem. Presenting photos of the damage the cormorants have caused around the Beaver Island archipelago, helped to make his point that this issue needs to be addressed. The Michigan Wildlife Services has pledged $139,000 to help control the cormorant in Michigan waters. Beaver Island Wildlife Club also is pledging its support and resources to aid in these control measures in the Archipelago.

– Jacque LaFreniere