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News Digest – Week of Jan. 16, 2023

A soft orange sunset spreads over an iced-over lake with the dim outlines of ice fishing shanties dotting the skyline.

Get the experience and knowledge you need for ice fishing at the Outdoor Skills Academy Hard Water School!

Here are just a few of this week’s stories from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

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

Photo ambassador snapshot: Ice garden in Grand Traverse

Bushes, trees and other vegetation on a Great Lakes shoreline are frozen in time, encapsulated by ice. Want to see more pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador Sheen Watkins at Leelanau State Park in Leelanau County? Visit Instagram.com/MiStateParks to explore photos and learn more about the photo ambassadors! For more on the photo ambassador program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.

Nature Center Summit returns Feb. 10 with conservation knowledge from the experts

A digital graphic adverising the Nature Center Summit with supporting organizations' logos lined along the bottom.Nonformal educators at nature centers, zoos, camps and conservation districts teach thousands of Michigan residents about natural resources each year. Faculty members at Michigan colleges and universities also reach thousands of students in biology, zoology and other nature-related courses. But where do these naturalists, educators and professors get their information?

The idea behind the DNR’s first Nature Center Summit in 2019 was to bring together nonformal educators and higher education faculty for a daylong seminar about some of our state’s current conservation issues and trends.

“We really seek out speakers who are the best of the best when it comes to knowledge of Michigan natural resource topics,” said Jon Spieles, the DNR’s acting Marketing and Outreach Division chief and a planner of the original summit. “If you want to learn about any of our scheduled topics, these are the people best suited to present and answer questions you may have.”

After two years of virtual meetings due to COVID-19 precautions, the Nature Center Summit will convene in person once again at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center on Higgins Lake, 9:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10. The cost is $25, which includes lunch. A hospitality package with lodging, dinner and breakfast is available for an additional cost.

Register and find more information about scheduled sessions at Michigan.gov/NatureCenterSummit.

If you’re looking for a full weekend of nature programming, the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education will offer its Wildlife Weekend program beginning the evening of Friday, Feb. 10, and running through noon Sunday, Feb. 12.

While the Nature Center Summit targets nonformal educators, Wildlife Weekend is open to anyone interested in learning more about nature and the outdoors – participants can opt to either learn how Michigan wildlife withstands winter or try their hand at activities like snowshoeing and ice fishing.

Questions? Contact Kevin Frailey at 517-974-7941.

Best practices for ‘stress-free’ snowy owl viewing

A snowy owl takes wing over a snow-dusted dune, the sun illuminating the blinding white of its feathers.Each winter, Michiganders get a chance to glimpse the large, magnificent snowy owl – and this species’ appearance across the state attracts a lot of attention. However, it’s important to remember that winter tends to be a stressful time for birds like the snowy owl.

Snowy owls spend most of their year in the Arctic tundra, far away from humans and urban landscapes. When they travel to populated areas in the winter, these new places present unfamiliar threats like curious humans, rodent poison, and vehicle and power line collisions. Moreover, they often do not display signs of fear toward humans. This can sometimes get them into harmful situations.

Keep the best interests of these majestic creatures in mind. Here are a few quick tips for viewing snowy owls to keep them stress-free and safe:

Give snowy owls space. A good rule of thumb is to view wildlife from a distance, using binoculars or a scope, rather than approaching. If you “flush” an owl, or cause it to move to a new area, you are too close and need to back away or leave. Even if the bird doesn’t seem to display signs of fear, it can still be scared and stressed by your presence.

Don’t lure owls with audio recordings. While it might be tempting to use audio recordings to attract snowy owls closer to you, hearing another owl’s call — even a recorded one — can be stressful for the bird. Snowy owls are solitary and territorial, and the call of another bird can put them on high alert.

Leave “live baiting” to the pros. Scientists and wildlife rehabbers use live bait like mice to entice owls for banding, relocation and rehabilitation. However, this practice can be dangerous for owls when it’s done by photographers, birders, or others. Baited owls learn to associate people with food, and may be drawn to dangerous places – like roads or airports – to find humans.

Submit your eBird observations to scientists but keep them hidden from the public. To prevent large gatherings of people and limit disturbing  snowy owls, keep your observations private. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to keep your eBird checklist hidden.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can help snowy owls safely enjoy their wintering grounds here in Michigan.

Questions? Contact Erin Ford at 313-820-0809.

Panfish, pike and more: Learn ice fishing from the pros

A young child with a beaming smile stands on a frozen lake and holds a panfish triumphantly.Are you yearning for time on the (frozen!) water and looking to get the best tips on targeting some of your favorite fish species? Look no further than upcoming weekend ice fishing clinics offered by the DNR’s Outdoor Skills Academy:

Everything starts at the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center, part of Mitchell State Park in Cadillac. These hands-on clinics focus on techniques for panfish, walleye and pike, with the advanced clinic taking a deeper dive and involving some quad or snowmobile use and the potential need to walk long distances.

The Hard Water Clinics are an excellent, inclusive way to get more familiar with fishing techniques and best practices. Check each clinic’s event page for information on registration, licensing, cost, timing, what to expect each day and other important details, and then get ready for a great day on the ice!

Anglers can get just about anywhere on a lake during the ice fishing season, something you can’t do without a boat during warmer months. Virtually every fish available to anglers in the summer can be caught through the ice – with panfish a popular species to target. When you’re ready to hit the ice on your own, view our fishing hot spots (explore by region) and plan your next adventure. Remember to visit Michigan.gov/IceSafety, too, so you’re prepared for any changing ice conditions.

Questions about Hard Water School or the Outdoor Skills Academy? Contact Ed Shaw at 231-779-1321.

Ride along with DNR conservation officers in new ‘Wardens’ episodes

A conservation officer boat cruises past a small, wooded island while on an agitated river.What exactly goes into enforcing natural resources law around the state? If you’ve ever wondered, check out “Wardens” on the Outdoor Channel.

Last week’s episode featured Hot Boat Weekend at Hardy Dam and geocaching at Michigan state parks.

Episodes air on the Outdoor Channel every Friday at 9:30 p.m., Saturday at 5:30 a.m., Sunday at 3:30 p.m. and Monday at 10:30 a.m. (All times Eastern Standard).

To get the Outdoor Channel, talk to your local TV service provider or go to Outdoorchannel.commyoutdoortv.comAmazon Prime or call 1-855-44OUTDOOR.

WLUC FOX UP TV6 airs previous episodes every Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

The DNR partners with the Outdoor Channel to tell the story of our dedicated staff and the work they do to conserve Michigan’s natural resources, weaving important conservation messages into every storyline. More than 65 episodes have featured the state of Michigan and have had more than 35 million viewers!

ICYMI: NotMI species webinars – new year, new topics

Red swamp crayfishAfter all the hubbub of the holidays, it can be a relief to get back to your daily routine. Rest assured, the NotMISpecies webinar series will be there, bringing a fresh schedule of programs for the new year.

In case you missed it, a new slate of webinars is coming up soon. Check out “If you can’t beat ’em, find something that will eat ’em” (Jan. 18), “Lobster mobsters” (Feb. 7) and “Rowing the boat: The Michigan Invasive Species Program 2022 year in review” (March 21), or go through the full library of recorded past webinars.


Looking for a place to put your new hard water fishing skills to use or explore a new trail? Check out these fishing and trail opportunities curated by our convention and visitors bureau partners.


If your cold-weather plans include time on your sled, make sure you’ve got a snowmobile trail permit and are up to speed on safety tips, trail etiquette, closures and other key information.


Great outdoor experiences start with safety. If you’re an avid hunter, angler, boater or off-roader and want to share your expertise, consider signing up as a volunteer recreational safety instructor!