Friday, December 5, 2014

Down the Drain and into our Food Web?

Research published over the past year has revealed a new threat to lake health coming from an unlikely source: face wash.  The companies that make face and body wash have been increasingly using tiny plastic “microbeads”.  The microbeads, often under one millimeter in diameter slip through most waste water treatment systems.  Their ability to stay suspended in liquids is both part of what makes plastic microbeads popular with manufacturers and part of what makes them so problematic (once floating in open water they resemble insect eggs and other food sources to fish).  The accumulations in lakes and rivers are beginning to alarm scientist who are just starting to understand the ecological implications.  The microbeads in our cleaning products threaten to introduce the bioaccumulation problem into more Midwestern food webs, potentially even impacting people who catch and eat fish from lakes. 

Recently scientists from Canada reported measurable concentrations of plastic microbeads in the river sediment of the St. Lawrence River.  Their findings indicate that plastic concentrations in river sediment are similar to the most contaminated ocean sediment samples.  No research has been done yet to look at how microbeads are impacting smaller inland lakes and rivers.  However, it is highly likely that microbeads are being carried along with treated wastewater from municipal systems that discharge into rivers or lakes.  We also know very little about how microbeads move and affect septic systems.  Since some septic waste is pumped and then treated at municipal plants, they too could be delivering plastic debris to the environment. 

What can we do:  The simplest remedy is to stop buying and using products that contain microbeads.  This includes soaps, toothpaste, and certain makeup products.  There is an app to help consumers determine if a product has microbeads.  Download the Beat the Microbead app to your smartphone.  Simply scan a product’s bar bode to learn if it contains microbeads.  You can also tell by liking for the ingredients polyethylene or polypropylene.
Microbeads from toothpaste

“Lakes Tide” Volume 39, No. 4 Fall/Winter 2014: 1-3. Print

Friday, September 19, 2014

Freshwater Jellyfish Sighting

Freshwater jelly fish have again made an appearance in Legend Lake.  They were recently observed by ESD staff in the Blacksmith Lake basin.  They have been previously observed in the Pywaosit basin as well.  The jelly fish scientifically named  Craspedacusta sowerbii are found throughout the world.  Their appearance in a body of water tends to be sporadic and nomadic.  It is theorized they are transported by waterfowl which is why they may show up in a body of water they have never been seen in before.  These organisms are small being around 1 inch in diameter and are translucent and can easily be overlooked when on the water. 

Freshwater jellyfish begin life as a tiny polyp, which lives in colonies attached to underwater vegetation, rocks, or tree stumps, feeding and asexually reproducing during spring and summer. Some of these offspring are the sexually reproducing medusae. Fertilized eggs develop into small ciliated larvae called planula. The planula settle to the bottom, and develop into polyps. However, the majority of jellyfish populations existing in the United States are either all male or all female, so there is no sexual reproduction in those populations. During the cold winter months, polyps contract and become resting bodies, called podocysts. It is believed that podocysts are transported by aquatic plants or animals to other bodies of water. Once conditions become favorable, they develop into polyps again.

Like other jellyfish, freshwater jellyfish sting their prey with nematocysts which inject their prey with toxins.  Due to their extremely small size, freshwater jellyfish are unable to sting humans.  So keep on the lookout next time you are out for a chance to see one of nature’s interesting little organisms.  The best time to see them is on calm days in the middle of the lake.  They will be drifting by a few inches under the surface of the water. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Living with Black Bears

As the black bear population continues to grow so do an increasing number of human-bear conflicts.  In order for bears to coexist with humans, we have to understand normal bear behavior.  Black bears tend to be shy, solitary animals, but at some times of the year, particularly in the spring when bears emerge from their winter dens and food is not abundant, bears may be on the lookout for opportunistic food sources.  This might be your garbage can, or the bird feeder in your back yard.  Nearly all human-bear conflicts are a result of the animals’ search for food.  There are lots of simple things you can do to avoid conflicts with bears.With your help we can continue to live together with this great animal, enjoying their presence in the woods around us and at the same time reducing conflicts with bears around our homes and our campsites.

Reducing Bear Conflicts Near Your Home

Bears are attracted to numerous items around homes including:
  • bird feeders
  • compost piles
  • grills
  • pet food
  • gardens
  • garbage
  • suet
  • cooking grease
  • anything that gives off a food aroma
Here are some simple tips to avoid bear problems.
  • make bird feeders inaccessible to bears by hanging them at least 10ft off the ground and 5 ft away from tree trunks, or on a limb that will not support a bear
  • consider taking down bird feeders at the end of winter
  • during spring and summer bring feeders inside at night
  • clean up spilled bird seed below feeder stations
  • if you see a bear at a bird feeder during the day, take the feeder down and discontinue all feeding for at least two weeks.
  • keep your garbage cans tightly closed and indoors if possible
  • pick up loose or spilled garbage so it doesn't attract bears
  • occasionally clean out your garbage cans with bleach to make them less attractive to bears
  • when camping don't cook, eat, or store food in your tent
  • store food and cooking utensils away from your campsite
  • dispose of scraps in closed containers away from campsite, not in the fire
  • keep you campsite clean
If You See a Black Bear
  • Make noise and wave your arms-let the bear know you are there so you don't surprise it.  Bears normally leave an area once they know a human is around
  • If you happen to surprise a bear at close range, back away slowly
  • If you are near a vehicle or building, go inside until the bear wanders away
  • Enjoy watching bears from a distance
If a Bear is Causing a Nuisance in Your Area

Contact Menominee Conservation at 715-799-6150 or the Wildlife Biologist at 715-799-5109

Monday, June 9, 2014

Wisconsin Heat Awareness Day June 12, 2014

(MADISON) – Heat can kill.  That’s why Wisconsin Emergency Management, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the National Weather Service are reminding people of the dangers associated with extreme heat and to promote community safety and health.
In 2013, Wisconsin had 11 confirmed heat related deaths. Many of those victims were socially isolated maintaining little contact with family and friends. This is why it is vitally important to check in on family, friends, and neighbors during extreme heat, especially those who are particularly vulnerable, like families with very young children, the elderly, and people who are on medications that could make them more susceptible to injury from extreme heat.

In 2012, Wisconsin had confirmed 24 heat related deaths, most occurred during five days of Excessive Heat Warnings from July 2-6. The heat index rose to 105 F degrees for 48 hours with night time lows of 75 F. It was the second hottest and third longest heat wave in Wisconsin. None of the victims had air conditioning and they did not seek shelter at one of the many cooling centers which opened around the state.

In 2011, excessive heat claimed five lives and injured more than 100 people in Wisconsin during the July 17-21 heat wave. Once again none of those victims had air conditioning. The combination of the warm temperatures and high humidity caused the heat index to rise between 100 F and 117 F degrees. 

In 1995, two major killer heat waves affected most of Wisconsin resulting in 154 heat-related deaths and over 300 heat-related illnesses.

Summer heat waves have been the biggest weather-related killers in Wisconsin for the past 50 years, far exceeding tornadoes, severe storms and floods combined. Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States. People at higher risk of a heat-related illness include:

§  Older adults

§  Infants and young children

§  People with chronic heart or lung problems

§  People with disabilities

§  Overweight persons

§  Those who work outdoors or in hot settings

§  Users of some medications, especially those taken for mental disorders, movement disorder, allergies, depression, and heart or circulatory problems

§  People who are socially isolated and don’t know when or how to cool off – or when to call for help
  Tips to keep safe in hot weather:
1.     Never leave children, disabled persons, or pets in a parked car – even briefly.  Temperatures in a car can become life threatening within minutes. On an 80-degree day with sunshine, the temperature inside a car even with the windows cracked slightly can rise 20 to 30 degrees above the outside temperature in 10 to 20 minutes. There have been cases where the inside temperature rose 40 degrees! Additional information at:
2.     Keep your living space cool.  If you have an air conditioner, use it. Cover windows to keep the sun from shining in.  If you don’t have an air conditioner you should consider going to a community cooling center. If you stay at home, open windows to let air circulate. At extreme high temperatures, a fan loses its ability to effectively reduce heat-related illness. When it’s hotter than 95 degrees use fans to blow hot air out of the window rather than to blow hot air on your body.  
3.     Slow down and limit physical activity.  Plan outings or exertion for the early morning or after dark when temperatures are cooler.
4.     Drink plenty of water and eat lightly.  Don’t wait for thirst, but instead drink plenty of water throughout the day.  Avoid alcohol or caffeine and stay away from hot, heavy meals. 
5.     Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.  Add a hat or umbrella to keep your head cool…and don’t forget sunscreen!
6.     Don’t stop taking medication unless your doctor says you should.  Take extra care to stay cool and ask your doctor or pharmacist for any special heat advice.
7.     Taking a cool shower or bath will cool you down.  A shower or bath will actually work faster than an air conditioner.  Applying cold wet rags to the neck, head and limbs also cools down the body quickly.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

NOAA Emergency Radios Save Lives

May 7 is NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards Awareness Day (MADISON) – Recent tornado outbreaks in the central U.S. remind us that it is time to prepare for possible tornadoes here in Wisconsin. May 7, 2014 is NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards Awareness Day. The campaign encourages Wisconsin residents to own a NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio, a 24-hour source of weather forecasts, watches, warnings, and non-weather emergency information provided by the National Weather Service and its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “NOAA All Hazards Weather Radios save lives,” says Brian Satula, Wisconsin Emergency Management Administrator. “The early warning of possible danger gives you and your family time to act and stay safe.” Satula adds this reminder, “Listen, Act and Live! Listen to the weather radio warnings and take action right away. You’ll have a much better chance of surviving disaster.” Many communities have outdoor warning sirens. Tornado sirens are designed to alert people who may be outdoors. If you are inside a building or sleeping you may not hear the sirens. That’s why NOAA All Hazards Weather Radios are called “smoke detectors for severe weather.” It should be your primary source to alert you and your families about severe weather and other emergencies. A NOAA Weather Radio with an alarm and battery back-up is one of the best ways to protect your family, especially at night when the alarm feature can wake you up during severe weather and give you and your family time to seek appropriate shelter. There are also weather radios available that are portable and can be used while camping, boating and other outdoor activities. ReadyWisconsin profiles people who survived tornadoes thanks to an emergency weather radio. You can see those profiles at The NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards network started in 1972 and is the sole government-operated radio system to provide direct warnings for all hazardous conditions that pose a threat to lives and property. There are 37 stations that broadcast weather and hazards information to the residents of Wisconsin, and over 1,000 stations nationwide. Weather radios come in many sizes, with a variety of functions and costs. They can be purchased at most electronic stores. Most weather radio receivers are either battery-operated portables or AC-powered desktop models with battery backup. Many receivers have digital technology called Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) that allows users to program their radios to alarm only for hazardous conditions that affect their county. For additional information about weather radios including real life stories of Wisconsin residents who survived a tornado thanks to the early warning from a NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio, go to You’ll also find a Q & A section with the most asked questions about emergency weather radios.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Flood Precaution and Preventative Measures

This year’s winter is finally drawing to a close.  A thicker than usual snow pack has sparked concern over possible flooding as it warms up through the spring.  The national weather service has forecasted temperatures to be below normal and models indicate a gradual thaw.  This may seem less than ideal because the snow will hang around longer but it’s great news for those worried about flooding.  A slow thaw will give the rivers and streams time to ferry away the water at a lower level preventing flooding.  Although the forecast is for a gradual melt, we could still see flooding.  The worst case scenario would be for several days of heavy rain in April before the ground has fully thawed.  If this happens, flooding of level ground is certain to happen. 

There are steps for homeowners to take in flood prone areas. 
Buy flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Plan if you live in a flood plain.
  • Elevate the furnace, water heater, air conditioner and other utilities that are ground level.
  • Install "check valves" in sewer traps to prevent flood water back ups.
  • Construct interior barriers to stop low level floodwater from entering basements.
  • Read Living in the Floodplain: What You Need to Know - Who You Need to Know .  This publication is available from the WDNR.

All homeowners should also consider doing the following regardless of if they have flooded recently or not.

  • Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
  • Remove inventory or important papers and possessions from the basement.
  • Back up important computer files and store in a secure off site location.

These simple steps can prevent costly damage to homeowners and make flood recovery easier and faster.