DNR Report

Warm weather reduces snow cover in the south, deep snow persists in the north

Some very warm weather early in the week, reaching into the 50s statewide, has taken a toll on winter sports conditions, especially in the southern half of the state. The warm weather melted a lot of snow in a hurry leaving a muddy mess in far southern areas and water standing in many fields and yards. Many southern facing slopes in the south are now snow free, much to the delight of wildlife.

In the north, however, while snow settled some with the warm up, the deep snow persists. Snowmobile trails remain open and are still being reported as good to very good in many northern counties on the Department of Tourism’s Snow Conditions Report. Most state park and forest properties are reporting that cross-country ski grooming is likely over for the season, unless the state receives another big snowfall. Trails in the south are generally in poor condition, and while trails in the north are snow-covered, they have been icy in the mornings and soft and slushy as temperatures warm throughout the day.

State wildlife officials continue to monitor the harsh winter’s impact on deer and turkey. They continue to ask the public’s help in reporting any dead deer or turkeys to local wildlife biologists. And responding to many hunters’ concerns over turkey populations in the north, wildlife officials have announced that they will reduce the number of over-the-counter spring turkey permits available in some northern units.

Northern Wisconsin lakes are still solidly locked in ice, with 22 to 30 inches on most lakes with layers of slush on top, making travel very difficult. Lakes in southern Wisconsin have just begun to show signs of early break-up with some landings and shorelines having open water, especially near inlets and outlets. Wardens are cautioning people against driving any vehicles on river systems as they are also beginning to open up.

Ice fishing pressure has been pretty non-existent in the north, but this week’s warm weather did trigger some good panfish action on southern and central Wisconsin lakes. The milder weather brought out more anglers last weekend on Green Bay, where anglers continue to fish though deep ice with success for whitefish and northern pike reported along the east and west shore. There is some more open water in southeastern Lake Michigan harbors, but most are still locked in ice and anglers continue to catch brown and rainbow trout through the ice.

Raccoon, skunk, muskrat, mink, and opossum activity has increased as temperatures are increasing and snow is receding. River otter sign along creeks and streams may be more evident this time of year as male otters increase their movements during the March to April breeding season. Fox and gray squirrels are feeding furiously on nuts and seeds that have remained buried all winter under snow and ice, and males are actively pursuing females.

The spring bird migration is off to a tempered start with arrival of small numbers of sandhill cranes, red-winged blackbirds, and American robins in the south. Waterfowl rank among the earliest migrants and a good diversity of birds are now on the move. However, this winter’s extensive ice cover continues to take a toll on many diving ducks as numerous dead birds are showing up along the Lake Michigan shoreline as ice recedes.