Head injuries decrease in high school but girls’ rate is higher

By EMILY LOVASZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — Sixteen high school sports saw a decrease in reported head injuries from the 2015-16 school year to the 2016-17 school year, according to the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA).

Head injuries increased or remained the same in 13 sports, according to the report. Overall, high school sport teams statewide reported 3,958 head injuries in 2016-17, down 11 percent from the year before. Boys and girls sports were reported separately.

Football led the list for boys and basketball led the list for girls. Soccer ranked second for both genders.

Of the 750 high schools in Michigan, 97 percent reported athletes’ head injuries to the sports association but not to the state.

The rate of injuries for girls is far higher than for boys, according to the report.

For every 1,000 girls who played basketball, there were 23.34 head injuries reported. For boys, that number was 7.90.

Similarly, softball had 10.70 head injuries reported for girls, while baseball had 3.89 reported for boys.

MHSAA promised its members not to release data for individual schools for fear it will be misinterpreted, said John Johnson, the MHSAA communications director. As a private organization, MHSAA isn’t required by law to release data it collects.

Although the MHSAA report shows changes from one year to the next, it is too early to call it a trend.

The numbers don’t mean anything, said Joanne Gerstner, the sports journalist-in-residence at Michigan State University and author of “Back in the Game: Why Concussion Doesn’t Have to End Your Athletic Career.”

Context is lacking because there are no numbers from five or 10 years ago, and some schools have a greater number of students, which could equal more head injuries, she said.

“We don’t know what it was 10 years ago,” Gerstner said. “We have our data set right here, and it is great. But we aren’t going to know what it means until 10 or 20 years from now when we can look at everything.”

Other factors come into play, such as reporting differences for girls and boys.   

In all the gender comparisons in similar sports, females have a greater risk for a concussion, said Tracey Covassin, an associate professor of kinesiology at Michigan State and an expert in the effects of concussions.

“One factor could be that females have weaker neck muscles, causing a faster rotation of their head. Since they have less mass, it is predisposing them to having more concussions,” Covassin said.

Studies also show that girls are more honest about reporting concussions.

Sports like football or hockey have a macho culture, Gerstner said, but it’s more acceptable for female athletes to admit something is wrong.

And Covassin said, “There is still a percentage of athletes who do not want to report their injury due to missing playing time. They do not think it is serious enough or they do not want to let their teammates down.”

The other thing that people don’t want to talk about is fear, Gerstner said. Many don’t know what a concussion is, they don’t want to admit that it’s possible or they’ve heard scary things about it, so they don’t say anything.

“People knew of the term concussion, but it was more along the lines of a knock to the head or, ‘it’s a little thing, get up and keep going,’” Gerstner said. “Now people are taking it much more seriously.”

Awareness has increased even in the last five years, she said. Being more proactive by working on neck strength, having less contact in practices and games, and even reducing practice time have helped prevent head injuries.

Every state has a law regarding youth sports and concussions, Gerstner said. If a child is thought to have sustained a head injury during practice or a game, he or she cannot play.

Johnson said schools continue to make sports safer by making sure they’re officiated properly, that rules emphasize safety and that equipment continues to get better.

“There is no one policy, no one rule or no one piece of equipment that will ever prevent a concussion or any injury,” Johnson said. “All we can do is put ourselves in the best position to minimize the risk.”

Schools are using the MHSAA head injury report as a surveillance system. Every high school must report to the association the total number of athletes it has in all sports and any time an athlete suffers a head injury.

That helps schools and the MHSAA find out what sports the concussions are happening in and what athletes are at a higher risk.

Covassin said, “We are more aware of concussions, we are better at diagnosing and evaluating concussions and I also think more athletes are more aware of the signs, symptoms and dangers of playing with a concussion.”

The reporting system is great, Gerstner said, but that alone doesn’t reduce injuries or risk. Rather, it’s everyone doing their part that helps.

“Using the reporting system has been a step in the right direction. Recording everything in a scientific mode is missing in most discussion in the media and pop culture,” Gerstner said. “The data is so new and we do not have a lot to show, but we are getting there.”

Dec. 1, 2017 – CNS Budget

Dec. 1, 2017 — Week 13

To: CNS Editors

From: David Poulson and Sheila Schimpf

http://news.jrn.msu.edu/capitalnewsservice/

For technical problems, contact CNS technical manager Tony Cepak at (517) 803-6841 or  cepak@msu.edu.

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Here is your file:

TRAPPING: Nearly 30,000 people buy a Michigan fur harvester license each year. Some are trappers. The others are hunters of furbearing species. But only about half of the people who buy a license actually participate because of the time commitment involved, state officials say. By Kaley Fech. FOR MARQUETTE, SAULT STE. MARIE, ST. IGNACE, STURGIS, THREE RIVERS, BLISSFIELD, GREENVILLE, GLADWIN, LAKE COUNTY, HERALD-REVIEW, CADILLAC, BIG RAPIDS, TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, BAY MILLS, CHEBOYGAN, CRAWFORD COUNTY, ALCONA, MONTMORENCY, HOLLAND, OCEANA, MANISTEE, LUDINGTON AND  ALL POINTS.

DRONES: State officials say that Michigan prisons are buzzed by drones almost weekly as people try to get cell phones, drugs and other contraband to inmates. State lawmakers want to ban flights over prisons, but they’re stepping on the toes of the FAA which regulates the nation’s airspace. By Jack Nissen. FOR MARQUETTE, GREENVILLE AND ALL POINTS.

PRESERVES: Michigan’s shipwreck treasures are protected by about a dozen underwater preserves. But they are threatened by a declining corps of volunteers struggling to mark, protect and interpret their history. By Carl Stoddard. FOR ST. IGNACE, MARQUETTE, PETOSKEY, TRAVERSE CITY, LUDINGTON, HOLLAND, ALCONA, CHEBOYGAN, STURGIS, THREE RIVERS, MANISTEE, LEELANAU, OCEANA, BAY MILLS AND ALL POINTS.

w/PRESERVESLIST: List of Michigan underwater preserves By Carl Stoddard

w/PRESERVEPHOTO: Shipwreck AUDUBON in upper Lake Huron. Credit: Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

HISTORICTAX: Michigan’s historic buildings could get a facelift under new legislation to bring back a preservation tax credit that was cut in 2011. Officials say bringing it back could cost the state up to $12 million in general fund revenue. But advocates including a Traverse City senator say it would improve towns and local economies, particularly in the north. By Stephen Olschanski. For TRAVERSE CITY, LANSING CITY PULSE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, SAULT STE. MARIE, CHEBOYGAN, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS, MARQUETTE, LEELANAU AND ALL POINTS

 

COWS&WOLVES: Farmers who dump rather than bury dairy and beef cattle may be unwittingly feeding wolves — an “unintentional wildlife food subsidy” — a new study of U.P. wolf feeding habits shows. State law requires burial, but that can be expensive. Nearly a quarter of the diet of wolves consists of cattle in areas near dairy and beef farms, but that doesn’t mean the wolves prey on livestock. We talk to the lead researchers and experts at DNR and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. By Lucy Schroeder. FOR MARQUETTE, BAY MILLS, SAULT STE. MARIE, CHEBOYGAN, ST. IGNACE AND ALL POINTS.

           w/COWS&WOLVESPHOTO1: Cattle carcass dump found during a U.P. study of how people change wolf behavior. Credit: Tyler Petroelje

           w/COWS&WOLVESPHOTO2: Researchers used GPS collars to track Upper Peninsula wolves. Credit: Nate Svoboda

HURONPERCH&WALLEYE: The resurgence of Lake Huron walleye is good news for anglers and biodiversity, but maybe not such good news for yellow perch because they feature prominently on the walleyes’ menu. Fisheries researchers at the DNR, Great Lakes Research Lab in Ann Arbor and Purdue University explain their latest findings and the impact on the Saginaw Bay fishery. By Steven Maier. FOR ALCONA, CHEBOYGAN, MONTMORENCY, GLADWIN AND ALL POINTS.

           w/HURONPERCH&WALLEYEPHOTO: Juvenile yellow perch. Credit: Roger Tabor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

WATERFALLSBOOK: A Cadillac photographer ‘s new book showcases 202 of Michigan’s most beautiful and easiest-to-reach waterfalls, from famous ones like Tahquamenon and Agate Falls to some that photographer Phil Stagg named himself. He’s visited all of them and says he hopes the book and photos lure other people to visit them. By Kate Habrel. FOR CADILLAC, MARQUETTE, SAULT STE. MARIE, ST. IGNACE, CHEBOYGAN, BAY MILLS, LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

           w/WATERFALLSBOOKPHOTO1: The photo of Tahquamenon Falls that started it all. Credit: Phil Stagg

           w/WATERFALLSBOOKPHOTO2: Cover of “Waterfalls of Michigan: The Collection.” Credit: MI Falls Publishing

BLACKTERNS – The once-abundant black tern is far less abundant in Great Lakes wetlands, a victim of habitat loss, shrinking coastal wetlands, invasive plant species and fluctuating water levels. There’s a high risk that more colonies will be abandoned, according to a new study of nesting sites, including ones near Sault Ste. Marie, Manistee, Cedarville, Whitefish Point, Pointe Mouillee Marsh and Sebewaing. The number of nesting pairs dropped from 50 to 100 in recent years to 15 in 2016 and to none this year in Ogontz Bay near Escanaba. St. Clair Flats, a major nesting area where the St. Clair River hits Lake St. Clair, faces development pressure nearby. We talk to a lead scientist and Audubon experts. By Eric Freedman. FOR ALCONA, CHEBOYGAN, ST. IGNACE, MANISTEE, LUDINGTON, HOLLAND, HARBOR SPRINGS, SAULT STE. MARIE, PETOSKEY, LEELANAU, BAY MILLS, MARQUETTE AND ALL POINTS.

           w/BLACKTERNSMAP: Black tern colony sites on the U.S. Great Lakes, 1976-2009. Credit: Francesca Cuthbert and Linda Wires.

           w/BLACKTERNPHOTO: Black tern. Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Preservation tax credit would return, if bill passes

By STEPHEN OLSCHANSKI
Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan’s historic buildings could get a facelift under proposed legislation that would restore a preservation tax credit that was cut in 2011.

Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, introduced a bill  that he said would spur local economies and increase the tax base of Michigan cities.

And what it might take to boost the economies of some of these cities could be a single  redevelopment spurred by the credit, he said.

“When you look at Escanaba, you look at the potential and what’s happening in Cheboygan, in Sault Ste. Marie — some of these places need that first one or two buildings (to be redeveloped) to get it going to invest more,” Schmidt said.    

The bill passed the Senate Finance Committee on Nov. 30 and is headed to the Senate floor for a vote.

The tax credit was cut in 2011 and residents, businesses and cities have since had a hard time revitalizing historic buildings, said Nancy Finegood, executive director of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network.

“Ever since (the cut), small projects like on Main Streets and residential properties have had little incentives to make projects work,” Finegood said.

It’s also hurting smaller towns with historic districts. Currently, 78 communities have local historic districts overseen by historic district commissions that have authority to protect historic resources, according to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.  

“There’s nothing for residents any longer and it’s harder and to make those projects in smaller towns work,” Finegood said.

Renewing the credit would motivate residents in historic districts and owners of historic buildings to rehab their buildings, Schmidt said.

“When you look at a smaller city or village in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, it’s not just a building but rather is really part of an entire downtown or a neighborhood and the impact is that much greater,” Schmidt said.

The legislation would allow up to 25 percent of qualified expenditures for historic rehabilitation projects to be subtracted from state tax payments.  

Qualified expenditures include the upkeep of the building, such as rehabbing the interior and exterior. It would not cover the funds to buy a historic building.

A federal tax credit is available for historic preservation which gives a credit of 20 percent of the expenditures, but the building must be registered on the national historic register and  be used for commercial purposes.

If a building received the national credit, it could also apply to the state for an additional 5 percent credit.

For buildings that could not or don’t receive the national credit, the state could award a credit of up to 25 percent.

Schmidt said the former tax credit benefited many cities.

“When you (see) the redevelopment of historic buildings, historic homes in key neighborhoods, when you look at Heritage Hill in Grand Rapids, when you look at many of the buildings in Detroit or Saginaw or Flint or Kalamazoo, they have a very good return in terms of stabilizing and improving the neighborhood or business district,” Schmidt said.

The Michigan Townships Association said it supports the proposed tax credit.

The state tax credit would apply to buildings in a local historic district or individually listed as a local historic building. Homeowners could apply for the credit if their house qualifies.

Finegood said, “I know someone who did their kitchen and it qualified in Ann Arbor.”

An analysis by the Senate Fiscal Agency found that the addition of the tax credit would reduce tax revenue by approximately $10 million to $12 million per year. Most of that loss would reduce General Fund revenue.

The credit’s impact on the state could fluctuate depending on tax overhaul movements at the federal level, according to that analysis. The tax could be altered or eliminated depending on the legislative actions in Washington.

Many areas across the state would benefit from the credit, especially Detroit, Finegood said.

Schmidt said, “My goal is to get people in Michigan, in any size community but especially in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula where we need that extra investment, to get that back there and to make sure that money is redeveloping (the community).”

The rehab projects would also benefit towns by bringing the buildings back onto property tax rolls and using local labor to do the projects, both Finegood and Schmidt said.

Ultimately, Schmidt said,it’s about keeping Michigan workers and Michigan developers in Michigan to work on Michigan projects.

“Improve buildings, keep people employed and keep those investment dollars working,” Schmidt said. “And obviously, preserving our sense of place in history.”

New book shows off Michigan’s best waterfalls

By KATE HABREL
Capital News Service

LANSING — “Waterfalls” and “Michigan” aren’t words often paired. Photographer Phil Stagg of Cadillac is on a mission to change that.

His latest book, “Waterfalls of Michigan: The Collection” is the fifth in a series documenting the state’s waterfalls. It contains the most spectacular and easiest-to-reach ones in the state.

And Stagg has been to every single one.

All photos, maps and descriptions in the book are his own. He’s walked every trail, some many times over. He’s taken GPS coordinates showing the exact location of each waterfall.

Why?

“I don’t think we realize the rugged beauty that exists in the state,” Stagg said. “That’s become part of my quest: to open the eyes of so many Michiganders who are not familiar with what lies north of the bridge. I hope that they will appreciate the U.P., maybe more than they have.”

There are 202 waterfalls in his book, most located in the Upper Peninsula. The full series includes more than 600.

Each waterfall is accompanied by a picture, information on hiking conditions, danger level from walking on uneven or icy ground, elevation change and a short description of the falls. Stagg also rates each on a “must-see” scale from 1 to 10 and marks the most spectacular sights with a green square.

“Waterfalls of Michigan: The Collection” (MI Falls Publishing, $29.95) contains those that are most beautiful and easiest to get to.

The series got its start in 2008, when Stagg took a photo he loved at Tahquamenon Falls in the U.P.’s Luce County. That photo inspired him in 2009 to seek others.

“I was just trying to find some at that point,” Stagg said. “But then when the idea of actually creating a book gelled in the mind, I thought, okay, let’s get serious about this and try to actually get to all of them instead of finding just the nice ones.”

It took nine years to gather his pictures and field notes. The first book came out in 2016, the other four following soon after.

You’ll find many well-known waterfalls like Tahquamenon, Agate Falls in Ontonagon County and Manabezho Falls in Porcupines Mountains Wilderness State Park in Gogebic County.

You’ll also find several that Stagg named himself — including one in the Porcupine Mountains. Stagg stumbled across it while hiking with his oldest son.

“He yelled at me and said, ‘Dad, there’s a waterfall! You need to come up here!’” he said. “I finally said, ‘Okay, fine!’ So I went up there and sure enough, there was this cute little waterfall. I called it Insistence Falls because he insisted that I go up there.”

Each waterfall-hunting trip he took offered a new set of challenges. Sometimes the falls’ location wasn’t marked on maps. Sometimes there was no maintained trail leading to it. Sometimes the falls themselves were unmarked.

Stagg sometimes had to rely on GPS coordinates or word of mouth to find the waterfalls. When he arrived, conditions weren’t always right for a good picture and he’d have to go back later.

The searches turned him into a hiker, he said. He said he hopes the same will happen to those who pick up his book.

“You can’t see it all, you can’t hear it all, you can’t smell it all from a picture,” Stagg said. “You have to get out there and experience it. The wind’s blowing and you’re hearing the water. You feel the moss along the sides of the river. There’s just so much more dimension to be seen than you can ever get with just a photo or two.”

Books in the “Waterfalls of Michigan” series have been sold across the country, from New York to Florida. Some people buy them to look at the pictures and remember their own vacations. Others plan their own hikes around the information Stagg offers.

They’re an introduction to something Michigan isn’t well known for — but perhaps should be.

Kate Habrel writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Drones raise issue: Who controls prison airspace?

BY JACK NISSEN
Capital News Service

LANSING — Now that drones fly in the face of state prisons, someawmakers want to restrict the airspace over and near those facilities.

Recently, drones have been spotted flying over state prisons, making officials nervous. Exacerbating their worries is contraband dropped by the drones into a prison.

“We receive reports of drones flying over or nearby multiple times a month, sometimes multiple times a week,” said Chris Gautz, the Department of Corrections public information officer. “It creates a huge strain on the facility. So when people are dropping cell phones, guns or drugs, it’s a huge security concern.”

Although no guns have yet been reported as dropped into prisons, both prison officials and state politicians are worried it could happen. Last summer, a drone dropped razors, drugs and cellphones behind a  prison fence, prompting some lawmakers to introduce bills that would outlaw the craft above or near prisons.

It’s  a safety issue, said Rep. John Chirkun, D-Roseville, a primary sponsor of one of the bills. “I’ve heard from sheriffs from the three biggest counties in the state of Michigan concerned about this, so I decided to pick up the ball and run with it.”

His bill would outlaw the piloting of unmanned aircraft within 1,000 feet of state prisons, municipal police departments and state court buildings.  

The incident that prompted the legislation occurred last August at the Richard A. Handlon correctional facility in Ionia County. Three men were charged with smuggling weapons, drugs and cellphones into the prison.

Gautz said that because of the threat, when a drone is spotted near a prison and inmates are outside, sirens blare and prisoners are moved back to their cells. “We have to conduct a large-scale search of our entire prison grounds.”

A challenge for the state legislation is that regulating where drones can be flown flies into the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which regulates airspace.

“I don’t know where this is going to go,” said Robert Goodwin, a senior geospatial analyst/project manager with Michigan State University. “I understand the spirit of the law, but the FAA stepping in will open a huge can of worms.’”

Drone piloting, whether as a hobby or for commercial purposes, is new airspace for the FAA, said Goodwin, who pilots drones for university research. Because flying drones is new, the FAA is unlikely to support state restrictions on where they can be flown. Often state governments try to regulate where drones can be flown but don’t have authority to do so.

“Typically communities try establishing ordinances that say, ‘Listen, you can’t fly over a park,’ which they have no jurisdiction over,” he said. “Even if they make that statement saying someone can’t, it won’t hold water.”

But another lawmaker, Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, says that because the FAA hasn’t restricted where drones can fly, the state can.

If the federal government decides it doesn’t want to regulate where drones can go, then sstates can,  Barrett said.

As Chirkun tackles drone restrictions, Barrett is sponsoring a bill to allow an agreement between the FAA and police agencies for local authorities to enforce regulations relating to operation of unmanned aircraft systems.

Other solutions besides outlawing drones above state prisons include making it difficult to fly them, Barrett said. But those technqiues are expensive and not perfected, like frequency jammers the military uses to block radio waves.

“I think in the absence of those solutions, we should at least regulate and make it a crime,’ he said. “I’m not the one that favors regulation, but one that likes public safety.”

Goodwin sees problems for both hobbyists and commercial drone pilots if the state’s airspace starts to get regulated.

“From my standpoint, if they are going to choose an area, put a circle around it and say you can’t fly here, that can limit you a lot,” he said. “There’s going to have be exceptions to the rule set in place.”

As soon as states or the FAA regulate where drones can go, more rules will follow, Goodwin said.

“What if prisons want to use drones themselves? Or maybe a farmer wants to do agriculture research on his dairy farm. There’s all sorts of crazy things that are going to happen over the next several years in terms of what will and will not be allowed.”

Saginaw Bay perch populations up against a walleye

By STEVEN MAIER
Capital News Service

LANSING — Lake Huron walleye aren’t picky when it comes to food. And perch are on the menu.

The lake’s food web has changed dramatically in the past 15 years, paving the way for a walleye comeback just a few decades after their near-collapse. The walleyes’ adaptive taste has played a big role in their re-emergence as one of the top predators in the lake, according to a recent study in the journal “Ecology of Freshwater Fish.”

But wildlife managers worry that the walleyes’ good fortune threatens perch, another important sport and commercial fishery in Saginaw Bay.

“One of the side effects of walleye recovery is that they have been feeding heavily on young yellow perch,” said Dave Fielder, a fisheries research biologist with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

In response to the walleye boom, the department revised catch limits in the bay in late 2015, Fielder said. Walleye limits went from five to eight fish per day, while the minimum size was lowered from 15 to 13 inches. The shift is consistent with the department’s changing approach to a walleye fishery that has now stabilized. The hope is that it will also benefit perch.

The bay’s perch population is stable, but the walleye have created a bottleneck, he said. Young perch are common, but few survive into adulthood.

Perch make up a large part of walleye meals, although that fluctuates by season. Previous surveys show walleye almost exclusively eat perch in the fall, said Tomas Höök, associate professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University and one of the study’s co-authors.

“You can’t have an infinite number of walleye and an infinite number of perch, right?” Höök said. “They interact.”

Scientists believe the shift in perch and walleye numbers was caused by the collapse of alewives, an invasive species that proved to be the last block to the food web’s Jenga tower.

“A lot of things changed when the alewife basically disappeared in 2003,” said Steven Pothoven, a fishery biologist with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor and another co-author of the study.

No study has proven that the alewife collapse caused the walleye resurgence, but the timeline adds up too perfectly for scientists to see it as coincidence.

The alewife, one on a list of invasives from the Atlantic Ocean that traveled by canal to the Great Lakes, had integrated itself in Lake Huron in the mid-1900s and became an important food source for walleye.

But scientists now say the alewife may have also hindered walleye reproduction by feeding on their young.

Walleye populations in Lake Huron and especially in Saginaw Bay were almost all from raised stock, Höök said.

Researchers now recognize that the alewife were serving as food for more fish than was thought, Höök said. The Atlantic Ocean natives were also living in what was close to the coldest habitat they could survive in. The aggressively cold winter of 2002 was enough of a punch to the population in Lake Huron to put them down entirely.

In the aftermath, some predators have adjusted and some have not.

Walleyes aren’t picky. They seized the opportunity and went after more perch — and other fish, like round goby and rainbow smelt — to fill the void in their diet.

Pothoven said it’s not all bad news for perch. Their numbers have increased but fewer are surviving into adulthood.

Fishery managers say they hope to help both perch and walleye while stabilizing the bay’s food web by reintroducing another species.

Cisco, or lake herring, disappeared from much of the Great Lakes region in the mid-1900s after overfishing and habitat destruction decimated their population. Höök said there’s some evidence that they laid eggs and raised their young in the bay.

The cisco could act as a kind of buffer for perch, Höök said. They lack the uncomfortable back spines of the perch and give a larger energy boost than goby.

DNR’s Fielder said his department is embarking on a 10-year cautiously optimistic initiative to rear and stock cisco in outer Saginaw Bay.

“It’s an experiment,” he said. “But cisco have been successfully reintroduced in other areas.”

Höök said the walleye collapse in Saginaw Bay was unwittingly aided by housing developers.

Their clear-cutting along the shore left the soil exposed and susceptible to erosion. Rain washed that soil into the water, eventually covering the reefs where the walleye used to spawn.

With the historic spawning reefs covered, researchers are looking to make new ones.

They just need to figure out if it’s possible, Fielder said. The goal is to restore one acre of reef. The effectiveness of that acre would decide the fate of the larger project.

If approved, teams would dump rock from barges into the bay to form the new reef, Höök said.

Steven Maier writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Being licensed is not the same as being a trapper

By KALEY FECH
Capital News Service

LANSING — Nearly 30,000 people buy a Michigan fur harvester license each year.

About half are trappers. The others are hunters of furbearing species, according to the  Department of Natural Resources (DNR). However, only about half of those who buy a license participate in any given year.

A furbearer license is required to trap or hunt animals that are traditionally taken for their fur. The license costs $15, but a trapper also needs a base license which costs $11.

Michigan license sales are stable year to year. The state isn’t alone in issuing more licenses than it has active trappers. In Wisconsin, roughly 20,000 people buy a trapping license each year, said Shawn Rossler, the furbearer specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. But only 40 to 50 percent of license holders actively trap in any given year.

“It’s a lot of work, and it’s hard work,” said Mark Earl, the public relations director for the Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association. “You really have to want to do it.”

Trapping requires a large time commitment, and Rossler said he believes that’s why people buy a license but do not end up trapping.

“You have to check those traps every 24 hours,” he said. “People buy a license with the intention of going out, but other things come up and they just can’t make the commitment that year.”

In Michigan, 17 species are considered furbearers, said Adam Bump, the furbearer specialist at the Michigan DNR.

They include muskrats, raccoons, beavers, minks, coyotes, red and grey foxes, bobcats, martens, fishers, otters, badgers, opossums, three species of weasels and skunks.

The season for trapping varies by species as well as location.

The bobcat, fisher and marten seasons begins Dec. 1 in the Upper Peninsula. Bobcat trapping season for parts of the Lower Peninsula begins Dec. 10.

It’s typical for the number of trappers to grow modestly when pelt prices are high and to fall slightly when prices are low, Bump said. Pelt prices change by species, so the impact varies from year to year

Earl said it’s not about the money anyway. Rather, it’s  about beingin the woods connecting with nature and the animals he’s pursuing.

Trapping requires in-depth knowledge about the animal, Earl said. A hunter with a rifle can shoot a deer from 30 yards or 300 yards away. A trapper must get an animal to step on a 2-inch circle.

“Trappers really have to study their target species,” he said. “You have to have a lot of knowledge about where they’re going to be and what they’re going to do.”

Trapping also requires a great deal of skill, Earl said. Experienced trappers can catch only the animals they wish to trap and will avoid snagging unintentional species.

In the past, it would take time to become this proficient, he said. But in the last 15 to 20 years, things have changed in terms of the information available.

“In today’s age, people can get pretty good pretty fast,” Earl said. “There’s a lot of knowledge out there. You can get on YouTube and watch people do it, where 15 years ago you couldn’t have done that. You had to learn from somebody or maybe read it in a book.”

Historically, Bump said, trappers were fairly tight-lipped about their trade, particularly when it was a lucrative business.

“There was this view of competition,” he said. “If you told everybody about your good spots, somebody else could come and trap them. People tended to say, ‘I learned it on my own, I don’t want everyone to know my secrets.’”

In recent years, trappers have been hesitant to talk about trapping because it tends to be viewed negatively by the public, Bump said.

Some groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, oppose trapping.

“Millions of raccoons, coyotes, beavers and other animals are killed every year just for their fur,” said Christina Sewell, the assistant manager of fashion campaigns for the organization. “There’s no specifications on how the animals are killed once they’ve been trapped, and it’s very inhumane.”

Both Bump and Rossler were quick to point out that trapping is highly regulated, and people cannot simply go out and do whatever they please.

“There’s a lot of things that are different than I think the way people envision trapping,” Bump said. “The way we trap now, we have daily or 48-hour trap check laws. The traps are designed in ways to minimize the amount of trauma or injury to the animal.”

Trapping isn’t well-understood, said Geriann Albers, the furbearer biologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

“Most of what the general public knows about trapping is from pop culture, such as the ‘Fox and the Hound’ where a man breaks his leg in a giant-toothed bear trap,” she said. “Modern trapping is different from those perceptions. We have humane trap research. Traps are smaller, better made, and have modifications like offset jaws, padding or extra wide jaws that make them more humane for the animal.“

Some trappers use the activity as a way to bond with their family.

“My brother traps too,” said Rossler. “So it’s something we can go out and do together.”

Others, such as Earl, pass the tradition on to their kids.

“I’ve taken my children trapping with me,” he said. “My daughter’s trapped muskrats. It’s something that can be passed down from a father to his children.”

Dead cow ‘subsidy’ may bring more wolf-human conflicts

By LUCY SCHROEDER
Capital News Service

LANSING — Unburied cow carcasses can lead to conflict between wolves and people, according to a recent study.

The study of wolves in the Upper Peninsula found that nearly a quarter of the diet of wolves consists of cattle in areas near dairy and beef farms.

It’s not that wolves prey on livestock, said Tyler Petroelje, a doctoral candidate at Mississippi State University who led the study. Instead, it’s a result of wolves eating at dumps where farmers put dead livestock.

Experts call that an unintentional wildlife food subsidy.

The practice is illegal in Michigan, according to the 1982 law, Bodies of Dead Animals. That law requires burying animal carcasses at least 2 feet deep within 24 hours of an animal’s death.

Many livestock producers don’t know about the rule. Plus, the rendering process to properly dispose of carcasses is expensive, so they leave dead cows unburied, Petroelje said.

Farmers leave them on top of the ground where predators such as wolves scavenge for an easy meal.

Petroelje discovered that wolves were feeding at these sites after using GPS collars to track them as part of a larger study examining how predators impact fawn survival.

The research team investigated sites with a large number of location clusters from the GPS collared wolves. Occasionally these locations were carcass dumps on farms.

They discovered that carcass dumps directly changed the wolves’ behavior. Wolves that eat at them are less active and don’t travel as far, he said.

They also found that wolves preyed less on deer when supplementing their diet with livestock.

That’s a problem if wolves get used to eating the carcasses and start attacking livestock, Petroelje said. The wolves remain in smaller areas because they don’t need to hunt as intensely. That means more of them can be sustained.

This may seem like a win for wolf population recovery in Michigan, but there are negative consequences, experts say.

If wolves shrink their range, that creates room for other predator species, like coyotes, said Dean Beyer, a wildlife researcher with the Department of Natural Resources.

Petroelje said this increased predator presence can put pressure on prey species such as white-tailed deer.

And it could mean that wolves come in closer contact with people. This can lead to wolf “removal” by mandatory harvest or by landowners who feel threatened.

“If we want to minimize human-wildlife conflict, these carcass dumps are a good thing to think about,” Petroelje said.

  The solution? Petroelje suggests simply explaining the importance of proper carcass disposal.

Most farmers he met during the study were curious about what the wolves were doing on their property. In one instance a farmer buried a carcass after learning of the concerns about them, Petroelje said.

“It’s just education. They aren’t trying to violate the law,” said Jim Bowes, the deputy director of the animal industry division of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The department reminded livestock owners of the disposal regulations for carcasses in a Michigan State University Extension newsletter.

That was after receiving an unusually high number of claims from farmers that wolves had preyed on their livestock. The department also heard some people were hunting over livestock remains, using them as bait, Bowes said.

No one is examining livestock owners’ properties for carcass pits, he said. If local law enforcers receive complaints of large predation on livestock, someone may look at the farmer’s disposal practices and educate them about best practices.

Carcass dumps aren’t the only way humans can impact wildlife behavior. Other food subsidies such as bird feeders or food waste in trash and landfills can affect feeding habits.

Petroelje said food subsidies are any food from humans that is accessible to wildlife, either intentionally or unintentionally.

And Beyer said, “Overall, this research is just alerting us that as we continue to alter landscapes through human activities, it might roll into how it affects the ecosystem overall.”

Lucy Schroeder writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Michigan protects more than a dozen shipwreck areas

By CARL STODDARD
Capital News Service

LANSING — More than a dozen underwater preserves along Michigan’s Great Lakes coastlines have been established to protect hundreds of shipwrecks.

The Michigan Underwater Preserves Council lists the following state-designated sites:

— Alger Underwater Preserve, which stretches from just west of Munising to Au Sable Point and includes Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The council says the preserve is the final resting place for at least eight shipwrecks.

— De Tour Passage Underwater Preserve, a narrow strait between the eastern end of the U.P. and Drummond Island, home to more than a dozen wrecks, the council says.

— Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve, where at least eight wrecks and even a sunken Ford Pinto can be found, including one wreck that lies in just 6 feet of water, according to the council.

— Keweenaw Underwater Preserve, which wraps around the U.P.’s Keweenaw Peninsula on the southern shore of Lake Superior, holds about a dozen wrecks and artifacts dating to the 1800s, the council says.

— Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve, which the council calls “one of the richest areas in Michigan for shipwreck diving.” The preserve — home to 11 wrecks — is around the North and South Manitou Iislands in Lake Michigan and next to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

— Marquette Underwater Preserve, location of more than a dozen wrecks, is split into two parts. The Marquette section borders 24 miles of U.P. coast, extending into Lake Superior. The second part is around the Huron Islands, rocky outcroppings rising from Lake Superior in Marquette County, the council says.

— Sanilac Shores Underwater Preserve, which runs along Lake Huron from near Lexington in the south to just north of Forestville in Sanilac County. At least 16 shipwrecks lie within this preserve.

— Southwest Michigan Underwater Preserve, on the shores of Lake Michigan, runs southward from the Holland area to near the Indiana border, the council says. About a dozen wrecks are submerged within the preserve.

— Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve is in the turbulent waters around Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. “The straits has a well-deserved reputation as a dangerous area to navigate,” the council says. “Over the years large numbers of ships have foundered in the straits. Many have yet to be discovered.”

— Thumb Area Bottomland Preserve, running from the Harbor Beach area to Port Austin, is home to at least 22 major wrecks, according to the council.

— Thunder Bay Underwater Preserve also is home to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the first such federal sanctuary in the Great Lakes. Thunder Bay harbors “at least 99 known shipwrecks and possibly another 100,” according to Stephanie Gandulla, volunteer coordinator for the federal sanctuary.

— West Michigan Underwater Preserve, the state’s newest submerged preserve, is the final resting place for at least 10 sunken ships, the council says. The Lake Michigan preserve extends from just north of Big Sable Point near Ludington to just south of Grand Haven.

— Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve, west of Sault Ste. Marie, covers the Lake Superior coast west of Whitefish Point and most of Whitefish Bay. The preserve is the graveyard for “a long list of historical shipwreck sites,” the council says.

Shipwrecks also lie in protected waters of the Isle Royale National Park Preserve, which  the National Park Service manages. The federal underwater preserve surrounds Isle Royale National Park, a 45-mile-long island in Lake Superior. The frigid waters around the  island hold at least 10 shipwrecks, the council says.

Perfect storm shrinks volunteer corps that protects Michigan shipwrecks

By CARL STODDARD
Capital News Service

LANSING — Silently resting beneath the surface of the Great Lakes, off the shores of many Michigan communities, are hundreds of shipwrecks, protected by the state and a dwindling crew of volunteers.

Michigan has designated 13 underwater preserves, from St. Joseph to the Straits of Mackinac, and from the Thumb to Copper Harbor in the Upper Peninsula. The state also has two federal underwater preserves.

The state preserves, which protect sunken ships and natural features, receive no state money.

So protecting these sunken sanctuaries is left largely to volunteers with the nonprofit Michigan Underwater Preserves Council, which is based in St. Ignace and draws many of  its members from communities near the protected underwater areas.

“Our volunteer corps is not expanding. It’s declining and it’s going to continue to decline,” said Ron Bloomfield, past president of the council. He also spent eight years on the state’s Underwater Salvage and Preserve Committee, an advisory panel.

Volunteers place marker buoys at the sites of shipwrecks, research the sunken ships, promote the preserves and check on the vessels to “make sure people aren’t stealing stuff off the wrecks,” said Bloomfield, who lives in Kawkawlin Township.

The volunteers even raise the money to buy the marker buoys, he said.

“At one time there were approximately 50 to 60 volunteers spread throughout the preserve system,” he said. “I would venture a guess we now have less than 20 active volunteers mostly spread between three preserves, with a few in some of the other area.”

There are a variety of reasons for the shrinking pool of volunteers, Bloomfield said.

Many people move away or get out of diving, he said, and “fewer new divers seem interested in the Great Lakes..

“In addition, our projects are considered to be long-term commitments and the current trend in volunteering is to shy away from long-term commitments and focus on short-term experiences and then move on to the next.

“Couple that with increasing demands on people’s time, and it is one of those cliche ‘perfect storms.’”

Within the preserves are at least 500 shipwrecks, Bloomfield said, and “they’re finding new ones” all the time.

“We have some of the best preserved wooden shipwrecks in the world,” he said.

Michigan’s 13 underwater preserves include more than 7,000 square miles of Great Lakes bottomland, said Dan Friedhoff, the secretary of the Michigan Underwater Preserves Council.

The preserves range from nearly 14 square miles at the Detour Passage Underwater Preserve in the eastern U.P. to 4,300 square miles in Thunder Bay, off the coast of Alpena, said Friedhoff, who lives in St. Ignace.

Thunder Bay is a national marine sanctuary as well as a Michigan underwater preserve, and is jointly managed by the federal and state governments.

The waters around Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior also are under federal protection.

Friedhoff says the council’s “active volunteer base is shrinking, to an alarming point.”

“We have the same issues as most nonprofit organizations. Lots of people are in favor of what you do, but few have time or inclination to get involved,” he said.

After becoming a certified diver in 2001, Friedhoff learned that all Great Lakes wrecks are not the same.

“I quickly became aware of the vast difference between shipwrecks that were discovered and largely stripped before the preservation ethic caught hold, and those that were discovered later, after divers recognized the value in keeping these sites relatively intact,” he said.

And while there has been a significant reduction in the stripping of wrecks, he said, “there is still a lack of understanding that certain traditional diving activities are harmful to old wooden vessels.”

Volunteers have made strides in educating divers about not hooking directly onto wrecks and instead using moorings placed on wreck sites, he said.

“The preserve volunteers also help raise awareness of the damage done by simple acts, like forcing a way through a tight passage or attempting to move artifacts to get a better photo,” he said.

The Michigan Underwater Preserves Council and the individual preserves “work to spread the word that even the smallest artifact needs to be preserved,” he said.

“I think most divers are receptive to the preserve ethic promoted by the preserve system, and increasing peer pressure has gradually reduced the impact of looters.”

Thanks to promotion and protection efforts by the council, the state and local residents, Friedhoff said, “divers come to the Great Lakes from across the country and around the world to see the well-preserved freshwater shipwrecks.”

Volunteers also are important to the success of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, said Stephanie Gandulla, who coordinates volunteer activities at the sanctuary.

Volunteers staff the visitors center, place mooring buoys and help with events and educational activities, including underwater robotic competitions, Gandulla said.

She has the names of about 300 volunteers in her database and has been fortunate to not see a drop off in volunteering, she said. That may be due to the fact that many volunteer tasks at the Thunder Bay facility are less demanding than anchoring buoys, she said.

The Thunder Bay sanctuary and preserve is jointly managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the state.

Sandra Clark, director of the state’s Michigan History Center in Lansing, heads  the state’s half of the management team at Thunder Bay.

That team includes a state underwater archeologist, whose responsibilities include preserving the rich maritime history at Thunder Bay, she said.

A shipwreck “is a frozen-in-moment kind of history,” Clark said. “That moment doesn’t get altered.”

Since the creation of the state  preserve at the Straits of Mackinac, area tourism has been up, said Janet Peterson, executive director of the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce.

“Yes, it’s absolutely impacted our community,” Peterson said. “It’s just not as visible. They don’t walk around in their gear.”

But if you look, she said, there are plenty of signs in the summer of divers in the St. Ignace area. She said she’s learned to spot dive decals on vehicles, tourists wearing dive T-shirts and dive gear left to dry outside motel rooms.