Nick Popoff, DNR aquatic species and regulatory affairs manager, presents a slideshow to the Natural Resources Commission about red swamp crayfish — an invasive species recently discovered in Michigan waterways.
August’s Natural Resources Commission meeting didn’t have as many fireworks as July’s.
Nothing was voted on that will have a direct effect on hunters, anglers or trappers — however, there were several items brought before the commission for future consideration including what colors are safe to wear afield and the recent discovery of red swamp crayfish in Michigan.
Department of Natural Resource’s Hunting Administrator Lt. Thomas Wanless, with the law enforcement division, presented the department’s findings which concluded no color other than hunter orange is safe to wear for hunting and recommended that hunter orange be the only acceptable color for hunters to wear.
Wanless’ report stems from Public Act 377 of 2016 which gave the NRC power to amend the hunter orange requirement to include additional safety colors — with hunter pink garnering the most attention from opponents and proponents of the bill.
Male and female hunters on both sides of the aisle took to Facebook Thursday to share their feelings on a Michigan Out-of-Doors post related to Wanless’ presentation.
Monica Lewis Rogers, from Chesaning, Michigan, said hunting isn’t about being fashionable.
“I am a woman hunter and I’m fine with wearing orange,” Rogers commented. “Better safe than sorry — I have never got ready to go hunting and thought man I wish I could wear pink.”
Men seemed to be the biggest supporters of allowing alternative colors in the woods.
Nick Pifer, of Rosebush, said that allowing pink and alternative colors is a change that all hunters want.
“Obviously these guys and gals on the NRC have never been out-of-state hunting,” Pifer commented. “Otherwise, they would have experienced the change we all want.”
The DNR’s Law Enforcement Division based its findings on recommendations from two notable hunter safety organizations and a survey the division conducted.
Wanless reported that the International Hunter Education Association – United States of America has found “no nationally recognized study conducted for visibility of any other color other than hunter orange.” He added that the Michigan Hunter Safety Instructor Association, an organization comprised of 3,000 volunteer instructors, does not support any other colors for safety.
The LED sent out 400 surveys to volunteer hunter education instructors, of which 216 replied — 209 did not support any other color, 213 did not know any non-hunters who would start hunting because of the color they can wear and 38 responded that they had difficulty seeing pink.
It was not clearly stated when the NRC would make a final ruling on allowing other colors in hunting blinds or if it would even come up as an action item.
In mid-July, the DNR Fisheries Division received reports of red swamp crayfish, a banned species in Michigan, found in Sunset Lake in Vicksburg, Michigan. The fisheries division was able to confirm the species and two days later received another report of the invasive crayfish in a one-acre retention pond near Novi, Michigan.
Nick Popoff, aquatic species and regulatory affairs manager for the DNR, said that more than 2,000 red swamp crayfish had been pulled from the pond as of August 10. More than 100 reports have been filed with the DNR regarding the species since July 14.
Popoff said most of the reports are related to native crayfish, but it is vital to get a handle on the red swamp crayfish because of their destructive nature, tendency to choke out native species and ability to thrive.
The red swamp crayfish can travel more than 1.5 miles over land and burrow deep holes underwater that could cause structural damage in the future.
Prior to the ban on the red swamp crayfish in 2015, they were widely available as food, science specimens in schools, for bait and as pets. The law enforcement division has been working diligently to inspect and educate residents on the dangers of red swamp crayfish.
Popoff said that one thing we know about invasive species is that once they are here they are probably here to stay. He speculated that the red swamp crayfish is likely in many more parts of Michigan.
The DNR has set up five goals to respond to the red swamp crayfish infestation:
1) Determine the distributional extent of the infestations.
2) Implement and evaluate an early detection monitoring strategy in high-risk areas.
3) Determine the source and relatedness of red swamp crayfish infestations.
4) Collect baseline biological and physical information that will inform the future assessment of impacts.
5) Implement and evaluate control measures to increase the effectiveness of response efforts.
Public comment rounded out the meeting with the majority of it related to the commission’s decision last month to not enact APRs for the Bovine TB region in the Northeastern Lower Peninsula. QDMA and habitat management groups made the trip down to Jackson to express their displeasure with the commission for ignoring the DNR Wildlife Division’s recommendation to enact APRs.
Last month, DNR Wildlife Chief Russ Mason and Specialist Chad Stewart presented what they found to be the best possible scenario at the time for eradicating Bovine TB from the Northeastern Lower Peninsulas — enact APRs to help raise doe harvests and, in turn, lower deer population numbers.
Michigan United Conservation Clubs Vice President George Lindquist made the last public comment warning the commission about what might come if wolves are not delisted in Michigan. He urged the commission to draft letters and send them to their state representatives, senators and even Washington D.C.
Lindquist said it isn’t a problem that is faced in the Lower Peninsula, and therefore, it isn’t necessarily on everyone’s minds. He warned that U.P. residents are becoming fed up with the situation and that U.P Whitetails of Marquette County will bring forward a resolution to MUCC’s Annual Convention next year if something isn’t done.