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Preston Cole, Department of Natural Resources secretary nominee, leans scientifically in approaching chronic wasting disease, possible water shortage and contamination problems, and communications with public.

Speaking to a group of outdoors writers and reporters last week at a DNR building in Madison, Cole encouraged contacts with DNR officials for answers and information.

In the recent past, many DNR employees were discouraged from talking directly to the public or in front of hearing committees. Even DNR field and specific responsibility experts were held back to voicing opinions.

Regarding CWD, Cole’s approach is to first find out what is known and what can be shared among states and agencies dealing with this form of lethal transmissible spongiform encephalophathy impacting white-tailed deer, elk, moose and reindeer.

“For example, Michigan State has a fast test for CWD they’ve been working on, so why should we develop one of our own,” Cole said. “We’re trying to avoid duplication and have a strategy to go forward.”

The advantage would be hunters knowing test results sooner.

One concern is determining the best way to continue to get more samples from deer hunters, using incentives, self-serve kiosks and in-person stations.

Expect to see the baiting and feeding issue surface soon, too. The question is already being asked, why still allow baiting and feeding?

The department has begun by filling five science positions.

The votes from the recent WDNR and Wisconsin Conservation Congress Spring Fish and Wildlife Rules Hearings are posted for viewing on the DNR website. More than 10,700 people participated and voiced their opinions on 88 questions.

Interesting, Question 80 asked to designate the shagbark hickory nut as the state nut. Instead of a campaign from school children, often 5th grade, this question went first to the Conservation Congress. If this is to become law, it would require legislative action.

Several other state symbol suggestions, some from school groups, have been denied including ruffed grouse as a state gamebird while the state herb, ginseng flew through coming from several legislators.

Trout anglers are waiting for warmer days. So too are gardeners.

Catkin-forming trees are in full flower, but little color is associated with these blooms. Farmers have planted some oats, alfalfa and a few other grains, while deer are feeding heavily on new alfalfa shoots.

Turkey mating is in full swing and in the wide open.

Ground squirrels, opossums, raccoons and skunks are active. Turkey hunters are likely, while walking into their locations, to encounter a late-feeding pole-cat. This black and white ferret is known by more than 300 slang names.

Some of Wisconsin’s prime outdoors activities — fishing, spring food gathering, hiking, biking and camping — are on the horizon.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at sivadjam@mhtc.net or 608-924-1112.

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