Beetles and bobcats and bears - oh, my!

<p>Various types of beetles cause untold billions of dollars in damage worldwide, and Wisconsin is now carefully watching the slow march of the emerald ash borer as this iridescent beetle spreads, leaving dead ash trees in its wake.</p> <p>But some beetles are good.</p> <p>A little imported beetle from Europe eats only purple loosestrife, a tall, slender exotic plant that is threatening to choke out wetlands by preventing the growth of native plants. You can actually get some of these beetles from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and grow your own to help destroy the loosestrife.</p> <p>In the 1990s, I saw these beetles firsthand as they were introduced to wetlands areas near Savanna, Ill. Extensive testing showed the beetles proved no threat to other insects or wildlife, but simply eat the loosestrife (their only food) until it&rsquo;s all gone. Then they die.</p> <p>You&rsquo;d think we would avoid importing any more exotics, considering how we did with English sparrows, European starlings, Asian carp and all the rest. But this little black rascal is a good import.</p> <p>Purple loosestrife is easy to identify. The DNR advises that it&rsquo;s important to cut the flowering tops off before they go to seed (one plant can create 100,000 seeds or more). Pulling small plants by the roots or using an herbicide also are recommended ways to control them.</p> <p>Selling, distributing, cultivating and planting purple loosestrife has been illegal since 1987. Make sure you don&rsquo;t confuse purple loosestrife with native loosestrife; the latter is smaller in size with fewer flowers. Purple loosestrife blooms from mid-July through September.</p> <p>It sounds like controlling this pest is possible &mdash; just 5 percent of the state&rsquo;s wetlands currently have purple loosestrife. Using the imported beetles just may get this other invader under control.</p> <p>If you are interested in getting some of these beetles for your own use, contact Brock Woods at (608) 221-6349 or e-mail him at brock.woods@wisconsin.gov.</p> <p><strong>Report sightings</strong></p> <p>You can contribute to the state&rsquo;s knowledge of bobcats and black bears by reporting all sightings online to the DNR.</p> <p>The DNR is interested in statewide bobcat sightings, but primarily bear sightings in the southern third of the state to determine just how far south the animals have moved. Go to http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/harvest/bearbobcat.htm for more information on where to submit your information.</p> <p>Black bear hunters killed 5,133 animals in 2010, with the state&rsquo;s population estimated at 26,000 to 40,000. The first year of online reporting has produced 800 bear reports, with bears found in 51 of Wisconsin&rsquo;s 72 counties (23 lie in the rare or occasionally sighted areas).</p> <p>Bobcat trappers and hunters killed 271 animals in 2009, the last year that numbers were available. DNR biologists estimate the statewide population of this elusive animal at 2,500. Bobcats have been seen in 56 of 72 counties, with 300 animals reported seen by 170 individuals during the online survey&rsquo;s first year.</p> <p>Trail cameras have proved one of the best tools to confirm the sightings of black bears and bobcats. E-mail your trail cam photos of bears, bobcats, otters and other rare animals to</p> <p>shawn.rossler@wisconsin.gov; brian.dhuey@wisconsin.gov; johnf.olson@wisconsin.gov.</p>

By: 
Ross Bielema
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