EDITOR’S NOTE: It looked for a minute that we had another Turtlegate brewing and that this might not be a Chinook but a brown trout. Read more in the comments on Facebook.

Salmon up and over the dam

Up & Over……….., photo by Julie

The Detroit Free Press reports that the salmon population is plummeting in Lake Michigan. The article begins:

They are the king of the Great Lakes sport fish, luring thousands of anglers to Michigan waters every year for a chance to try to land them — and helping fuel a multibillion-dollar fishing and boating tourism industry.

But the Chinook salmon’s numbers are plummeting in Lake Michigan due to a combination of natural forces, unnatural invasive species, and the state Department of Natural Resources’ own efforts to dial back the population and prevent a more permanent population crash as happened in Lake Huron about a decade ago.

The salmon population on Lake Michigan is down 75% from its 2012 peak, said Randy Claramunt, a DNR Great Lakes fishery biologist based in Charlevoix.

A leading cause is a reduction in alewives, a silvery fish up to 10 inches long that is the salmon’s primary prey on the Great Lakes. The alewife population has been decimated by invasive zebra and quagga mussels that have changed the nutrient dynamics of the lakes.

Read on for more at the Freep.

View Julie’s photo of a salmon jumping up into the weir at Charlevoix bigger and see more in her Wildlife slideshow.

More about Chinook salmon and more fish on Michigan in Pictures.

Northern Green Frog

March 15, 2010


Frog!, photo by StormchaserMike Photography.

I nearly misidentified this guy as an American Bullfrog, likely confusing a whole new generation of readers just as they were recovering from Turtlegate.

The Michigan Herps page on Michigan’s Frogs & Toads says that misidentification is common – the trick is the fold of skin running from their eardrum to their back. The UM Animal Diversity Web entry for Rana clamitans (green frog) says you can find them all over the eastern US and that:

Green frogs are found in a wide variety of habitats that surround most inland waters, such as: swamps, wooded swamps, ponds, lakes, marshes, bogs, banks of slow moving rivers and streams, oxbow lakes, sloughs, and impoundments. Juveniles may disperse into wooded areas or meadows during times of rain. Green frogs overwinter in the water usually buried in the substrate.

Green frogs produce as many as six different calls. Males attracting a mate give an advertisement call and a high-intensity advertisement call. Their advertisement call has been compared to the pluck of a loose banjo string. Male frogs defending a territory from an intruding male usually give aggressive calls and growls. The release call is given by non-receptive females and by males accidentally grabbed by another male. Finally, the alert call is given by males and females when startled or attacked by a predator.

Green frogs have an excellent sense of vision and use this to detect and capture prey.

You can hear one of their calls at the link above and also read about them at Wikipedia and the MIchigan DNR’s page on the Green Frog.

Check this out bigger and see it in context in Mike’s Cass Lake set (slideshow).

More about Michigan’s animals from Michigan in Pictures.


-3, photo by Emery Co Photo.

When I saw this photo in the Absolute Michigan group, I wondered it it was the right day to talk about painted turtles (I have to be careful after last summer’s TurtleGate incident as you may recall). When I saw the siskokid’s shot of a painted turtle basking in the sun just a few photos later, I figured it was a sign of some sort.

The painted turtle is one of the most common turtles in the US. It’s Michigan’s state reptile and the Michigan DNR’s Painted Turtle page has a map that shows where you can find them in the state. Wikipedia’s Painted Turtle entry notes that turtle nests are the snack bar of the animal world, vulnerable to predation by raccoons, squirrels, chipmunk, woodchucks, skunk, badger, foxes, fish crows, garter snakes, deer, ants, beavers and humans. The UM Animal Diversity web has pictures and information about Chrysemys picta (the painted turtle) and says that:

Painted turtles prefer living in freshwater that is quiet, shallow, and has a thick layer of mud.

Painted turtles are brightly marked. They have a smooth shell about 90 to 250 mm long. Their shell acts as protection, but since the ribs are fused to the shell, the turtle cannot expand its chest to breathe but must force air in and out of the lungs by alternately contracting the flank and shoulder muscles. The painted turtle has a relatively flat upper shell with red and yellow markings on a black or greenish brown background.

See some more photos of this little guy in Emery Co’s slideshow and check out even more in the turtle slideshow from the Absolute Michigan pool!

Female Snapping Turtle

Female Snapping Turtle, photo by MTU_Flickr.

Regular readers may recall TurtleGate ’08. Some of you may have even been consumed by worry that this terrapin tangle would go unresolved. Fear not, for thanks to a happy find while researching the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, I can finally put the michpics universe back on firm & factual footing.

MTU Flickr says that this little lady was looking for a good place to lay some eggs in the Seney Wildlife Refuge during sunset. It’s part of their excellent Nature Made set, a collection of photos “mostly set in the Upper Peninsula” that should probably be viewed as a slideshow.

The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) and probably (other than the elusive cougar), the Michigan animal you most want to be wary of. From the U of M Animal Diversity Web’s page on the common snapping turtle:

Snapping turtles are not social creatures. Social interactions are limited to aggressive interactions between individuals, usually males. Many individuals can be found within a small range; snapping turtle density is normally related to the amount of available food. Snapping turtles can be very vicious when removed from the water, but they become docile when placed back into the water. Snapping turtles sometimes bury themselves in mud with only their nostrils and eyes exposed. This burying behavior is used as a means of ambushing prey.

Snapping turtles will eat nearly anything that they can get their jaws around. They feed on carrion, invertebrates, fish, birds, small mammals, amphibians, and a surprisingly large amount of aquatic vegetation. Snapping turtles kill other turtles by decapitation. This behavior might be territoriality towards other turtles or a very inefficient feeding behavior.

You can read much more about these agressive amphibians from the link above and also the Michigan DNR and Wikipedia. Also check out this video of a common snapper attacking a camera to get an idea of how fast they can move if they want to!

You may want to go back and read the other post too as it now has information about the wood turtle in Michigan.

Turtle by LuckyGus

Turtle, photo by LuckyGus

Updated September 30, 2008: LuckyGus captured this photo on the Betsie Valley Trail in Benzie County. Below you can read about TurtleGate ’08, which was touched off when I misidentified this turtle as a common snapping turtle. My Ranger Rick Top Terrapin Tagger badge has been repossessed and sources tell me that a number of zoologists are “keeping an eye on me”.

The Michigan DNR’s page on the wood turtle (which should have helped me identify it) says that:

As its scientific name, Glyptemys insculpta, implies, the shell of the wood turtle is one of the most ornate of the turtles in Michigan. A noticeable keel running down the back of the carapace and the pointed edges of the scutes along the back edge add to its sculpted appearance. The yellow on the underparts of its neck, legs, and stomach, plus the highly visible deep circular growth rings of the scutes on the brownish carapace help with identification. The adult carapace length is 6.3 to 9.4 inches (16 to 24 cm)

Wood turtles live in rivers with sandy-bottomed streams and rivers. They spend most of their time in the river from September to May, but in summer can be found foraging in woods, swamps, and meadows in the upland areas edging the stream or river. Logs or banks near water and sunny woodland openings are often utilized for basking.

These turtles are omnivores eating a variety of plants and animals and carrion found in and along the river. Wood turtles employ a unique technique to hunt earthworms. Using either an alternating foot stomp, or by lifting and dropping its shell on the ground, they create vibrations in the ground. These vibrations will cause earthworms to surface where they are quickly snatched for a meal. Anglers seeking bait can employ a similar technique. A stick stuck in the ground and wiggled back and forth to create vibrations will cause earthworms to leave the ground.

Michigan’s wood turtle population has declined in recent years and it’s considered rare in the northern Lower and Upper Peninsulas. More about wood turtles can be found at Wikipedia’s Wood Turtle entry, woodturtle.com and from the MSU Museum’s “critter guy”, James Harding who notes that They may not be taken from the wild or possessed without a scientific collector’s permit issued by the DNR.

You can also check out What’s Up With the Wood Turtle? from MyNorth.com for a look at fieldwork being done in Northern Michigan on the wood turtle.

(from July 2008) TurtleGate Update: A Nation in Slow, but Very Real Peril

I have finally gotten back to this to find out if I am indeed a dirty, no-good turtle mis-indentifying so-and-so or merely guilty of the litany of other things that I may or may not be guilty of per the comments. From the Michigan DNR Turtle page I was able to learn:

  • The eastern box turtle appears to not look like this turtle at all.
  • The wood turtle appears to have a black face, but this photo looks sort of similar.
  • However this snapping turtle’s shell looks very similar.
  • I am forced to conclude that I don’t know the answer.
  • I’ll end with a shout-out to a herpetologist or other expert to set me straight.

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