Paul Skawinski

Today we debut a new series of natural history commentaries, featuring scientists from two Northwoods field stations: UW-Madison’s Trout Lake and Kemp Research Stations.

Today researcher Susan Knight asks why some aquatic plants stay green all winter. 

Liz West via,_Canada_Geese_in_flight,_Great_Meadows_National_Wildlife_Refuge.jpg

While humans are stressed this week with the unusually early and intense winter storm in the Northwoods, wildlife is not having an easy time of it either.

DNR wildlife biologist Jeremy Holtz in Rhinelander talked with Ken Krall about the stress wildlife endures during heavy snow.

DNR wildlife biologist Jeremy Holtz talking with Ken Krall.

Submitted photo

You’ll have to wait several more weeks to go hiking or camping in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. 

Spokesperson Dave Melancon says trails and campgrounds usually open around the last week in April, but conditions this year are too wet and muddy. 

“Well we’ve had a pretty rough winter, as you can tell.  So we want to keep our campgrounds and trails up in the best condition we can.  Traveling on them could cause ruts in the road, or damage to the road.  So they’re not ready for people to use yet.”

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

With winter still holding the Northwoods in its icy grip, most of us try to avoid going out in the cold for longer than we have to.  So you might be surprised to find that one commuter relies on his bicycle to get to work all winter long, even refusing offers of car rides and choosing instead to brave the icy streets of Stevens Point.

It’s 7 a.m. on a clear morning in March, and 20 degrees below zero outside.  Rich Sweet is in his kitchen, in the process of what he calls “gearing up.”

Marc Evans

Deer aren’t the only wildlife having a hard time finding food this winter.  

Wildlife rehabilitator Marge Gibson of the Raptor Education Group says she’s worried about many of the region’s birds.  She says the rehab center near Antigo is seeing birds like red-tailed hawks, chickadees and even robins.    

“What is unusual is the way that they’re coming in.  People are finding them really not moving very much – they’re kind of in a hypothermic state.  Their breathing is slowed, their heartrate is slowed, and they go into almost a torpor state.” 

In a cold snap like this one, it doesn’t take long for temperatures to become a health risk. Amy Lavin is a nurse practitioner at the Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff.   She says in weather this cold, exposed skin can become frostbitten in about 5 minutes.  If you’re exercising or have certain medical conditions, you might not even notice it happening. 

Aliazimi via

With a cold snap hitting the Northwoods this weekend it can take some effort to keep your car and heating systems up and running. 

WPS Spokesperson Leah Van Zile says outdoor maintenance is important to make sure your heating appliances are working properly…especially with newer high-efficiency furnaces that vent out the side of the house. 

“For any of your vented appliances, your natural gas or vented appliances – be sure that those are kept free of ice and snow buildup.”

E. A. Goeldi

Despite several nights of frost in the past week, some Northern Wisconsin residents are still plagued by the telltale buzz of mosquitoes.  How does a mosquito survive in cold temperatures?

Common knowledge holds that once nighttime temperatures dip into the 30s, mosquito populations drop off.  But that didn’t seem to be happening last week.  Susan Paskewitz, a mosquito expert at the University of Wisconsin Madison, says it’s possible most of the still-active mosquitoes are newly formed.