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WISCONSIN OUTDOORS NEWS: Report shows 85 percent of boating fatalities due to lack of life jackets

Over 200 people have been killed in Wisconsin boating accidents over the last 11 years – and according to Gannett Wisconsin Media, 85-percent of those victims were not wearing life jackets.

Winnebago County sheriff’s lieutenant Steven Verwiel said it’s more important to wear a life jacket on boat, than it is to wear a seat belt in a car. That’s because people fall out of boats more easily – and if they go unconscious without life jackets, they drown. The state DNR said Lake Michigan had reports of 103 boating accidents from 2002-through-2012. Lake Geneva had the most mishaps among Wisconsin’s inland lakes with 77. Seven years ago, the state began requiring safety classes for boaters born in 1989 or later. Gannett said officials were hoping it would encourage more people to wear life vests on the water. However, the numbers of boating deaths on Wisconsin waters have remained consistent since 2002, averaging almost 17 per year. An effort by state lawmakers to require life vests for those 12-and-under failed to get to the floor of either house in 2011. Those under 13 are required to wear life jackets on federal waters – including Lakes Michigan and Superior, Lake Winnebago, and the Bay of Green Bay.


One of Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands is closed to overnight camping, after a black bear ate people’s food and damaged property. Sand Island remains open for day use. Visitors are being urged to keep an eye on their lunch at all times – and immediately report any bear activity. The bear was visiting campsites after eating somebody’s food. Officials said they’ll keep an eye on the animal, and they’ll decide on a weekly basis when to lift the ban on overnight camping. It will resume once the bear is re-trained to stay away from people. Sand Island is part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in the National Park System. 


Experts say the fish population in Lake Superior is doing much better than expected, in the wake of last year’s heavy rains that sent tons of sediment into the big lake. Up to 10-inches of rain fell at Duluth last June, and over six-inches on the Wisconsin side of the region. Researchers from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the Gopher State’s DNR said it appears that the fish have weathered flood waters, the sediment infusion, and the re-arranging of stream beds. Duluth professor Elizabeth Minor says the jury’s still out on the long-term effects, although she says Lake Superior has proven to be resilient. For now, Don Schreiner of Minnesota’s DNR says fishing is quote, “gang-busters.” He says large numbers of trout, Chinook salmon, and coho are being caught.