The Bear Bluff Peatlands occupies a central section of the lake bed of the extinct Glacial Lake Wisconsin, and encompasses portions of both the Wood County and Meadow Valley State Wildlife areas, as well as Jackson County Forest lands. It contains an extensive area of poorly-drained soils vegetated with a mosaic of peatlands, sedge meadows, conifer bogs, alder thicket, muskeg, and shallow and deep-water marshes. Uplands are forested with aspen, red maple, oaks, and scattered old white and red pines. Numerous flowages have been constructed to provide conditions for cranberry cultivation. Small patches of floodplain forest, mossing meadows, and lakes also are present. The site harbors rare and uncommon species of plants and animals, including gray wolves and the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly.

Ornithological Summary

This IBA supports large populations of numerous priority species, particularly sedge meadow, open bog, and shrub wetland species. American Bittern, Northern Harrier, Sandhill Crane, Black Tern, Black-billed Cuckoo, Sedge Wren, Veery, and Golden-winged Warbler all are numerous here. The population of Golden-winged Warbler is one of the highest in the state. Other priority species breeding here are Trumpeter Swan, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Whip-poor-will, and Brown Thrasher. Muskegs and conifer bogs harbor small numbers of northern species, many at or near their southern range limits in Wisconsin; these include Yellow-bellied Flycatcher Golden-crowned Kinglet, Blue-headed Vireo, Nashville Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, and Lincoln?s Sparrow. The mix of northern and southern species includes occasional records of Bell?s Vireo, as well as nesting King Rail, Long-eared Owl, White-throated Sparrow, Pine Warbler, and Purple Finch (Hoffman 2000). This area is a reliable location for numerous Golden Eagles in winter.

Conservation Issues

Bear Bluff is a priority site for sedge meadow and bog species. Its size and diversity, as well as its proximity to other large public properties (Sandhill State Wildlife Area, Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, Black River State Forest), offer a landscape-level opportunity to manage a diverse mosaic of natural communities (Sample and Mossman 1997; Pohlman et al. 2006). Jackson County has recognized the value of these wetland habitats, and the identification of this IBA, in their forestry 15-year plan (Jackson County 2005). This area is largely unpopulated; land uses include wildlife management, forest production, recreation, cranberry cultivation, and commercial sphagnum mossing. Pollution, sedimentation, altered hydrology through either draining or flooding, woody invasion, exotic species, and conversion to commercial production are threats to wetlands (WDNR 2005). Some wetland communities (e.g., bogs) are particularly sensitive to disturbance and recover very slowly from damage. Motorized recreation should be limited in these habitats. Prescribed fire and/or mechanical treatments may be necessary to prevent encroachment by woody plants. Forest management that utilizes Best Management Practices in and around wetland areas will help preserve water quality. Managing forested upland areas for a diversity of species (e.g., mix of pines and oaks) and size and age classes and aggressively controlling infestations of exotic plants will benefit many forest birds.

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