CNC Hosts Lake Sturgeon
Chippewa Nature Center

November 18, 2020

Chippewa Nature Center Hosts Lake Sturgeon

In September 2020, Chippewa Nature Center (CNC) in Midland was invited to participate in the Sturgeon in the Classroom (SITC) program, a partnership between the Black Lake Chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). CNC’s young lake sturgeon arrived in mid-October, and is from the Black Lake watershed in northern Michigan. CNC has special permits enabling it to have the sturgeon, and will host it at least through summer 2021.

Staff will care for the sturgeon until it is released as part of the plan to restore the Michigan lake sturgeon population. The fish will be part of the sturgeon re-introduction program in the Saginaw Bay watershed and released in the Tittabawasee River. Historically, sturgeon were also found in the Pine and Chippewa rivers in Midland. Biologists tagged the sturgeon, allowing researchers to track its location and monitor its growth and health once it is released.

Sturgeon for Tomorrow – Black Lake Chapter has been coordinating the SITC project since 2013, and the Michigan DNR Fisheries Division has been facilitating the statewide program since 2015, including classroom education plans. SITC aims to increase awareness, understanding and appreciation for Michigan’s state threatened lake sturgeon. The effort to restore the Saginaw Bay sturgeon population began in the 1990s with habitat restoration efforts, dam removals and education. The rehabilitation of Lake Sturgeon in the Saginaw River watershed plan prescribes the stocking of up to 2000 Lake Sturgeon (~5 inches) into four Saginaw River tributaries through at least 2028. Each year, up to 500 Lake Sturgeon will be stocked into the Tittabawassee, Flint, Shiawassee and Cass rivers. The first stocking event occured in 2018. More information about the Saginaw Bay sturgeon restoration effort can be found at www.saginawbaysturgeon.org.

Jenn Kirts, CNC director of programs, shares, “We are very excited to share this special fish with our visitors. We are thrilled to be involved in the conservation of sturgeon, a species native to our area, through the Sturgeon in the Classroom program.”

Locally, CNC worked with Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) to arrange to host the sturgeon. WIN also provided a $1,000 Action Grant to help develop a full exhibit around the sturgeon and its story. Additional support for the SITC program is provided by Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan Sea Grant, The Conservation Fund, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State University and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Hosting live animals is nothing new to CNC. It first housed live animals in its Visitor Center Ecosystem Gallery when it installed a reptile and amphibian exhibit in 2015. Currently on display are an American Toad, Gray Rat Snake, Eastern Milk Snake, Western Fox Snake and Eastern Box Turtle. All of these animals, as well as the sturgeon, are available for public viewing Monday through Saturday 8 am-5 pm and Sundays and select holidays 12-5 pm. Admission to the Visitor Center, located at 400 S Badour Rd in Midland, is free.

Questions regarding CNC hosting the sturgeon should be directed to Jenn Kirts, Director of Programs, at 989-631-0830 or jkirts@chippewanaturecenter.org.