Erin Gottsacker

Reporter and Morning Edition Host

Erin Gottsacker joined WXPR in December 2020. As a morning edition host and reporter, Erin reports on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.

A Cincinnati native, Erin graduated from Ohio State University with bachelor’s degrees in Journalism and International Development. Before coming to Wisconsin, she served as a Peace Corps educator in rural Ethiopia.

Erin is happy to call Northern Wisconsin home, after spending a lifetime of visiting family in the area. Erin is a fan of hiking, ice cream and Bananagrams.

Ways to Connect

When the YMCA of the Northwoods opens on January 1, it will not close.

At least not for members who purchase 24/7 access.

Matt Steingraber, the YMCA’s youth director says this change is what many gym-goers were interested in, according to the gym’s community needs assessment.

“We have a lot of people in our community who are doctors, factory workers whose schedules aren’t really the typical 9 to 5 that enables them to come to the Y before or after work,” he said.

Lights of the Northwoods Facebook Page

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many holiday traditions this year, but one is going stronger than ever.

Lights of the Northwoods is hosting lots of visitors and collecting more donations than in years past.

When the sun sets in downtown Rhinelander, Hodag park lights up with thousands of multi-colored Christmas lights.

Cars line up around the block to view the spectacle.

Erin Gottsacker/WXPR

Ed Steigerwaldt’s last name means 'walk in the woods' in German. It’s an appropriate name for someone who grows trees for a living.

Steigerwaldt started growing Christmas trees with his father when he was just a kid.

“That’s what I grew up as,” he said. “As a little boy, I used to follow him and help him out in the woods. And I loved the work.”

Now Steigerwaldt owns 15 tree farms in Northern Wisconsin. With rolling hills, his farms are home to rows and rows of fir and pine trees.

Each year monarch butterflies float through Northern Wisconsin on their way to Canada or Mexico, but the number of migrating monarchs is shrinking as the butterfly’s habitat gradually disappears.

The population of monarch butterflies has gone down so much that the insect now meets all the criteria to be listed as a threatened and endangered species.

However, so many animals meet those criteria, that the monarch butterfly didn’t make the official list.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Wisconsin at a time when deaths from the virus are high.

Of every 100 people living in a nursing home in Wisconsin, two have died from COVID-19 in the past month, according to a recent study by AARP.

The death rate in Wisconsin’s nursing homes is the highest it’s been since the pandemic started.

The first shipments of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine are making their way to eight distribution hubs across the state.

Those shipments contain enough vaccines to vaccinate nearly 50,000 health care workers and people in long-term care facilities.

Julie Willems Van Dijk, Wisconsin's Department of Health Services’ Deputy Secretary, said healthcare providers will begin receiving Pfizer’s vaccine imminently.

“In the coming months, starting as soon as today, we will begin providing vaccines to Wisconsinites,” she said.

The adult loon population in Northern Wisconsin has declined by more than 20 percent in the past three decades. And these days, loons are having fewer chicks.

Those are some of the findings Walter Piper presented in a recent study about the Northern Wisconsin loon population.

“It’s pretty disheartening,” Piper said.

Piper is a biology professor at Chapman University in California who studies loon behavior. To carry out his research, he and a team of scientists have captured and marked loons with leg bands since 1993.

Wisconsin DHS

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported the seven-day average of daily confirmed COVID cases in Wisconsin is lower now than it was a month ago.

But testing numbers have also dropped.

“That is concerning,” said DHS Secretary Designee Andrea Palm. “With our positivity rate as high as it is, we know we are not testing enough people to get an accurate picture of the virus here in Wisconsin.”

Despite a drop in daily confirmed cases, many hospitals are still overwhelmed.

Erin Gottsacker/WXPR

For many, the sound of the Salvation Army’s bells outside their community grocery store signals the start of a season of giving.

But this year, fewer people are reaching into their pockets.

The Salvation Army is anticipating a 50 percent drop in holiday donations this year, a trend local Salvation Army workers are noticing in the Northwoods.

Kim Swisher, the Kettle Coordinator for the Minocqua Salvation Army, said fewer people are signing up for bell ringing shifts this year because of concerns about COVID-19.

Before the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country, food insecurity in the United States was lower than it had been in years.

That’s not the case anymore.

Feeding America, a nationwide network of food pantries, reported rising rates of food insecurity across the country, including in Wisconsin.

In Oneida County the rate is up about 4 percentage points since 2018.