Katie Thoresen

News Director

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Katie Thoresen joined WXPR as the News Director in August of 2020. While new to WXPR, she's not new to Rhinelander. Katie previously worked for WJFW and has spent the last five years working in TV. She covers the news that matters to people in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula and takes a special interest in environmental and health care related stories. 

Katie is happy to be back in the Northwoods after living in Oregon for two years. She grew up in Illinois and has spent her entire life visiting the area. Katie is a graduate of Central Michigan University. Outside of work you can find her on the hiking trails or out on the water.

Wisconsin DNR

There’s no shortage of Balsam Firs in the Northwoods.

The evergreen tree makes for a great Christmas Tree and traditionally grows well in our region.

This spring, seemingly random balsam firs scattered throughout the state died off.

“It was kind of a sudden mortality. The trees went from green to a deep brownish red very quickly, within a month this spring,” said Wisconsin DNR Forest Health Specialist Linda Williams.

Williams said a similar die-off happened in 2018.  In both cases, weather is likely to blame.


More people in the Northwoods are dying from COVID-19.

On Friday, WXPR reported two more people in Vilas County had died because of the virus.

Oneida County also reported a death late Friday.

Lincoln County Health Department says another person has died for a total of four.

Forest County is reporting two more deaths today for a total of nine.

Thirty people from Marathon County have died from COVID-19. Three of those were since Friday.


In 2018, the Wisconsin DNR became aware of animals showing up dead alongside forest roads in northern Forest and Florence counties.

Then came reports of hunting dogs and pet dogs dying in the same areas, plus Marinette county.

DNR Conservation Warden Lt. Bryan Harrenstein said it tapered off for a bit only for more deaths in fall of 2019 right around deer season.

At least nine pets have died.

Harrenstein said most of the owners reported their dogs eating something or having something in their mouth.


The Vilas County Health Department reports two more deaths related to COVID-19.

These are the second and third deaths for the county. Both people were in their 90s.

Vilas County has had 341 cases since the start of the pandemic. 136 of those cases are considered active.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is reporting nearly 3,000 new COVID-19 cases Friday. 2,988 people tested positive.

It comes a day after Wisconsin set a new daily record for new cases.

New cases topped 3,000 for the first time Thursday. 

Katie Thoresen/WXPR

The Mountain Fire Tower stands 100 feet tall.

It was built in 1935 by the U.S. Forest Service and the Civilian Conservation Corp.

It used to part of a network of fire towers used to watch for wildfires in the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest.

More recently, it’s been restored and open to the public from May to November. It’s a great place to 360 degree views of the fall colors.

It’s a 130 fairly steep steps to the top. The tower is wooden steps framed by crisscrossing steel.

Every step is worth it to take in that view from the top.


A dead mink in Taylor County has tested positive for COVID-19.

The mink was from a mink farm. The positive test was confirmed by the National Veterinary Service Laboratories.

This is the first confirmed COVID-19 infection among Wisconsin’s mink population.

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has quarantined all animals on the farm. This means no animals or animal products may leave the farm. No information about the farm or parties involved will be released.


An additional $100 million in grants is being made available to small businesses in Wisconsin.

Governor Tony Evers made the announcement earlier this week. The money comes from the CARES Act.

The Governor announced the funding availability the same day he announced new restrictions for businesses.

Places like restaurants, bars, and movie theaters are now under public health orders to limit crowds to 25-percent of a room or buildings capacity.


The DNR and the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council is seeking public input on its PFAS Action Plan.

PFAS is a group of chemicals created in the 1930s.The chemicals are used in a range of products including non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, and firefighting foam.

In recent years, PFAS has been found in Wisconsin ground water, surface water, and drinking water as well as animal and fish tissue.

The issue is if enough of the chemical builds up in a person, say through their drinking water contaminated with high concentrations of it, it can lead to health issues.


There is always a need for blood donors.

The pandemic hasn’t changed that. In fact, it’s increased the need in some areas.

The Community Blood Center is looking for people who have recently recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma.

Kristine Belanger is the Chief Operating Officer for the Community Blood Center. She said the antibodies in the plasma donations can help other people suffering from COVID-19.

Science on Tap-Minocqua

Peter David loves everything about wild rice from its ecological value to how it tastes.

“I think it’s interesting in so many different ways,” said David.

As a wildlife biologist for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission you may wonder why someone who studies animals would be leading a talk on a plant.

Wikimedia Commons Royalbroil

With so much changing in the world these days, Three Lakes says now is the perfect time to focus on what that change should be.

Forward Three Lakes is trying to form an idea for what the future of Three Lake looks like.

Jim Morley is the Three Lakes Community Foundation Board Chair. He said the town has been looking for ways to make it stronger and more vibrant for a while, but it’s become of even more importance recently.

Katie Thoresen/WXPR

Cranberry Harvest is in full swing across northern Wisconsin.

Pulling up to Lake Nokomis Cranberries you might not realize it all happens right there.

The first thing you see is the gift shop. That’s where I meet Dave Zawistowski and his son Mike.

“The big sellers are the cranberry salsa and cranberry barbeque sauce,” said Dave as he shows me around the shop. 

Katie Thoresen/WXPR

There’s no shortage work equipment at Pioneer Park Historical Complex in Rhinelander.

Train cars and engines sit on railroad tracks underneath large pine trees. Saws, axes, and all sorts of lumberjack equipment dating back to the late 1800s reside inside the museum.

But on Friday, some more modern equipment rolled into the park.

Two large yellow cranes were set up right next to one of Pioneer Park’s most prized possessions.

Wisconsin DHS

Cases of COVID-19 are surging in the Northwoods right now.

Health officials fear hospitals and clinic will be over capacity if something isn’t done now to get the virus under control.

“If we don’t take this seriously, we will have more deaths and if people haven’t experienced it as a result of the pandemic yet, they more than likely will before it’s over,” said. Dr. Susan Moore.

Dr. Moore is the Medical Director for Ascension in the north region. She herself has lost a loved one to COVID-19.


WXPR is hosting a panel of medical experts from across the region and the state.

We want them to answer your questions about COVID-19 and the current surge of cases in the Northwoods.

You can submit your questions here.

You can also submit them by messaging us on Facebook or by emailing us at news@wxpr.org.