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Last updated: Jan. 13, 2011

Deer movement study to begin in northwestern Minnesota

DNR to add 19 acres to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Hugo man charged with poaching trophy buck

DNR focusing on underage drinking violations on Brainerd area lakes

Two new snowmobile map products available from the DNR

FWS Announces Intention to Delist Western Great Lakes Wolves

DNR aims to boost waterfowl populations through new approaches

DNR releases Strategic Conservation Agenda 2009-2013

Four Traverse County residents face stiff fines, loss of hunting privileges

DNR finalizes Leech Lake management plan

 

 

Deer movement study to begin in northwestern Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the University of Minnesota will launch a pilot research project later this month to gain a better understanding of movements and habitat use of white-tailed deer in northwestern Minnesota.

“This is an area where continuous forest changes into a more agricultural landscape,” said Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health program coordinator. “Deer behavior in transitional habitats is not as well understood as it is in forest and farmland habitats.”

The proposed study area is approximately 140 square miles and lies just south of the bovine tuberculosis (TB) management zone, where efforts have been focused in recent years to manage the disease in both deer and cattle. The area is just east of Grygla and includes a mix of agricultural, state forest and state wildlife management lands.

While DNR disease management efforts have been successful in the area, the experience gained made it clear that a better understanding on how deer use such a diversified habitat is needed.

“Do deer use farmed areas more frequently if they are available to them, considering they also have access to state forest and wildlife management area lands?” Carstensen said. “By improving our understanding of how deer may use farmed and pastured areas differently than natural habitats, we can gain more insight into which practices may better minimize the risks of disease transmission between wild deer and livestock.”

Scott Wells, a professor with the department of veterinary population medicine at the University of Minnesota, previously developed a risk assessment process that was used by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health to evaluate the risk of deer and cattle interactions at farms within the bovine TB management zone. Wells plans to use the information generated from this study to gain a better understanding of how farming practices, including storage of feed and animal husbandry, might influence how deer use agricultural landscapes.

In mid-January, DNR plans to capture 12 female and six male deer by helicopter in the study area. Satellite-linked radio collars will track their movements every 90 minutes during a 15-month period.

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DNR to add 19 acres to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

As the centennial year of Split Rock Lighthouse winds to a close this week, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is pleased to announce the acquisition of a 19-acre parcel of land within Split Rock Lighthouse State Park by the Division of Parks and Trails on behalf of the citizens of Minnesota, preserving a beautiful view for generations to come.

The Division of Parks and Trails has been actively pursuing this property over the past 25 years and closed the transaction on Dec. 23. The acquisition of this land was made possible by the diligent efforts of the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota, according to the DNR. Funding was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) and capital bonding.

"We were pleased to facilitate the purchase of this crucial parcel of land in one of Minnesota's most scenic and historic state parks," said Steve Thorne, president of the nonprofit Parks & Trails Council, which first purchased the land and immediately made it available for the DNR to purchase for the public's use.

The addition of the new land will bring the size of Split Rock Lighthouse State Park to 2,089 total acres. The property sits approximately 150 feet above Lake Superior along both sides of Highway 61 and is adjacent to a historic MnDOT wayside rest. It offers outstanding views of Split Rock Lighthouse and Lake Superior. The Gitchi-Gami State Trail also crosses the property. The park’s existing picnic grounds and part of the campground are located on a portion of the property acquired by the DNR in the early 1980s.

“I recall talking with the previous Division Director, Don Davidson, about how happy he was to acquire the Lake Superior shoreline part of this property back in the ‘80s,” said Mark Kovacovich, district supervisor for the Division of Parks and Trails Northeast Region, who was then working as a natural resources technician for the undeveloped Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. “Since then, I have often worried about what would happen with the rest of the property adjacent to Highway 61 that wasn’t initially acquired.  It is comforting to know that the character of this beautiful place will be preserved for future generations. This is truly a win for the citizens of Minnesota.”

Out of all of Minnesota’s 73 state parks and recreation areas, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park was the sixth most visited in 2010, with more than 324,000 total visitors and nearly 10,000 overnight guests. On July, 31, 2010, the historic lighthouse at the park, which is operated by the Minnesota Historical Society, celebrated its 100th anniversary with a spectacular fireworks display launched shortly after the lighting of the beacon. Additional programming included a performance series held in the Visitor Center theatre and lighting of the lighthouse beacon the first Friday of every month from May through November.

Additional information about the park and its history can be found at mndnr.gov (www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/split_rock_lighthouse/index.html).

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Hugo man charged with poaching trophy buck

The story and evidence just didn’t add up for a Hugo man who is facing $10,000 in fines and restitution – and loss of his hunting privileges – for allegedly poaching a 10-point trophy buck in early November.

After receiving a Turn-In-Poacher (TIP) call, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officer Robert Haberman of Little Falls recovered a deer from a central Minnesota taxidermist. The deer tag had not been validated, nor had the deer been registered. The buck scored 146 2/8 inches under Boone and Crockett, which records trophy animals.

Christopher C. Mogren, 43, said he had legally taken the buck by archery. However, an inspection of the carcass revealed a clean arrow wound behind the left shoulder and a large wound on the right shoulder consistent with firearm trauma. A forensics analysis found multiple metal fragments similar to those from a bullet fired from a high-powered rifle.

Mogren eventually admitted using a firearm to shoot a “severely injured” deer that had wandered onto his property. Using a skid loader, he transported the deer to his home where he later arrowed the deer. He purchased an archery tag, waited a couple of days, and tried to claim the deer was taken by archery.

Mogren said a family member subsequently dropped the deer off at the taxidermist.

State conservation officers seized the skid loader, a Remington model 700 rifle with scope, and 21 packages of deer venison. They also collected photos of Mogren posing with the deer and the arrow used.

Mogren has been charged with a gross misdemeanor for taking big game out of season ($3,000 fine), taking a big game animal without a license ($1,000 fine), gross misdemeanor transporting an illegally taken big game animal ($3,000 fine), failure to validate a deer tag ($1,000 fine), and failure to register a big game animal ($1,000 fine). Restitution for a trophy buck is $1,000.

A trial date has not been set in Washington County. If convicted, Mogren could also lose his hunting privileges for three years.

Anyone witnessing wildlife or fishing code violations is encouraged to contact the nearest conservation officer, law enforcement agency or the toll-free TIP hotline at 800-652-9093. Also, #TIP is available to most cell phone users in Minnesota.

Finding a conservation officer is just a click away at www.mndnr.gov/officerpatrolareas. Click on the map, and a balloon will pop up that shows the officer phone number and State Patrol dispatch number.

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DNR focusing on underage drinking violations on Brainerd area lakes

A grant from the Minnesota Institute of Public Health will enable conservation officers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to focus on illegal underage alcohol consumption that occurs in the outdoor recreation arena. 

Conservation officers have routinely encountered underage consumption violations when conducting routine angling license checks on the ice. During the holiday season, local conservation officers will be working throughout the Brainerd lakes area and focusing on those areas that have had issues of illegal underage consumption violations in the past. 

The Minnesota Institute of Public Health provided the alternative alcohol enforcement funding through the “Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws Program” of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

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Two new snowmobile map products available from the DNR

A new online interactive snowmobile trail map and a downloadable GPS background map are now available to help people explore and navigate Minnesota’s extensive snowmobile trail system, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

These maps can be found at mndnr.gov/snowmobiling.

The online snowmobile trail map, developed by the DNR’s Division of Parks and Trails, displays all of the DNR and Grant-in-Aid trails across the state. The map makes it easy to zoom, search, pan, and get more information about more than 22,000 miles of snowmobile trails at the click of a mouse. The map also includes a print function so custom maps can be printed at home.

The downloadable GPS background maps are compatible with Garmin GPS units. The maps are available for free on the website and will help snowmobilers navigate trails with their handheld GPS units.

“These two new map products make it easier for snowmobiles to explore Minnesota’s world-class snowmobile trail system,” said Forrest Boe, deputy director of the DNR Division of Parks and Trails. “They also showcase all of the work and dedication of the thousands of snowmobile club volunteers who make the trail system possible.”

Minnesota was recently named “Best Trails State” in the country by American Trails for facilitating an outstanding statewide system of trails. The Grant-in-Aid snowmobile trail system consists of more than 21,000 miles of snowmobile trails maintained by local club volunteers, and the DNR maintains another 1,000 miles on state trails and in state parks.

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FWS Announces Intention to Delist Western Great Lakes Wolves

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that, subject to receipt of further public comment, it intends to remove wolves in the Western Great Lakes region as a listed species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

Earlier this year, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation (USSAF) and several others began the delisting process by filing formal petitions seeking to delist wolves in the Western Great Lakes region.  After the FWS failed to respond to the petitions, the USSAF and its supporters then sent a letter threatening legal action against the FWS if it did not start the delisting process.  In September, the FWS started the delisting process citing the USSAF petition as well as other petitions.

The latest announcement came after U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) called upon Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to expedite the delisting process for the Western Great Lakes wolves.  Senator Klobuchar also indicated that she plans to introduce legislation as a backup option to ensure that delisting occurs.    

In response, the FWS indicated that it will publish a new delisting proposal for the wolves by April 2011 and will wrap up the process by the end of 2011.  In its press release, the FWS noted that “wolves continue to exceed recovery goals and are no longer threatened with extinction.”

Removing wolves in the Western Great Lakes region from the Endangered Species List would allow wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan to be managed by the states. 

“We are encouraged by this recent announcement by the FWS,” said Rob Sexton, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation vice president of government affairs.  “However, we must remain cautious as animal rights groups will surely try to derail the process.”

Two previous efforts by FWS to delist the wolves were reversed as a result of lawsuits filed by animal rights groups.  In both cases, the reversals dealt with technical legal issues.  They did not overturn the findings by the FWS that wolves have met recovery plan objectives.

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DNR aims to boost waterfowl populations through new approaches

Two new tactics to add more ducks to Minnesota’s skies were the focus of a signing ceremony Tuesday, Dec. 14, attended by leaders of Ducks Unlimited, the Minnesota Waterfowl Association and other conservation organizations.

The gathering, convened by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), celebrated the formal signing of the state’s first-ever shallow lakes plan and the publication of new state guidelines for creating and managing temporary wetlands.

“Hunters want more ducks. We do, too,” said Mark Holsten, DNR commissioner. “To make this happen, we are refocusing our sights on existing public ownership. Our goal is to improve what we have and create what we don’t."

Holsten said the agency will accomplish the latter by increasing agency emphasis on building very shallow, food-filled seasonal wetlands on state-owned Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). The building and managing of seasonal wetlands is called moist soil management.  These temporary wetlands can be powerful magnets for attracting migrating ducks in spring and fall and provide critical food resources for both ducks as well as shorebirds.

These two strategies will compliment the agency’s other pillars of waterfowl management, which are providing refuge and feeding areas and creating multi-square mile complexes of grassland and water.

“The agency’s focus on more aggressively and intensively managing what we own  is the right move for the times,” Holsten said. “We’ve spent decades building our WMA habitat base. Now we need to reinvest in making it the best.”

Waterfowl leaders at Tuesday’s ceremony supported the agency’s shift in direction.

“We like it,” said Ryan Heiniger, Ducks Unlimited director of conservation programs in Minnesota and Iowa. “Shallow lakes are the cornerstone of Minnesota’s remaining habitat. Improving these basins meets the goals of the DNR’s duck recovery plan and our Living Lakes conservation initiative.”

“Our organization was founded on the importance of shallow lakes to Minnesota waterfowl,” said Brad Nylin, executive director of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association. “It makes sense to maximize the potential of these assets.”

The DNR’s new shallow lakes plan is a 53-page blueprint for rebuilding waterfowl populations by focusing on managing 1,800 of Minnesota’s shallow lakes. The plan’s primary objectives are to:

The DNR’s new moist soil management guide is a 60-page document that details how to create and manage temporary wetlands that mimic naturally occurring seasonal wetlands. This document will accelerate the DNR’s ability to design, fund and construct moist-soil units similar to those on the Thief Lake, Roseau River, Teal Lake and Lac Qui Parle wildlife management areas. It also will be a tool that other waterfowl-minded organizations can use.

Dave Schad, DNR Fish and Wildlife division director, said the moist soil guide will be a valuable resource inside and outside the agency.

“It’s a cookbook for how to create temporary wetlands by manipulating water by the inch rather than the foot,” Schad said. “We have trained our staff on these new guidelines.  We’re looking forward to getting projects on the ground this spring and summer.”

The shallow lakes plan signing ceremony was conducted in Minneapolis as part of the 71st Midwest Fish and Wildlife Association annual meeting. Copies of the DNR shallow lakes plan and moist soils guidelines can be found online at mndnr.gov/ducks

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DNR releases Strategic Conservation Agenda 2009-2013

A new plan, which sets strategic direction for natural resources and measures conservation results, has just been released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The DNR “Strategic Conservation Agenda 2009-2013, Part II: Performance and Accountability Report” clearly explains the role natural resources play in the state’s quality of life and economic prosperity. The agenda provides a framework for responding to Minnesota’s conservation challenges.

The Agenda, a companion piece to Part I issued in 2009, uses 83 measurable indicators and targets to summarize natural resource conditions, DNR management activities, and results that the DNR strives to accomplish. Both Part I and Part II of this report are available at www.mndnr.gov.

While Part I described the three driving trends that shape the state’s natural resources and defined a core set of strategies to address these challenges in an integrated and comprehensive way, Part II tracks progress toward those conservation goals with select indicators.

A special section on natural resources and economic prosperity introduces the key performance indicators. They are organized under five themes: waters and watersheds, natural lands, fisheries and wildlife, outdoor recreation, and organization effectiveness.

Examples of indicators include:

“Minnesotans care deeply about their natural resources, as evidenced by the passage of the 2008 Legacy Amendment,” said DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten. “These reports detail how we have developed conservation strategies, and even reinvented the department, to achieve significant results.”

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Four Traverse County residents face stiff fines, loss of hunting privileges

Three adults and a juvenile, all from Beardsley, Minn., face fines and restitution totaling nearly $13,000 for a variety of charges from a November deer poaching case reports the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Jason James Murphy, 22, is charged with gross misdemeanor shining, transporting a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, discharge of a firearm at a deer from the road right of way, and open bottle of alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle.

Tanner Aric Zych, 20, is charged with gross misdemeanor shining, transporting a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, open bottle of an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle, and under age 21 possession and consumption of an alcoholic beverage.

Ryan Jay Murphy, 18, is charged with gross misdemeanor shining, shooting at deer from the road right of way, untagged big game, and failure to validate a site tag.

A 16-year-old juvenile is charged with gross misdemeanor shining, gross misdemeanor transport of an illegally taken deer, shooting a deer from the road right of way, and taking deer without a firearms deer license.

Baumbarger said if the four are convicted each faces a maximum penalty of $2,000 for gross misdemeanor shining, as well as a total of $2,700 in fines on a variety of other charges. Restitution is $500 for each deer. Their hunting privileges could also be revoked for three years.

Unknown to the accused the incident occurred literally at the front door of State Conservation Officer Daniel Baumbarger of Wheaton.

“I was off-duty, standing outside of my house when I noticed a vehicle moving on a nearby roadway at a speed that didn’t seem normal,” said CO Baumbarger. “The vehicle repeatedly moved to a field approach, paused and then backed out, using its headlights to spot deer.”

Baumbarger went back inside his house, put on his uniform, got in his patrol vehicle, and followed the suspect vehicle, observing it sweeping farm fields with its headlights, before meeting up with a second vehicle parked along a township road.

Assistance was requested from the Traverse County Sheriff’s Department, and while a deputy followed one of the vehicles to a residence, Baumbarger tailed the second vehicle, containing Jason Murphy and Tanner Zych, to an establishment in Beardsley.

“As they exited the vehicle I stopped them, identified myself, and took their cell phones to prevent them from contacting the driver of the other vehicle. I could smell the strong odor of alcohol and noticed several empty beer cans in the truck, as well as two uncased shotguns on the passenger side of the front seat. Both shotguns were loaded,” Baumbarger said. Several slugs and two spotlights were also found in the truck cab.

The two men later admitted to the CO that they had been out looking for deer, that the juvenile had shot a deer earlier, and that they were there to help harvest and load the animal.

A call from the deputy revealed two bucks were in the back of the other vehicle driven by the juvenile while Ryan Murphy was a passenger.

During the course of the investigation Ryan Murphy and the juvenile admitted to shooting the two bucks.

“They both said they knew what they were doing was illegal, but they were tired of everyone else doing it (shining deer), and they decided to do the same thing. Two wrongs don’t make it right,” Baumbarger said.

Investigators seized the two deer, as well as a 2009 and a 2004 pickup truck, four shot guns, and two spot lights, which are now property of the state of Minnesota.

A trial date in Traverse County District Court has not been set.

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DNR finalizes Leech Lake management plan

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has finalized a five-year management plan that aims to sustain Leech Lake as one of Minnesota’s top fishing destinations.

The plan outlines fisheries management objectives for 2011 through 2015. Minnesota’s third-largest lake, Leech Lake’s 112,000 acres offer year-round angling opportunities for walleye, muskellunge, northern pike, yellow perch and largemouth bass.

“This document was developed by combining fisheries science with extensive public input,” said Dirk Peterson, fisheries management section chief for the DNR. “From habitat protection to stocking to continued support for cormorant control, Leech Lake’s management plan clearly details our approach to sport fish species and habitat during the next five years.”

A 17-member Leech Lake Advisory Committee representing local and statewide interests in Leech Lake management activities provided input and guidance while the plan was developed. The committee met regularly during a nine-month period beginning in August 2009 to discuss sport fish management objectives, how those objectives might be achieved and their potential impacts on the Walker area’s tourism and resort economy.

Committee recommendations were incorporated into a draft management plan and presented for broader public input during July 2010. Public comments were collated and the draft plan was revised to reflect some of the common themes that emerged from the public input process.

The final plan is available online at mndnr.gov/leechlake. Print copies are available by contacting the Walker Area Fisheries Office, 07316 State 371 N.W.; Walker, MN  56484.

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