Back to News Archive

Last Updated: Oct, 2011

Rose Lake in Otter Tail County treated for zebra mussel infestation

12 Minnesota state parks to close temporarily this fall for deer hunts

Owatonna resident wins 2012 Minnesota Pheasant Stamp contest

Accessible fishing pier installed on Rainy Lake

Hugo artist wins 2012 trout stamp contest

Neault named DNR’s Firearms Safety Instructor of the Year

Northern pike regulations to change on 15 lakes

Moose hunters in zones impacted by Pagami Creek fire offered a choice

Dry conditions may create challenges for waterfowl hunters

Lakeville artist wins 2012 duck stamp competition

Campfire and open fire restrictions take effect for northeastern Minnesota

DNR predicts best fall color season in 10 years

Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge open to deer and turkey hunting for the first time

Minnesota’s pheasant index falls 64 percent from 2010

Public invited to comment on experimental fishing regulations

 

 

Rose Lake in Otter Tail County treated for zebra mussel infestation

Favorable weather conditions allowed the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to treat a 10-acre section of Rose Lake on Thursday, Oct. 6, for an isolated infestation of zebra mussels on the Otter Tail County lake.

The treatment, using copper sulfate, is the first of three pesticide treatments occurring this fall to kill a small population of juvenile zebra mussels discovered in the lake in late September. DNR biologists believe the invasive mussels were introduced when a boat lift was placed in the 1,200-acre lake this summer.

The DNR hired a licensed aquatic pesticide contractor to apply the treatment, which is commonly used to treat snails that cause swimmers itch. The DNR is paying $14,000 for the three treatments, which take about two hours to complete.

“We know copper sulfate will kill zebra mussels, but we won’t know for sure until next summer if the treatment was successful,” said Nathan Olson, DNR invasive species specialist. “We will be monitoring the site closely.”

It is the first time the DNR has tried to control a small, isolated population of zebra mussels.  This technique has not been effective in eradicating large and established mussel populations.

Rose Lake shoreline property owners have been very cooperative. “They provided us access to the lake near the infested site,” Olson said. “We couldn’t have done this without them.”

Rose Lake will be officially designated as an infested water on Monday, Oct. 10. The designation means increased restrictions on bait harvest and transport of water from the lake as well as increased watercraft inspections and enforcement efforts.

The introduction of the invasive mussels in Rose Lake remains under investigation by DNR enforcement officers

DNR officials concerned about  transport of zebra mussels from infested waters when boat lifts, docks are moved

Discovery of mussels on Lake Irene boat lift may represent a trend

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologists fear they might be seeing a disturbing trend of zebra mussels hitchhiking on boat lifts that are moved from infested waters to uninfested lakes. The second such case was discovered this week on the northeast corner of Lake Irene in Douglas County, where a localized population of zebra mussels was discovered on a lift last weekend.

A similar case was discovered at Rose Lake in Otter Tail County Sept. 28. 

DNR staff members were called to property on Lake Irene Oct. 8 to investigate the presence of zebra mussels on a boat lift that had recently been removed from the water. They suspect the zebra mussels were transported to the lake this summer when the boat lift was moved in from an infested lake.

“Moving docks and boat lifts from zebra mussel infested lakes to other lakes is a serious issue,” said Nathan Olson, DNR invasive species specialist in Fergus Falls. “We can’t stress enough that everyone needs to take extra precautions to avoid transporting these pests to other state waters.” 

An inspection revealed clusters of mussels on the feet and inside the tubing of the boat lift.

No additional zebra mussels were found after inspections of 74 additional Lake Irene boat lifts and docks near the infected boat lift.

The next day a diver searched the bottom of the lake where the boat lift was located and found zebra mussels attached to rocks. The mussels were found only in the immediate area where the boat lift was located.

The DNR plans to treat the small area with copper sulfate, a common chemical used to treat snails that cause swimmers itch. The treatment could be conducted by a licensed aquatic pesticide contractor early next week.

“As with Rose Lake in Otter Tail County, we are hoping that early detection and rapid response to the zebra mussel discovery might prevent an infestation,” said Olson. “We won’t know for sure if treatment is successful until next summer.”

The DNR will designate Lake Irene as an infested water body. This designation adds additional restrictions for the transport of water from the lake and prohibits bait harvest on the lake. It also means there will be increased enforcement and watercraft inspections efforts in this area.

This will be the seventh lake the DNR has designated as infested with zebra mussels in 2011.  

The introduction of the zebra mussels into Lake Irene and Rose Lake is being investigated by area DNR conservation officers. It is illegal to possess, import, purchase, sell, propagate, transport or introduce invasive species into Minnesota waters. Violators can receive civil and criminal penalties.

Boat lifts and docks are of particular concern because they sit in the water for extended periods, giving adult zebra mussels a greater opportunity to attach themselves.

“We strongly recommend that all water-related equipment be cleaned thoroughly by pressure washing with hot water and dried for a minimum of two weeks before putting the equipment into a body of water,” Olson said. “It’s imperative that people act responsibly to slow the spread of aquatic invasive species.” 

More information about aquatic invasive species is available on DNR website at: www.mndnr.gov/invasives.


Back to Top

12 Minnesota state parks to close temporarily this fall for deer hunts

DNR reminds visitors to wear blaze orange when visiting state parks during hunting season

Numerous special deer hunts are scheduled to take place at Minnesota state parks this fall. Access to the parks will vary around the state during the hunts, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Some state parks will remain open to all visitors, some will have limited public access, and some will be open only to hunters with special permits. The deadlines have passed for youth and adults to apply for a special permit to participate in the hunts, which include regular firearms, muzzleloader and archery options.

The DNR advises anyone visiting a state park during these hunts to wear blaze orange or other brightly colored clothing. Visitors should also check for hunt-related information at the park office when they arrive and look carefully for hunt-related signage.

“The DNR allows these annual hunts as a way to help control the deer population at state parks,” said Ed Quinn, resource management coordinator for the DNR’s Division of Parks and Trails. “When there are too many deer in one area, the native plants and animals can be negatively affected. Our goal is to ensure healthy natural communities.”

The DNR thanks park visitors for their patience and understanding at parks where access will be limited during the hunts.

Parks that will be open only to hunters with special permits (hunt dates in parentheses):

Parks where some areas will be open only to hunters with special permits, but other areas will remain open to all visitors (hunt dates in parentheses):

Parks that will remain open to all visitors during special hunts (hunt dates in parentheses) and parks with a portion of land open to hunters during hunting season:

Parks that are wholly or partially open to hunting (all seasons) by legislation (whether or not they are having a “special” hunt):

Parks where no hunting will take place:

Special situations:

Details on which areas of each park will be affected by the special deer hunts will be included in the “visitor alert” boxes on the individual park website pages at www.mndnr.gov/parksandtrails. Information is also available by calling the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Back to Top

Neault named DNR’s Firearms Safety Instructor of the Year

The success of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) 2010 Firearms Safety instructor of the year is reflected in hundreds of pictures of safe, successful and grateful hunters that Mike Neault of Barnum and his wife have taught the past six years.

“We were at a Minnesota Deer Hunters Association banquet when we heard the DNR needed firearms safety instructors, so we decided to step up the plate since we felt the program plays such an important role in Minnesota’s hunting heritage,” Neault said.

Mixing firearms safety instruction with a strong dose of hunter ethics, Neault and his wife, Linda, were soon receiving pictures from former students.

“We now have four albums containing hundreds of pictures of our students’ first bear, first deer, first grouse or first bull’s-eye, making our efforts so worthwhile,” Neault said.

The field day portion of firearms safety instruction is Neault’s favorite.

“For many, it’s the first time they’ve ever shot a firearm,” Neault said. “Minutes later you begin to see the smiles on their faces when they fully realize that shooting is fun.”

It’s not all fun, however. There is also a serious side where firearms safety and hunter ethics is reaffirmed.

“We actually came up with a pledge where they raise their right handsand promise their instructors, their parents, and most of all themselves that when in the presence of a firearm they’ll act in an adult-like manner,” Neault said. “That’s a lesson in accountability they can apply outside of hunting.”

He enthusiastically noted the growing number of young female hunters attending firearms safety training, and said they conduct women’s-only classes for adult females each year in Barnum.

DNR Enforcement Program Coordinator Capt. Mike Hammer praised Neault’s dedication to provide hunter education opportunities for youths and adults.

“When he had issues with availability of a local range, he built his own on his property, with a field day site equipped with all the props needed for classroom and online firearms safety students,” Hammer said.

Neault’s dedication to his students extended to personally mentoring a young hunter. With parental approval, he bought the boy a .410 shotgun, picked up him up from school each day for range practice, and shared some of the finer points of deer hunting.

The day before the firearms deer season opened, the boy stayed in the Neault’s spare bedroom, was fed a hearty breakfast, and joined his personal mentor in the field.

“On the first day of the opener he took his first deer,” Neault said. “He no sooner had taken pictures when he asked when we could go again.”

Neault’s advice to fellow firearms safety instructors: “Try to make it fun; show the dangers, but make it fun. Remember, they’re kids and they’re very impressionable. Try to teach them the importance ethics and fair chase.”

Neault said he’s honored to be named DNR’s 2010 Firearms Safety Instructor of the Year. “I feel DNR firearms safety training has had a big positive impact on the state of Minnesota. I’m very honored to receive this award, but feel DNR’s other 4,000-plus FAS instructors are more deserving than me.”

He also thanked his wife Linda. “She deserves the award just as much as I do.”

The DNR’s 2010 Firearms Safety Instructor of the Year Award was presented to Neault on Thursday, Sept. 22, during the Carlton County Minnesota Deer Hunters Association’s annual banquet in Carlton.

Back to Top

Owatonna resident wins 2012 Minnesota Pheasant Stamp contest

A painting of pheasants by James Killen of Owatonna was chosen as the winning design from among 17 entries in the 2012 pheasant habitat stamp contest sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Seven entries advanced to the second stage of judging, from which five finalists were selected. Tim Turenne of Richfield took second place. Tombo Beard, Circle Pines; and Stephen Hamrick, Lakeville, tied for third.

Killen also won the pheasant stamp contest in 1985 and 1997.

The $7.50 pheasant stamp is required of all Minnesota pheasant hunters ages 18 through 64. Since 1983, stamp sales have generated more than $15.5 million for habitat enhancement efforts on both public and private lands in the pheasant range of Minnesota.

DNR offers no prizes for the stamp contest winner, but the winning artist retains the right to reproduce the work, which is usually done as limited edition prints. The 2012 Pheasant Stamp will be available for sale in March 2012.

Back to Top

Accessible fishing pier installed on Rainy Lake

A new, improved 84-foot fishing pier has been installed on Tilson Bay on Rainy Lake in northern Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.

The pier, installed by staff from the Tower office of the DNR Division of Parks and Trails, is safer and more accessible than the aging structure it replaced. A newly added 150-foot hardened trail surface makes it easier to reach from the nearby ADA-accessible parking lot.

The Tilson Bay pier is a popular fishing spot for local anglers, who take advantage of the year-round continuous fishing season for northern pike. Walleye also frequent the area during the spring, and many are caught from the pier during the first few weeks of the season.

Part of a cooperative agreement between the Rainy Lake Sportfishing Club and the DNR, the project was paid for out of the Game and Fish fund.

Tilson Bay is located approximately six miles east of International Falls on the northeast side of State Highway 11.

Back to Top

Hugo artist wins 2012 trout stamp contest

A rainbow trout will be featured on the 2012 Minnesota Trout and Salmon Stamp. The painting, by Nicholas T. Markell of Hugo, was chosen as the winning design from among 17 entries in the annual stamp contest sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Six entries advanced to the second stage of judging, from which four finalists were selected. Laurence Huls of Avon placed second; Stephen P. Hamrick of Lakeville finished third; and Dale Knaffla of Silver Bay placed fourth.

The DNR, which conducts the annual stamp contest, offers no prizes. The winner retains reprint reproduction rights to the work, which is usually reproduced as a limited edition wildlife print.

A Minnesota trout and salmon stamp is required for those who fish in designated trout streams, designated trout lakes, Lake Superior, or who possess trout and salmon. Anglers must also purchase a Minnesota fishing license.

The DNR sells approximately 95,000 stamps every year. The 2011 trout stamp costs $10, with proceeds going to trout stream habitat restoration projects, stocking trout, purchasing angling easements and the management of Lake Superior.

The following species are eligible for the 2013 stamp: brook, brown, splake and lake trout, and coho, pink, Chinook and Atlantic salmon. Rainbow trout designs are not eligible for the 2013 stamp.

Back to Top

Northern pike regulations to change on 15 lakes

Fifteen lakes in Minnesota will be posted soon with signs that indicate the current northern pike special regulation will end Tuesday, Nov. 1.

This change is the result of a new state law that limits the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to no more than 100 northern pike special or experimental regulation lakes and only allows for length-based rules.

"Currently, we are at 115 lakes with length-based regulations," said Al Stevens, fishing regulations coordinator for the DNR. "To comply with the new law, we are dropping regulations on 15 lakes where fisheries biologists believe the regulation is least likely to achieve its management goal or is a smaller lake connected to a larger lake that also has a special northern pike regulation."

The 15 lakes with special length-based regulations that will be dropped are Campbell in Beltrami County; Cotton and Big Floyd in Becker County; Louise in Cass County; Latoka in Douglas County; Caribou in St. Louis County; Scrapper, Haskell, Rice and Schoolhouse in Itasca County; North Branch Kawishiwi River, which is part of the Garden Lake chain, in Lake County; Ogechie in Mille Lacs County; Long and Crooked in Stearns County; and Little Sauk in Todd County.

These lakes will revert to the standard statewide northern pike regulation – a three-fish limit with no more than one greater than 30 inches in possession. These changes are being done temporarily through an expedited rulemaking process to get them in effect by Nov. 1, as the law requires. Stevens said the DNR will also post the lakes this fall and hold local informational meetings in January 2012 before making the changes permanent. Meeting times and locations will be announced in early January.

Because the law enacted this summer also narrowed the definition of allowable special or experimental designated lakes for northern pike to those with length limits, regulations on an additional 17 lakes with catch-and-release or reduced bag limits will also be dropped from special or experimental regulations. The status of these lakes will be addressed through other DNR rule-making authorities in the months ahead.

During the past 20 years, the DNR has introduced many special and experimental regulations to improve the average size of fish and thereby improve fishing quality. For northern pike, special regulations typically require anglers to immediately release fish in a specified size range, often 24 to 36 inches, and limit the harvest of fish larger than the size range to one fish.

Back to Top

Moose hunters in zones impacted by Pagami Creek fire offered a choice

Participants in this fall's bulls-only moose hunt can choose to have their licenses refunded and reinstated for a future hunt if the Pagami Creek fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has impacted or limited access to the zone in which they are authorized to hunt.

Moose hunting zones affected by this decision are zones 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 61, 62, 63, 64, 77 and 80.

"It's not just a question of direct fire impacts but of restricted access over a significant period of time prior to the hunt," said Steve Merchant, wildlife program manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "The fire has been burning for more than a month. This may have prevented hunters from properly planning and scouting their areas in preparation for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Additional zones could be added if the Pagami Creek fire or related closings by the U.S. Forest Service prevent access to additional moose zones. Current information about moose hunting zones affected by the fire is available on the DNR website mndnr.gov/hunting/moose/zones.

If hunters in fire-impacted zones can access the zone in which they are authorized to hunt, they can choose to hunt regardless of the fire. If access to a zone is not possible or earlier fire-related closures prevented access, hunters in fire-impacted zones can choose to participate in a future hunt.

Back to Top

Dry conditions may create challenges for waterfowl hunters

In spite of abnormally wet conditions earlier this year, waterfowl hunters may find access to lakes and wetlands challenging in some areas this fall.

“Some hunters may be surprised by water levels, especially at the very shallow sites,” said Ken Varland, area wildlife supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  “Some wetlands are significantly lower than they were at this time last year.”

With above- average temperatures and below-average precipitation over the past couple of months, the water evaporates quickly, Varland said. 

Wet and dry cycles are a natural part of healthy wetlands. Low water levels during the growing season allow germination of emergent vegetation such as cattails and bulrushes. These plants filter nutrients and create a healthy balance in the wetlands, which provides food and protective cover for waterfowl and other species of wildlife.

“Wetlands will naturally fill as we get rain,” Varland said. “But without precipitation, access by boat will become increasingly more difficult on some wetlands through the fall.”

Hunters who make the extra effort to access wetlands may be rewarded, though. According to the annual DNR spring waterfowl survey, the state’s breeding population of mallards is estimated to be 17 percent higher than last year. The combined population of ducks such as wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads is estimated to be 22 percent higher than in 2010.

“This year it is especially important to get out before the opener and do some scouting,” Varland said. “It could make the difference between a disappointing waterfowl opener and a successful one.”   

Back to Top

Lakeville artist wins 2012 duck stamp competition

A ruddy duck painted by Stephen P. Hamrick of Lakeville will be featured on the 2012 Minnesota Migratory Waterfowl Stamp.

Hamrick's painting was chosen as the winning design from among 26 entries in the stamp contest sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Thirteen entries advanced to the second stage of judging, from which four finalists were selected. The other finalists were second-place winner Thomas Buchal of Mahtomedi; third-place winner Ron Van Guilder of Cedar; and fourth-place winner Thomas Moen of Montrose.

The $7.50 duck stamp is required of all Minnesota waterfowl hunters ages 18 through 64. Stamp sales generate between $500,000 and $900,000 per year for habitat enhancement projects in state wildlife management areas and shallow lakes.

The DNR offers no prizes for the stamp contest winner, but the winning artist retains the right to reproduce the work. Each year, the entries are limited to a predetermined species that breeds or migrates through Minnesota.

The eligible species for the 2013 stamp design will be the northern pintail.

Back to Top

Campfire and open fire restrictions take effect for northeastern Minnesota

Due to continuing fire danger, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Forest Service have issued restrictions on campfires in several counties in northeastern Minnesota. Counties with campfire and open fire restrictions are Cook, Lake, Koochiching, Itasca and northern St. Louis.

Federally owned land in the Superior National Forest

(parts of Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties)

Private or state-owned lands within the Superior National Forest

All lands in Koochiching, Itasca, and areas of Cook, Lake and northern St. Louis counties, not within the Superior National Forest.

(The portion of St. Louis County covered by the restrictions is north of a line from Silica to Central Lakes to Brimson (with the exact line being the township line between T55N and T56N such that it includes all of T56N)

Fall weekends bring many people outdoors to recreate. The DNR urges everyone to use extreme caution where campfires are allowed. 

Fire conditions change quickly. For more information and maps, and to check fire conditions, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html

Back to Top

DNR predicts best fall color season in 10 years

Minnesotans are encouraged to keep the camera batteries charged and to not put the tent or the picnic basket away just yet, because the upcoming fall color season could be the best it has been in 10 years, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“With adequate rain during the growing season for two consecutive years and recent weather patterns that have included the ideal combination of warm, sunny days and cool evenings, we’re predicting an especially vivid display of color across the state in the weeks ahead,” said Jana Albers, DNR forest health specialist.

Wondering when and where to schedule weekend getaways to catch the colors as they peak? Visit the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/fall_colors/index.html for online fall color reports provided by staff at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas from across the state. Starting this week, reports will include percent of color change, peak color projections, flowers and grasses in bloom, and three state parks considered “hot picks” of the week. The reports are updated by noon every Thursday.

Thanks to a mobile website developed by the DNR last year, fall color information also can be accessed from mobile phones. Android and iPhone (also iPod Touch and iPad) smart phones are both supported. People can also use any WebKit-based browser (Chrome or Safari) to view the website, which features real-time access to fall color reports and integration with Google maps. To view the site, visit www.mndnr.gov.

Colors typically peak between mid-September and early October in the northern third of Minnesota, between late September and early October in the central third, and between late September and mid-October in the southern third (which includes the Twin Cities).

Many Minnesota state parks have planned programs and special events to coincide with peak color projections in their area. Examples include:

For more information about these and many other free programs and special events, visit the online calendar at www.mndnr.gov, or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 1-888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

State park visitors are invited to upload their photos to the DNR’s fall color website.

A vehicle permit is required for entrance to Minnesota state parks and recreation areas.

SPECIAL OFFER

Can’t decide between a one-day or year-round park permit?

The DNR has a special offer that can help. Start by purchasing a one-day permit for $5 and visit as many state parks as possible. After visiting the state parks, trade in the one-day permit by the end of that day and get $5 off the purchase of a year-round permit. Year-round permits, which cost $25, provide unlimited access to all 74 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for a full year from the month of purchase.

Back to Top

Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge open to deer and turkey hunting for the first time

Service Expands Hunting and Fishing Opportunities on 10 Refuges Across the Nation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the opening of Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota to big game hunting of deer and upland game hunting of turkey for the first time, while expanding hunting and fishing activities at nine other refuges. Notice of the final
2011-2012 Refuge-Specific Hunting and Sport Fishing Regulations published in the Federal Register on September 9, 2011.

More than 250 comments were received during the 30-day public comment period on the proposed expansion. Only 18 comments opposed the amended regulations.

“The National Wildlife Refuge System, a vital part of our shared natural heritage, offers Americans more than 320 hunting programs across the country. The Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to these programs – especially for youth and those with disabilities – wherever they are compatible with refuge purposes,” said Service Director Dan Ashe.

Among the changes are:
Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, CO, increases big game hunting by offering elk hunting for the first time. The refuge also allows migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and fishing.
Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, LA, adds waterfowl and coot hunting to its list of migratory bird hunting activities. The refuge also allows fishing.
Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge, MS, adds duck and geese hunting to its migratory bird hunting activities; squirrel, rabbit and raccoon hunting to its upland game hunting activities; and deer and hog hunting to its big game hunting activities. The refuge also
permits fishing.
Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, NC, opens to big game hunting of deer and hogs.
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, MN, increases acreage for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting.
Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, MN/IA, increases acreage for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting, and expands the species for migratory bird and upland game hunting.
Ouray National Wildlife Refuge, UT, allows upland game hunting of turkey and big game hunting of elk for the first time. The refuge also allows migratory bird hunting and fishing.
Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, MN, opens new areas to migratory bird hunting. It allows big game hunting of turkey and deer for the first time. The refuge is also open to fishing.
Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, TX, opens three new units to upland game hunting of squirrels and rabbits, and big game hunting of feral hogs and white-tailed deer. The refuge is also open for migratory bird hunting and fishing.

While definitions of hunting categories vary by refuge and state, migratory bird hunting generally includes ducks and geese. Upland game hunting may cover such animals as game birds, rabbit, squirrel, opossum and coyote. Big game hunting may include such animals as wild turkey, deer and feral hogs.

The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 directs the Service to permit hunting and fishing along with four other types of wildlife-dependent recreation where they are compatible with refuge purpose and mission. Hunting, within specified limits, is offered on more than 300 national wildlife refuges. Fishing is offered on more than 270 national wildlife refuges. Other wildlife-dependent recreation on national wildlife refuges includes wildlife photography, environmental education, wildlife observation and interpretation.

To find hunting programs offered in the National Wildlife Refuge System, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/hunting/.

To find the final regulations, please visit:
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-09-09/pdf/2011-22752.pdf.

Back to Top

Minnesota’s pheasant index falls 64 percent from 2010

A severe winter followed by a wet spring contributed to a significant decline in Minnesota’s pheasant counts. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the pheasant population index declined 64 percent from 2010 and is 71 percent below the 10-year average.

Contributing factors include:

Severe winters combined with cold, wet springs are doubly hard on pheasant populations. That’s because fewer hens survive the winter and those that do are less successful in producing broods.    

Pheasant hunters are expected to harvest about 250,000 roosters this fall, the lowest harvest since 1997. This compares to harvests that have exceeded 500,000 roosters five of the past eight years. The 500,000 bird harvests correspond with a string of mild winters and high CRP enrollment.

“We expect hunters to harvest a similar number of birds in 2011 as they did in 2001, which was another year with a severe winter followed by a cold, wet spring” said Kurt Haroldson, a wildlife biologist for the DNR’s Farmland Wildlife Population and Research Group in Madelia. Haroldson noted survey results indicated an unusually low ratio of hens to roosters. This suggests hen mortality was high or hens were nesting or caring for young broods during the survey.  If the late nesting effort was greater than normal, the 2011 pheasant population and the fall harvest may be higher than forecast. Pheasant populations can rebound quickly given good habitat, mild winter weather and favorable spring nesting conditions.

Minnesota is not the only state to see pheasant index declines. Wildlife officials in South Dakota reported a 46 percent population index decline. North Dakota’s spring population survey showed a decline, too. 

The pheasant population estimate is part of the DNR’s annual roadside wildlife survey. The survey summarizes roadside counts of pheasants, gray (Hungarian) partridge, cottontail rabbits, white-tailed jackrabbits and other wildlife observed in the early morning hours during the first half of August throughout the farmland region of Minnesota.

The highest pheasant counts were in the east central region, where observers reported 51 birds per 100 miles of survey driven.  Hunters will find fair harvest opportunities in pockets of south central and southwest Minnesota, but harvest opportunities in most of Minnesota’s pheasant range are rated poor to very poor. This year’s statewide pheasant index was 23 birds per 100 miles driven, the lowest index since 1986.  The pheasant index in southwest Minnesota, typically the state’s best pheasant range, fell 82 percent from last year to 19 birds per 100 miles driven.

Haroldson said the most important habitat for pheasants is grassland that remains undisturbed during the nesting season. Protected grasslands account for about six percent of the state’s pheasant range. Farmland retirement programs such as CRP, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, Reinvest in Minnesota and Wetlands Reserve Program make up the largest portion of protected grasslands in the state.

High land rental rates and competing uses for farmland diminish the economic attractiveness of farmland conservation programs. During the next three years, contracts for 550,000 acres of CRP lands are scheduled to expire. If not re-enrolled, this would reduce CRP acres in Minnesota by 36 percent.

To help offset continued habitat losses caused by reductions in conservation set-aside acreage, DNR has accelerated acquisition of Wildlife Management Areas in the farmland region of Minnesota. DNR also supports habitat conservation on private lands by working with a variety of partners in the Farm Bill Assistance Partnership and Working Lands Initiative. Also, nearly 10,000 acres of private property will be open to public hunting through the state’s new Walk-In Access program.

The August roadside survey, which began in the late 1940s, was standardized in 1955. DNR conservation officers and wildlife managers in the farmland region of Minnesota conduct the survey during the first half of August. This year's survey consisted of 166 routes, each 25 miles long, with 148 routes located in the ring-necked pheasant range.

Observers drive each route in early morning and record the number and species of wildlife they see. The data provide an index of relative abundance and are used to monitor annual changes and long term trends in populations of ring-necked pheasants, gray partridge, eastern cottontail rabbits, white tailed jackrabbits and other select wildlife species.

The gray partridge index was similar to last year but 75 percent below the 10-year average.  The cottontail rabbit index was also below the 10-year and long-term average. The jackrabbit index was 96 percent below the long-term average. Finally, the mourning dove index was 26 percent below last year and 29 percent below the 10-year average.       

The 2011 August Roadside Report and pheasant hunting prospects map can be viewed and downloaded from http://mndnr.gov/hunting/pheasant.

Back to Top

Public invited to comment on experimental fishing regulations

Reviews of existing or newly proposed experimental fishing regulations on Minnesota waters will be the subject of 11 open house public meetings being conducted across the state in the coming weeks by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The meetings will focus on special regulations for sunfish, crappie, largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye and trout in 20 lakes and connecting waters, as well as one stream. Notable among the meetings are reviews of walleye regulations on Lake Vermilion and the Kabetogama/Namakan Reservoir.

The goal of experimental regulations on individual waters is to produce a quality fish population that can sustain increasing angling pressure and improved angler efficiency. During the past 25 years, fisheries managers have monitored a variety of regulations across Minnesota.

“Much has been learned from our efforts to improve fish populations with length and bag limits,” said Al Stevens, DNR fisheries program consultant. “If experimental regulations are successful, then regulations can be replicated on similar waters where fisheries managers and anglers agree they would help improve or maintain quality fishing.”

Experimental regulations are in effect for a specific period of time, typically 10 years. Before the regulation ends, fish managers must evaluate the regulation and then gather input from public meetings to help determine whether to extend, modify or drop the existing experimental regulations.

“Fisheries managers welcome the opportunity to hear opinions from anglers,” Stevens said.  “Public participation is critical in determining whether proposed and existing regulations are meeting angler expectations.”  

Waters that will be evaluated this year were posted at public access points this spring. Public notices for each meeting will be published in local newspapers. For more information about a specific meeting, contact your local DNR fisheries offices. An online directory of offices and contact information is available at mndnr.gov/areas/fisheries and are referenced on page 78 of the 2011 Fishing Regulations handbook. Offices are mapped online at  mndnr.gov/contact/locator.html.

Written or verbal comments also will be accepted at local fisheries offices up to 10 days following a local meeting.

For those unable to attend a local meeting, there will be an open house at DNR headquarters, 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul, on Thursday, Sept. 28, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Staff will be available to take comments on any proposal. Comments also will be accepted via email to al.stevens@state.mn.us or by telephone at 651-259-5239.

The other open houses are scheduled for:

Sept. 27, at the Walker Area Community Center Library Room, 105 Tower Ave., in Walker.

Sept. 28, at Barnesville City Hall, 102 Front St., in Barnesville.

Back to Top

© 2011 Outdoors Weekly