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Last Updated: Jan/Feb, 2012

Coon Rapids Dam pool to be raised this winter

DNR seizes 234 fish at Lake of the Woods

DNR program pays landowners to allow public hunting on their land

DNR releases proposal for wolf harvest season this fall

Minnesota deer harvest declines 7 percent in 2011

DNR survey shows fewest fish houses on south-central Minnesota lakes in 35 years

DNR conservation officers take aim to free deer

Southeast stream trout season opens

DNR cites 144 with baiting; seizes 134 firearms/bows

 

Coon Rapids Dam pool to be raised this winter; property owners and recreationists should be on alert

Asian carp pose a significant threat to aquatic habitat in the Mississippi River, so the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will be requesting the Three Rivers Park District to raise the water level in the pool behind the Coon Rapids Dam this winter to make it a more effective fish barrier.

Property owners along the pool should immediately begin to remove any docks and boat lifts from their shoreline that could be damaged by the higher water levels. Winter recreationists should be on alert, because ice conditions in the pool will be unpredictable for the rest of the winter.

The DNR recently met with representatives of the park district, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Weather Service and several local residents and community representatives, to discuss how to raise the pool in a safe manner to minimize damage to the shoreline and the danger to wintertime recreationists.

The DNR was advised to raise the pool slowly (no more than 6 inches per day) and to do it when open water is visible in the center of most of the pool. DNR and park district staff will monitor ice conditions on the reservoir, and as soon as the conditions are right will begin raising the pool.

DNR hydrologists do not believe this change in dam operations will affect overall peak flood levels along the pool. The Coon Rapids Dam pool does not contain enough storage to lessen flood levels. The water level of the pool when a flood starts does not make any difference in the severity of flooding.

DNR will begin reconstruction of the dam to make it a more effective Asian carp barrier either late this fall or early next year. The Three Rivers Park District and the DNR recently signed a joint powers agreement which paves the way for the dam reconstruction project.

Last year, the Legislature provided $16 million for the project. DNR will be replacing the gate system and making other badly needed repairs. DNR will keep the pool level at or near the normal summer pool level all year long in the future. 

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DNR seizes 234 fish at Lake of the Woods, urges anglers to know rules before fishing special regulation lakes

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently seized 234 walleye/sauger for a variety of violations on Lake of the Woods. 

From Jan. 20-23, conservation officers issued 67 summonses and 66 warnings, reporting 23 instances of over-limits, 14 cases of anglers using extra lines, 12 anglers found with no fishing license, and five reported illegal length cases. 

“It was a little bit of everything that when combined can result in some hefty fines,” said First Lieutenant Pat Znajda, DNR Enforcement district supervisor in Thief River Falls.

In many instances officers observed anglers violating fish cleaning and fish consumption rules on the lake, as well as ignoring mandated size restrictions. Transportation of fish without the required the head, tail, fins and skin intact was also common.

“This year seems to be getting worse for these types of violations,” said Znajda. “It’s not like these are new regulations, folks should know the rules.”

Anglers are reminded that they must keep the carcasses of the fish they fillet on the ice until they are consumed. Once consumed, the carcasses can be discarded, but not on the ice or in the water.

“The carcasses of the fish filleted on the ice must be available for inspection by a conservation officer,” Znajda said. “If they are frozen or cut up, it’s a violation.”

Anglers choosing to have their fish filleted by DNR licensed commercial fish packers can possess their processed fish on the ice, so long as it is properly labeled by the licensed packer. These fish count toward the angler’s possession limit.

Znajda said anglers spending multiple days on Lake of the Woods, or other lakes with special regulations, such as Upper Red and Leech lakes, can do a few things to remain legal while taking their fish home:

First, remember that daily and possession limits are the same and if you eat a fish you caught that day, it still counts toward your daily limit;

Second, don’t clean the fish you are taking home with you while you’re on the ice;

And finally, remember that filleted sauger will be counted as walleye.

For more information on transportation, storing and processing of fish see the 2011 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet, or visit http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/rlp/regulations/fishing/fishing2011.pdf.

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DNR program pays landowners to allow public hunting on their land

Landowners in 21 southwestern Minnesota counties can earn money by allowing public hunting on their private land through the Walk-In Access (WIA) program, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

WIA, which is entering its second year as a pilot program, targets privately owned parcels of 40 acres or more that are already enrolled in a conservation program such as Reinvest In Minnesota or Conservation Reserve Program. River bottoms, wetlands and other high-quality habitat will also be considered for WIA this year.

WIA pays landowners by the acre to allow hunting access. Bonuses are added if more than 140 contiguous acres are enrolled, if the land is within one-half mile of existing state or federal hunting land, or if a multi-year agreement is signed. This year’s sign-up period goes from Feb. 1 to April 15. Local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) offices are handling program details and enrollments.

“We had a great response from hunters and landowners last year,” said Marybeth Block, WIA coordinator. She said that 90 landowners enrolled about 9,000 acres in 2011. In 2012, she hopes to have a total of 25,000 acres enrolled.

“Studies across the country say that hunter numbers are declining because it’s getting tougher to find places to hunt,” Block said. “I see WIA as one way to address this, while also rewarding landowners for keeping their land in high-quality habitat.”

Block said that the program is entirely voluntary for landowners. Recreational use laws provide extra liability protection for WIA acres. DNR conservation officers will address trespass and hunting violations. Enrolled acres are for walk-in traffic only; no vehicles are allowed on conservation land. Parking is along roads or in designated parking areas.

WIA land is for public hunting only. No target practice, trapping, dog training, camping, horseback riding or fires are allowed. Similar rules apply to WIAs as to other public wildlife lands. Once private land is enrolled in the program, bright yellow-green hexagon signs are placed at the property boundaries.

More information on WIA and a map of the 21 counties involved in the program can be found at mndnr.gov/walkin. Locations of parcels enrolled for 2012 will be on the website in August. 

The WIA program is a partnership between the DNR, SWCD, Board of Soil and Water Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is funding the first two years of the pilot program.   

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DNR releases proposal for wolf harvest season this fall

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is proposing an inaugural gray wolf hunting and trapping season this fall that calls for a conservative harvest quota of 400 animals.

Wolf research indicates Minnesota’s wolf population could sustain a higher quota, but DNR officials say they are taking a measured approach to the state’s first season.

The proposal sets a quota of 6,000 licenses that will be allocated through a lottery system. Only one license will be allowed per hunter or trapper. Hunting would be allowed with firearms, archery equipment and muzzleloaders. Calls and bait would be allowed with restrictions.

The season is proposed for the end of November and would be closed once the quota is met. Hunters would be required to register animals on the same day they are harvested and data would be collected from carcasses. Other states with harvest seasons for wolves and other big game animals similarly monitor seasons and close them when quotas are met.

DNR will outline its proposals to the Legislature on Thursday, Jan. 26 before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee.

While the legislatively approved wolf management plan authorizes hunting and trapping seasons, the agency is seeking additional authorization from the state Legislature this session to offer a wolf license and implement other management strategies. Legislators will have to pass a bill by the end of the session and the governor will have to sign it in order for a season to be held.

The DNR will also take public comments prior to finalizing and implementing a wolf season.

The initial season will allow wolf biologists to collect information on hunter and trapper interest and harvest success and will provide biological information on harvested wolves to help inform future wolf population management and monitoring. The state has an estimated population of 3,000 gray wolves and past surveys indicate the population is stable.

Wolves are prolific, survival of young is generally high and populations can offset effects of mortality caused by hunting and trapping seasons, DNR officials say.

The DNR intends to manage wolves as a prized and high-value fur species by setting the season when pelts are most prime, limiting the take through a lottery and requiring animals be registered.

DNR plans to adjust the framework of future wolf seasons based on information collected during the inaugural season. This adaptive management approach will result in progressive changes as the DNR learns how to best manage a wolf season in Minnesota. The wolf harvest quota does consider other causes of mortality such as removal due to livestock and domestic animal depredation and threats and vehicle collisions. 

The agency will also be undertaking a new wolf population survey starting next winter.

Minnesota’s population of Great Lakes gray wolves transitions from federal protection to state management on Friday, Jan. 27. That is when the DNR implements its state management plan, which is designed to ensure their long-term survival of wolves in the state.

The agency has three lead conservation officers designated to ensure enforcement of the state’s wolf laws by conservation officers throughout the wolf range. The agency also has a wolf research biologist and management specialist.

Information on changes to regulations on taking wolves to protect domestic animals can be found online at mndnr.gov/wolves.
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Minnesota deer harvest declines 7 percent in 2011

Lower deer populations and a windy first weekend of the firearms season resulted in Minnesota’s deer harvest dropping 7 percent in 2011, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Minnesota hunters harvested 192,300 deer during the 2011 season, a drop of 15,000 from the 207,000 deer harvested in 2010.

In 2011, firearms hunters harvested 164,800 deer, while archery and muzzleloader hunters harvested 20,200 and 7,300 deer, respectively. Overall, the statewide archery and firearm harvest was down 6 percent for both seasons and the muzzleloader harvest declined 19 percent from last year. 

“Upwards of 50 percent of the annual deer harvest occurs during opening weekend,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “The high winds hunters experienced opening weekend hindered deer activity and the associated harvest.”

Deer densities were lower in many areas because of hunting regulations designed to bring populations to goal levels, and because of a harsh winter in 2010.

Now that many areas are at the established goal levels, there is a general dissatisfaction among hunters with the current deer population. As a result, the DNR will develop a process in the near future to reassess deer population goals. Although that process may not be complete for several months, DNR staff will examine population densities and trends in all permit areas and begin making adjustments in time for the 2012 season.

Cornicelli said hunters should pay close attention to the hunting synopsis, which comes out in mid-July, to see if they need to apply for a lottery either-sex permit.

For the 2012 season, the deadline for the either-sex permit application is Thursday, Sept. 6.  Archery deer hunting will begin Saturday, Sept. 15. The statewide firearms deer hunting season will open on Saturday, Nov. 3. The muzzleloader season will open Saturday, Nov. 24.

The final deer harvest number is calculated using information provided by hunters when they register their deer. A final report, which includes more detailed harvest information, will be available online at www.mndnr.gov/deer in the coming weeks.

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Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan to take effect Jan. 27

Minnesota’s population of wolves will transition from federal protection to state management by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Jan. 27, bringing with that transition a number of law changes.

Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan will protect wolves and monitor their population, but also give owners of livestock and domestic pets more protection from wolf depredation. The plans splits the state into two management zones, with more protective regulations in the northern third, considered the wolf's core range.

“The DNR is well-prepared to manage gray wolves and ensure the long-term survival of the species,” said Ed Boggess, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “The state’s Wolf Management Plan will allow Minnesotans more flexibility to address the real conflicts that occur between wolves and humans.” 

The major change with state management is the ability of individual people to directly protect their animals from wolf depredation, subject to certain restrictions. In addition, the state-certified gray wolf predator control program will be available to individuals as another option to deal with livestock depredation.

The Wolf Management Plan has provisions for taking wolves that are posing risks to livestock and domestic pets. Owners of livestock, guard animal or domestic animals may shoot or destroy wolves that pose an immediate threat to their animals on property they own or lease, in accordance with local statutes. "Immediate threat" means observing a gray wolf in the act of stalking, attacking or killing livestock, a guard animal or a domestic pet under the supervision of the owner.

In addition, the owner of a domestic pet may shoot or destroy a gray wolf posing an immediate threat on any property, as long as the owner is supervising the pet.

In all cases, a person shooting or destroying a gray wolf under these provisions must protect all evidence and report the taking to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours. The wolf carcass must be surrendered to the conservation officer.

In the southern two-thirds of Minnesota (Zone B), a person may shoot a gray wolf at any time to protect livestock, domestic animals or pets on land they own, lease or manage. The circumstance of "immediate threat" does not apply. A DNR conservation officer must be notified within 48 hours and the wolf carcass must be surrendered to the conservation officer. Also in Zone B, a person may employ a state-certified gray wolf predator controller to trap wolves on or within one mile of land they own, lease or manage.

Unlike federal regulations, state regulations allow harassment of wolves that are within 500 yards of people, buildings, livestock or domestic pets to discourage wolves from contacting people and domestic animals. Wolves cannot be attracted or searched out for purposes of harassment and cannot be physically harmed.

Similar to federal regulations, Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan allows anyone to take a wolf to defend human life. Any wolves taken must be reported to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours, and evidence must be protected.

Although some level of agency wolf depredation control may be in place under a cooperative agreement between DNR and the Wildlife Services Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, funding for this program has been eliminated as a result of federal budget cuts. The DNR is working with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and state livestock associations to identify funding that could support this program in the future.

The DNR already has staff in place to fully implement the state management plan, and to ensure that wolves continue to thrive in Minnesota while minimizing the inevitable conflicts that arise between wolves, humans and livestock. Dr. John Erb, DNR wolf research biologist, will continue to address wolf research and population monitoring needs. Stark will coordinate all wolf management activities in Minnesota.

The DNR has designated three conservation officers in the wolf range as lead officers to ensure enforcement of provisions of the Wolf Management Plan. These officers are Lt. Pat Znajda in Thief River Falls, Dave Olsen in Grand Rapids and Greg Payton in Virginia.

Mary Ortiz, executive director of the International Wolf Center based in Ely, said Minnesota is taking a thorough approach to wolf management through further wolf research and monitoring. She urged Minnesotans to learn more about the DNR’s plan as a new era of state management unfolds. “This is a comprehensive and conservative plan with a very specific and highly controlled approach to wolf management,” Ortiz said.

The state's wolf population, estimated at fewer than 750 animals in the 1950s, has grown to its current estimate of 3,000. The endangered species act requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor wolves in Minnesota for five years after delisting to ensure that recovery continues. Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves to ensure their long-term survival in the state.

Federal rules removing the Great Lakes population of wolves from the endangered species list also take effect Jan 27 in Wisconsin and Michigan.

The complete Minnesota Wolf Management Plan, zone maps, population survey information as well as a question and answer fact is available online at www.mndnr.gov/wolves.

Limited wolf season possible in 2012

Minnesota wildlife officials have begun to plan for a limited gray wolf hunting and trapping season in late 2012.

This action follows last month’s announcement that wolves will return to state management

Jan. 27, following roughly 35 years of federal protection.

Tom Landwehr, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said the agency is taking a “deliberate and science-based” approach to implementing initial wolf hunting and trapping seasons.

“Our job, as a natural resource agency, is to implement the state’s Wolf Management Plan, which includes provisions for public taking of wolves,” said Landwehr. “That means we will be taking actions to ensure the long-term survival of the species while also addressing conflicts between wolves and humans.”

Landwehr said the wolf’s recovery in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Upper Michigan is a national success story. The Minnesota DNR, he said, is committed to continuing that success.

Last July, the Minnesota Legislature eliminated a five-year waiting period for a wolf season following delisting of the animal from federal protection. In the weeks ahead, DNR biologists will begin to identify wolf management harvest units and develop other criteria specific to a Minnesota season. Components of the proposed season framework must still be approved by the Legislature, and a chance for public comment will be provided later this year.

“Without a history of regulated wolf seasons, we don’t know what kind of hunter and trapper interest and success rate to expect,” said Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist. For these reasons, he said, it is necessary to be conservative during initial seasons.

Stark said the DNR proposal would manage wolves as a prized and high-value fur species by setting the season when pelts are prime, limiting the take through a lottery and requiring animals be registered.

This approach, he said, is different than simply allowing hunters to shoot a wolf as an “incidental take” while primarily pursuing another species such as deer. "Minnesota is different than other areas where wolf hunting is offered, in part, because we have much higher hunter densities and a more compressed big-game hunting season,” Stark said.

“Our proposal is a separate season that takes into account when pelts are prime and have their highest value,” Stark said. “This approach will provide hunters and trappers the opportunity to specifically target wolves while minimizing conflicts with other hunting seasons.”

Minnesota has an estimated 3,000 wolves. Wolf numbers and their distribution have remained stable for the past 10 years.

Stark said the DNR presented its wolf hunting proposal to lawmakers earlier this week during a legislative hearing. The agency will be seeking additional authorization from the Legislature this session to offer a wolf license and implement management strategies. It will also take public comment prior to finalizing and implementing a wolf season.

“The wolf population has been fully recovered in Minnesota for many years,” said Stark. “Our hunting and trapping season approach will be designed to keep it that way. No one wants to see this species needing federal protection again.”

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DNR survey shows fewest fish houses on south-central Minnesota lakes in 35 years

Warm weather, eroding ice conditions, and changing technology may be responsible for the lowest numbers of fish houses on south-central Minnesota lakes in 35 years, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Since 1977, personnel from the DNR’s Hutchinson Fisheries Management Area have conducted fish house counts on up to 59 lakes each year across five and more recently seven counties.  “The surveys get us out on our area lakes during the winter,” according to Lee Sundmark, area fisheries supervisor. “Even better, it gives us a chance to talk to anglers and find out what they’re thinking and answer questions.”

Counts are conducted the first two weeks of January during daylight hours. This provides consistency when comparing data over a period of years. As each lake is visited, the number of fish houses, permanent and portable, are counted and recorded. 

Over the past 35 years, there has been an average of 14.25 fish houses counted per lake surveyed. This year the average was only 1.9. 

A grand total of 111 fish houses were counted on 59 lakes during this year’s survey period.  This compares to an average total of 734 fish houses counted per survey period since 1977.

Sundmark sees a couple of possible explanations for the dramatic dip in numbers. “Obviously our warm weather and eroding ice conditions have been an issue with anglers getting fish houses out on lakes this year,” Sundmark said. “We’ve had record-setting temperatures and treacherous ice. It stands to reason that fewer fish houses will be out.” 

Another trend impacting survey numbers is changing technology with ice fishing anglers.  Sundmark said that through the years there has been a dramatic shift from anglers using permanent fish houses to anglers fishing in portable ones. 

“When we’re out doing our counts during the day, we know we’re missing many anglers that don’t come out until after work,” Sundmark said. “They pop up their house, fish for a few hours and then pack up and head home.” 

He said it is easier than ever for anglers to ice fish for short periods of time and switch from one lake to another. Proof of that is evident when fish are biting on a certain lake. “Cell phones spread the news fast. We can go from a couple fish houses on a lake to a dozen or more in hours,” Sundmark said.  

The forecast of cooler temperatures should improve ice conditions and bring more anglers out on lakes, but Sundmark advises caution. “Make sure you know your lake and check ice thickness,” he said.

For more information on ice fishing, visit www.mndnr.gov/fishing/fin/ice_fishing.html.  

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DNR conservation officers take aim to free deer

Conservation officers (CO) with the Minnesota Department of Natural resources recently saved a couple of deer by shooting them.

State conservation officer Jeremy Woinarowicz of Thief River Falls received a call Dec. 28 that two bucks were locked together by their antlers in a field near Warren in Polk County. When Woinarowicz arrived at the scene, he noticed that the larger buck had already died and the live buck was frantically trying to break free.

“I did not have any assistance and I did not want the buck to stay attached any longer. I recalled that several years ago CO Greg Oldakowski of Wadena used his sidearm to shoot the antlers and free a couple of bucks that were locked together,” Woinarowicz said.

“I didn’t know if the buck that was still alive would survive the stress of roping, hog tying and sawing of antlers, so I decided to use the ‘Oldakowski Method.’”

Taking care and careful aim not to harm the live buck, Woinarowicz shot multiple tines off of each of the bucks, but that was not enough to free them. He decided he needed more firepower.

“I retrieved my duty shotgun from my patrol vehicle. A single well-placed slug on the dead buck’s antlers did the trick. The antlers flew apart and the live buck bounded away with one antler attached, and lived to fight another day,” Woinarowicz said.

Meanwhile across the state in Cook County, CO Darin Fagerman of Grand Marais received a call Tuesday of a buck with its antlers wrapped up in a hammock.

“It was dark and the deer was extremely tangled in the hammock, but the buck was still on its feet and able to move,” Fagerman said.

Fagerman and the caller cautiously approached the buck a couple of times to see if they could position themselves to free the animal, but each time the buck turned and kicked its hind legs in their direction.

Fagerman said the hammock was so wrapped up on one of the buck’s antlers that there was little hope of releasing it without injuring himself or the caller. Killing the deer was “the last thing I wanted to do, but I was running out of time and options,” he said.

Approaching the deer with his flashlight and sidearm, Fagerman shot but missed when the deer moved. It proved to be a saving shot.

“The gunshot startled the buck, which then pulled straight back on the hammock, exposing about two inches of the antler just above the base of the head,” Fagerman said. “Thankfully, the buck stayed still and I was then able to shoot the antler off. The deer, wasting no time, then ran off into the darkness,” Fagerman said.

“Conservation officers never know what they may encounter.”

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Southeast stream trout season opens

While most Minnesota anglers focus on ice fishing this time of year, those hankering for something different might want to cast their attention toward southeastern Minnesota, where the stream trout season opens Jan. 1.

The southeast’s winter trout fishing season is the result of the increasing popularity of trout fishing and requests from anglers to expand the number of streams open to winter fishing. The season is catch-and-release, and only barbless hooks may be used. Currently, about 135 miles on 38 streams are open to winter trout angling through March 31. Maps of open streams can be found at: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/trout_streams/winter.html.

DNR Lanesboro Area Fisheries Manager Steve Klotz offers several suggestions for a safe and productive winter trout fishing adventure.

The DNR implemented the winter trout fishing season in 1988 following improved water quality in the 1980s, which created good natural trout reproduction in southeast coldwater streams. The goal has been to provide additional recreational opportunities without harming the trout resource. This resource is particularly vulnerable during fall spawning and the stress of winter. DNR creel surveys and other studies have shown that the winter catch-and-release season does not cause any negative impacts to trout populations.

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Minnesota ready to assume state’s wolf management again 

Minnesota’s gray wolves will be removed from the federal government’s threatened species list and returned to state management in January.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it will publish a final delisting rule in the Federal Register on Dec. 28. After a 30-day period, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will reassume management of this species.

“We are pleased with the final decision to delist wolves in the region,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “This is a great success for the Endangered Species Act. Minnesota is ready to assume management of wolves under the guidance of the state’s wolf plan.”

Minnesota has a population of about 3,000 gray wolves, the largest population in the lower 48 states. This is roughly twice the number required in the federal government’s wolf recovery plan. The DNR, as it did after previous delisting rules in 2007 and 2009, will again manage the state’s wolf population according to a management plan and under authorities approved by the state Legislature in 2000.

The federal government has twice before delisted the gray wolf in Minnesota and the western Great Lakes from federal protection. In both instances these decisions were overturned in federal court due to legal challenges relating to procedural processes unrelated to wolf conservation management.

“Today’s announcement by the federal government reaffirms the fact that the wolf is not threatened or endangered in Minnesota,” said Landwehr. “Minnesota’s wolf population has been above federal recovery goals for our state since 1989. Our management plan will ensure the long-term survival of this species.”

Landwehr said modern wolf management balances the survival of this iconic species with the legitimate concerns of rural residents whose domestic animals are preyed upon. Under the state law, owners of livestock, domestic animals or pets may shoot or destroy wolves that pose an immediate threat to their animals. Minnesota’s wolf management laws divide the state into two management zones with more protective regulations in the northern third of Minnesota, considered the wolf’s core range.

The state’s wolf management plan, created in 2001 after extensive public input, is designed to protect wolves and monitor their populations while resolving conflicts between wolves and humans.

The state will assume management just as federal funding ends for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) wolf depredation program in Minnesota, which traps and kills gray wolves on farms where wolf depredation occurs. Most of the funding for the program, operated by Wildlife Services under the USDA, ends on Dec. 31, 2011, and the program is currently winding down. Under that program, 150-200 wolves causing damage to domestic animals were removed annually.

Under state management, owners of domestic animals will have more authority to control wolves themselves and the state will also offer the services of certified private predator controllers. The degree to which a level of government wolf control similar to that previously administered by USDA Wildlife Services could be continued is an issue that will require additional discussion among state agriculture officials, livestock producers, state lawmakers and the DNR.

Minnesota’s management plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves to ensure long-term wolf survival. Estimated at about 750 animals in the early 1970s, the state's wolf population has stabilized at about 3,000 animals today.

Federal law requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor wolves in Minnesota for five years after delisting to ensure recovery continues. Similar to federal regulations, state law allows anyone to take a wolf to defend human life.

Last summer, the Legislature eliminated a five-year waiting period on wolf seasons once delisting occurs. This means a hunting and trapping season could be authorized by rule after providing for public comment.

The DNR is in the preliminary stages of developing a framework for a wolf hunting and trapping season and will be working closely with the Legislature on the specific parameters of a potential season. Sound scientific criteria and monitoring methods will be used in designing any seasons. Gray wolves are currently legally hunted in Alaska, Idaho and Montana.

To learn more about Minnesota’s wolf management plan, go to www.mndnr.gov/wolves.

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Salazar Announces Recovery of Gray Wolves in the Western Great Lakes, Removal from Threatened and Endangered Species List

States, tribes to assume management responsibility

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced that gray wolf populations in the Great Lakes region have recovered and no longer require the protection of the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is publishing a final rule in the Federal Register removing wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and in portions of adjoining states, from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants.

“Once again, the Endangered Species Act has proved to be an effective tool for bringing species back from the brink of extinction,” Secretary Salazar said. “Thanks to the work of our scientists, wildlife managers, and our state, tribal, and stakeholder partners, gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region are now fully recovered and healthy.”

The rule removing ESA protection for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

“Gray wolves are thriving in the Great Lakes region, and their successful recovery is a testament to the hard work of the Service and our state and local partners,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “We are confident state and tribal wildlife managers in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin will effectively manage healthy wolf populations now that federal protection is no longer needed.”

Wolves total more than 4,000 animals in the three core recovery states in the western Great Lakes area and have exceeded recovery goals. Minnesota’s population is estimated at 2,921 wolves, while an estimated 687 wolves live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and another 782 in Wisconsin. Each state has developed a plan to manage wolves after federal protection is removed.

Wolf populations in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan will be monitored for at least five years to ensure the species continues to thrive. If it appears, at any time, that the gray wolf cannot sustain itself without the protections of the ESA, the Service can initiate the listing process, including emergency listing.

In the Service’s May 5, 2011, proposal to delist western Great Lakes wolves, the agency also proposed accepting recent taxonomic information that the gray wolf subspecies Canis lupus lycaon should be elevated to the full species Canis lycaon, and that the population of wolves in the Western Great Lakes is a mix of the two full species, Canis lupus and Canis lycaon. Based on substantial information received from scientists and others during the public comment period, the Service has re-evaluated that proposal, and the final rule considers all wolves in the Western Great Lakes DPS to be Canis lupus.

The Service also previously proposed delisting gray wolves in all or parts of 29 states in the eastern half of the United States. The Service continues to evaluate that portion of the May 5, 2011, proposal and will make a final separate determination at a later date.

Gray wolves were originally listed as subspecies or as regional populations of subspecies in the lower 48 states and Mexico under the ESA in 1973 and its predecessor statutes before that. In 1978, the Service reclassified the gray wolf as an endangered species across all of the lower 48 states and Mexico, except in Minnesota where the gray wolf was classified as threatened.

More information on the recovery of gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes can be found at www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/

The ESA provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife and plants. The Service works to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species.

To learn more about the Endangered Species Program, visit http://www.fws.gov/endangered/.

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DNR cites 144 with baiting; seizes 134 firearms/bows

Conservation officer weekly activity reports confirm what officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) already suspected: deer baiting was pervasive during the 2011 big game season.

DNR conservation officers (CO) issued 144 citations, issued 24 warnings and seized 134 firearms/bows in baiting relation investigations during the 2011 bow, firearms and muzzleloader seasons.

It’s the highest number of baiting citations issued during the deer hunting seasons since the DNR began tracking these violations in 1991.

“It seems that every year our officers are spending more and more time responding to complaints about baiting or discovering it while on patrol,” said Lt. Col. Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement assistant director. “It’s become a very common violation.”

Deer baiting is strategically placing a pile of food near deer stands or clearings with the intent of luring a deer into close hunting range. It has been illegal to bait deer in Minnesota since 1991.

CO Marty Stage of Ely said he spent a lot of the big game season “chasing violators illegally baiting deer.”

“The practice has certainly not gone away or apparently even slowed,” Stage said. 

The fine for illegal baiting is $300, plus $80 or so in court costs. Another $500 can be tagged on for restitution if a deer is seized. Guns may be confiscated as well.

“It is pretty sad when the rifle that has been handed down for generations is lost forever due to unethical hunting,” CO Darin Fagerman of Grand Marais. “Grandpa might not be too happy about that either.”

Smith said he is hopeful that by releasing the numbers on illegal baiting activities, it sends a message that Minnesota values it natural resources and there is a price for engaging in this activity.

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