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Last Updated: March 2012

DNR offers new live peregrine falcon webcam

DNR to offer limited moose hunt this fall

DNR announces temporary, seasonal fishing closures

Comments sought on rule limiting special northern pike regulations

DNR urges early season boaters to use caution

DNR takes aim at southeastern Minnesota deer issues

Stearns County Chapter of Pheasants Forever raises money for pheasants

Construction to begin on Paul Bunyan Trail and bridge project in Bemidji

DNR to reassess deer population goals

Spring light goose action begins

Moose population continues to decline; hunting season to be evaluated

 

DNR offers new live peregrine falcon webcam

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Nongame Wildlife Program has placed a live webcam in a peregrine falcon box in downtown St. Paul to monitor the nest of a pair of peregrine falcons. The webcam can be viewed at www.dnr.state.mn.us/features/webcams/peregrine.html.

"We are very excited to be able to provide this webcam," said Carrol Henderson, supervisor of the Nongame Wildlife Program. "It allows the public a close-up view into the life of these incredible birds."

The project is being done in cooperation from the Midwest Peregrine Society, and the business tenants in Town Square and Sentinel Properties.

On Wednesday, March 27, the pair laid their first egg, Henderson said. The female will lay up to four more eggs over the next few days. The eggs should hatch on about April 28 and the young will stay in the box, dependent on their parents, until late June or early July.

The box the birds are in is about four feet by four feet in size and is located twenty-six stories high. Peregrines do not "build" a nest, so pebbles are placed in the box to create a natural habitat.

The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal in the world, stooping (chasing prey) at speeds in excess of 200 miles-per-hour. They are a little larger than crow-sized, about 1-2 pounds. The females are one-third larger than the males. They are mostly a slate blue color as adults, with a distinctive "hooded" appearance with a stripe that comes down from the cap. Young peregrines are brown in color with many stripes or barring on the chest.

DDT and related chemicals had a devastating effect on peregrine falcons and many other species in the 1950s and 60s. DDT and its residues, accumulated through food chains, impaired reproduction of many birds by causing the bird's eggs to become so thin that they were crushed under the weight of the mother incubating them. Chemicals extirpated some populations and raised the threat of the species extinction. Use of DDT was effectively banned in the United States in 1972 making it possible for peregrine recovery work to begin.

In 1984, the peregrine falcon was placed on the endangered species list. "This is truly a story of success because today, we have more than 60 unique territories in Minnesota and 39 pairs successfully raised 119 chicks," said Henderson.

Donations to the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program, which can help provide additional cameras and learning experiences, can be made online at www.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/nongame/checkoff.html.

More information about peregrine falcons in Minnesota is available at www.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/nongame/projects/peregrine.html.

More information about the Midwest Peregrine Society is available at www.midwestperegrine.org/donate/.

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DNR to offer limited moose hunt this fall

Consistent with the state's moose management plan, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced today that it will offer a limited bulls-only hunting season this fall.

Although hunting mortality of bulls is not a significant factor in the moose population decline, the state's moose plan, which addresses habitat, climate change, disease and other moose population factors, identifies specific thresholds when moose hunting should cease. The DNR is following that plan by closing two hunting zones in northeastern Minnesota, but continuing to allow limited hunting in other zones.

"Our approach is based on the scientific and social considerations brought forth by experts on the legislatively created Minnesota Moose Advisory Committee," said Erik Thorson, acting DNR big game program leader. "Committee members envisioned a time when hunting would become an issue. That time has come. We're implementing a reasoned and responsible plan."

Minnesota's moose population is estimated at 4,230. This compares to last year's estimate of 4,900 and is down significantly from the 2006 estimate of 8,840. The DNR estimates about 50 bulls will be taken by state hunters this fall.

Thorson said the DNR's limited hunting season will have no significant impact on the moose population. That's because the bull-cow ratio is sufficient to ensure that all cows can be bred, thereby creating the next generation of moose. The state's moose management plan recommends using bull-cow ratios as a measure to determine whether a bulls-only hunt should continue. DNR biologists base the harvest level on 5 percent of the estimated bull population.

"While it's true that the state's moose population is declining it's also true that bulls-only hunting is not a significant factor in that decline," said Thorson. "A decade of research has shown that most mortality is from unknown causes unrelated to hunting, perhaps linked to parasites or disease."

In 2008, the Minnesota Legislature directed the DNR to create a Moose Advisory Committee to make recommendations to the agency. The DNR convened a group of individuals from agencies, universities, tribes, and organizations representing a broad cross-section of moose expertise and interests. The Moose Advisory Committee filed a report that the DNR used to formulate its moose management and research plan. That plan states hunting should cease if:

"The bull to cow ratio is well above the identified threshold and at the highest level since 2006," said Thorson. "Overall hunter success was 58 percent last year, well above the 30 percent threshold. And hunting success rates for individual zones have not dipped below 20 percent for three consecutive years except zones 23 and 34, which we have closed to hunting this year."

Rolf Peterson, chair of the Moose Advisory Committee, said while many people will focus their concern on moose hunting, the real news – that the moose population is still declining – continues to be disturbing.

"Even though hunting is not causing the decline, it makes sense to reduce hunting pressure in an orderly manner if the population continues to decline," Peterson said.

Today's announcement means Minnesotans who want to hunt bull moose this fall can apply for 87 available licenses starting Monday, April 2. The state's moose hunting season is open to residents age 10 or older. Application deadline is Friday, May 4.

Eleven of the of the 87 available permits will be offered first to hunters who were selected in last year's lottery but opted not to hunt because of hunting access issues caused by the widespread Pagami Creek Fire. If any of the 11 choose not to hunt, their permits will be available to this year's applicants. The state's moose hunting quotas also take into consideration the expected tribal moose harvest by the Bois Forte, Fond du Lac and Grand Portage bands, which also conduct moose hunting seasons.

The moose season will open Saturday, Sept. 29, and conclude Sunday, Oct. 14. Hunters may apply at any DNR license agent or at the DNR License Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul. Moose hunters must apply in parties from two to four individuals. An application fee of $3 per individual must be included with the application.

Permits are issued through a random drawing, except that applicants who have been unsuccessful at least 10 times since 1985 will be placed in a separate drawing for up to 20 percent of the available licenses. A person who is still unsuccessful in this separate selection also will be included in the regular drawing.

Because the moose hunt became a once-in-a-lifetime hunt in 1991, hunters who received permits for moose hunts for the 1991 hunt and later are not eligible to apply for the 2012 drawing. The license fee is $310 per party. There will be mandatory orientation sessions required for all hunters chosen for moose licenses.

In 2011, 92 state-licensed hunters harvested 53 bull moose.
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DNR announces temporary, seasonal fishing closures

As ice-out begins and waters warm, anglers should regularly visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) website to check for seasonal closures that protect fish spawning areas.

Closures, which routinely occur each year depending on local conditions, are listed as an Angler Alert at mndnr.gov/fishing. A direct link also is provided at mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing.

Portions of waters closed to fishing also are posted at access sites and in other visible areas. Anglers may fish in areas that are not posted.

Seasonal Fishing Closures
The following waters in the portions designated are closed to the taking of all fish during the periods specified to protect fish spawning areas. A few may also be closed to boating to further protect concentrations of fish. Look for signs at access sites and in the areas as noted. All dates are inclusive.

Bass Lake – Itasca County
North basin on the west shore near the Pincherry Access and south basin along north shore in the Elm Point area closed to fishing March 26-June 30.

Chub Lake – Carlton County
Southeast Bay just east of the edge of the Baptist Church Camp lot closed to boating and fishing May 12- June 30.

Channel – Cook County
Channel between Little Gunflint and Little North Lakes on the Minnesota-Ontario border closed to fishing April 1-May 30.

Cross River – Cook County
(Inlet to Gunflint Lake) from the Gunflint Trail to Gunflint Lake closed to fishing April 1-May 25.

Jewett Lake – Otter Tail County
Southwest shore T.134,R.43,S.23 closed to fishing March 22-June 30.

Lake Maud – Becker County
Southwest bay closed to fishing March 26-June 20.

Malign River (Northern Lights Rapids) – Cook County
Ontario side of Saganaga Lake closed to fishing April 1-May 31.

Otter Tail River – Becker County
Area below Highway 10 culvert near Frazee closed to fishing March 26-May 11.

Pelican River – Becker County
Area below Bucks Mill Dam to Buck Lake and from Big Detroit Lake upstream to Minnesota Highway 34 closed to fishing March 26-May 11.

Round Lake – Itasca County
Two bays on the south side of the lake closed to fishing March 26-June 30.

Sea Gull River – Cook County
Area from Sea Gull Lake through Gull Lake to Saganaga Lake approximately 1/3-mile north of the narrows closed to fishing April 1-May 25.

Saganaga Falls – Cook County
Area on the Minnesota-Ontario border where the Granite River enters Saganaga Lake closed to fishing April 1-May 31.

Toad River – Otter Tail County
Inlet to Big Pine Lake upstream to County Road 13 (T.137, R.38,S.32) closed to fishing
March 22-June 1.

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Comments sought on rule limiting special northern pike regulations

Comments on rules governing special regulations for northern pike and other fishing regulation matters will be accepted until Thursday, May 30, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced.

To comply with a legislative change in state law, emergency rules were enacted in November 2011 that reduced to 100 the number of lakes regulated for northern pike bag limits and catch-and-release. The current rule making process will make those emergency rules permanent.

Other changes are technical in nature to clarify and improve the consistency of regulations.

Comments should be directed to Linda Erickson-Eastwood by mail at 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4020; email at linda.erickson-eastwood@state.mn.us, or telephone at 651-259-5200.

Complete details are available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/input/rules/rulemaking/nop.

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DNR urges early season boaters to use caution

With the ice receding from lakes and rivers at what seems like a near record pace, many boaters and anglers are already launching their boats. There were 400 or more fishing boats reported on the Mississippi River, March 17, on the 12-mile stretch between Lock and Dam Number 3 north of Red Wing to the head of Lake Pepin.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding boaters to take special precautions when enjoying early season boating and fishing. Even though air temperatures have been in the 70s recently, water temperatures are still bone-chilling cold.

"We see it time and time again in Minnesota boating accidents," said Tim Smalley, DNR boating safety specialist. "A lone boat on a lake capsizes; the victim isn't wearing a life jacket, has no warning or time to put one on, and drowns due to the effects of cold water."

Smalley said the key is the life jacket. "A person who suffers swimming failure or loss of consciousness will stay afloat wearing a life jacket, but drown without one. It's smart for boaters to wear a life vest from the time they enter the boat until they return to shore. There is no time to put one on before a boating accident. It's been compared to trying to buckle your seat belt before a car crash."

A 2007 report by the U.S. Coast Guard stated that a boating accident was five times more likely to be fatal if the water was colder than 60 degrees.

"Cold water can kill in ways that you might not expect," said Smalley. "Nearly everyone knows that immersion in cold water can cause hypothermia – the abnormal lowering of the body's core temperature. What most don't know is that victims who experience an unexpected fall overboard suffer initial cold water shock in the first minute, which involuntarily causes them to take a series of big breaths, called hyperventilation. If their head is underwater, they can inhale more than a quart of water and drown immediately if they aren't wearing a life jacket to keep them afloat."

The DNR Boat and Water Safety Section recommends boaters check the following items before their first outing of the season:

With early spring, use caution launching boats

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants early season boaters to know that conditions at ramps may make boat launching a challenge.

Due to this year's early ice out, DNR crews are faced with the need to inspect, repair and make ready launch ramps and access sites much earlier than anticipated. Many launch ramps have also been damaged by ice action, which is an annual occurrence. Launch ramp repairs and dock installations have started statewide and should be completed by the May 12 fishing opener.

Boaters can help by being prepared to inspect the ramp above and below the water to ensure it is in good condition prior to launching.

"Regardless of the time of year, it's always a good idea to check the condition of the ramp prior to launching to ensure there are no hazardous conditions present that may impede access or cause damage to equipment," said Nancy Stewart, public access program coordinator for the DNR's Parks and Trails Division. "In addition, many lakes statewide are experiencing low water levels, which may also make launching a boat more difficult."

Boaters should take extra time and effort when launching their boat this spring to ensure they have a safe and enjoyable boating experience:

Boaters also are reminded to observe all laws aimed at preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species, including emptying all water from bait containers and bilges, and leaving drain plugs removed while transporting a boat. The DNR also points out that while the early spring has brought unseasonable warmth, water temperatures will remain quite cold for some time yet, so wearing a life jacket is strongly recommended.

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DNR takes aim at southeastern Minnesota deer issues

Just as all politics are local, so too are deer issues.

Recognizing this, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has created a new position to better manage deer and deer hunter-landowner relations in southeastern Minnesota.

Clint Luedtke, a former wildlife biologist from Arizona, has been hired to work with farmers, recreational land owners and others to reduce deer-related crop damage and increase effective deer management strategies.

"Southeast Minnesota is a puzzle we want to solve," said Dennis Simon, DNR wildlife chief. "So, we have reprioritized our staffing pattern to create a first-ever position that aims to do just that."

Simon said a number of social and landscape issues - private farms, public forests, absentee landownership, crop depredation, a growing interest in big buck hunting and citizen differences on deer population goals - has created a growing conundrum.

"We don't have one universal problem in southeast Minnesota," said Simon. "Instead, there are a lot of isolated problems." Many of these, he said, occur at the nexus of where farmers are raising crops and nearby recreational landowners are trying to raise crops of more and larger bucks by limiting the deer harvest. Together, this has resulted in increasing crop depredation claims, hard feelings and unfavorable hunter-landowner relations.

"We're starting a dialogue to identify solutions to this situation," said Simon. "Our goal is to be innovative, fair and efficient."

Luedtke earned a fisheries and wildlife degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has more than four years' experience coordinating Arizona's Chronic Wasting Disease program.

Much of Luedtke's work will involve investigating depredation complaints, providing technical advice to landowners and distributing deer determent materials. He will also make recommendations to local government officials and others on effective deer management strategies.

Said Luedtke, "A big part of my job will be selecting the right tool for the right situation. Sometimes it may be education. In other instances, it could be a localized special hunt, shooting permits, a change in hunting permit numbers or some other action that addresses the legitimate interests of farmers and hunters."

Luedtke will work out of the DNR's Whitewater Wildlife Management Area office. He will work primarily in Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Olmsted, Wabasha and Winona counties.

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Stearns County Chapter of Pheasants Forever raises money for pheasants

The Stearns County Pheasants Forever Chapter (SCPF) held its annual banquet on March 10th at the Freeport Community Center in Freeport, MN. Over 350 people attended the event to help generate funds for Stearns County conservation and wildlife habitat projects.

Since 1983, the Stearns County Chapter has raised over $2.9 Million for conservation and wildlife habitat projects. “When it comes to conservation, there are a lot of people who want to make a positive difference in the restoration and preservation of wildlife but just don’t know how to go about doing it,” said Brad Cobb, SCPF Public Relations Director. Cobb added, “Attending a Pheasants Forever banquet is an excellent way to contribute to a good cause that will affect local habitat".

During the banquet the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) recognized Dan and Jolene Schlangen as the Outstanding Conservationists for 2011. The Schlangens, along with their four children, operate a dairy farm consisting of 70 milk cows and 300 acres where they grow corn, alfalfa, wheat and oats. The Schlangen's have installed sevaral practices that redce erosion and improve water quality. SCPF presented the Schlangen family with a framed print.

SCPF also presented Scott Glup, of the Litchfield USFWS Office with a Long Tail Award in recognition of the Litchfield office's over 20 years of creating and enhancing wildlife habitat in Stearns and sourrounding counties.

Also, the Stearns County Chapter of Pheasants Forever recognized Joe Klein, Mark Volkmuth and Joe Opitz for their years of dedicated service to SCPF.

Stearns County Pheasants Forever extends a special thank you to the Freeport Community Center and their staff for their hospitality and hard work. In addition, SCPF thanks all the volunteers, private & business donors who helped make this year’s banquet a success.

More info: http://stearnspf.org

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Construction to begin on Paul Bunyan Trail and bridge project in Bemidji

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Northwest Region Parks and Trails Division recently awarded the contract for construction of the Paul Bunyan Trail and bridge project spanning Highway 197 in Bemidji. Construction will begin around March 19 and be completed around Aug. 15, weather permitting.

The new bridge and trail will create a continuous connection between the city of Bemidji trails along Lake Bemidji to downtown, and to the Paul Bunyan State Trail on the south side of Lake Bemidji.

The project will provide a safe trail crossing at a very busy city intersection – Highway 197 and 1st Street. It will nearly complete the Paul Bunyan State Trail development on the northern end of the trail, except for a one-half mile segment along Clausen Avenue, which may be completed later this year or in 2013. The only other remaining undeveloped section of the Paul Bunyan State Trail is between Crow Wing State Park (to be completed in 2013) and Brainerd/Baxter.

“This project is a small but important part of a huge trail system,” said Tony Walzer, DNR’s Northwest Region Parks and Trails Division acquisition and development specialist. “It is nearly the last of many that have occurred over the past 20 years along the entire length of the trail since the Legislature authorized the trail in 1988, and land was first acquired in 1991.”  

The Paul Bunyan State Trail, when complete, will be approximately 120 miles long and extend from Crow Wing State Park (south of Brainerd/Baxter) to Lake Bemidji State Park (north of Bemidji). Presently at about 112 paved miles from Brainerd to Bemidji, the Paul Bunyan State Trail is the longest continuously paved trail in the Minnesota state trail system, and one of the longest in the United States.

Locally, the project will enhance the trail system in Bemidji and provide much better connectivity for the area trail users. Regionally, it will appeal to tourists who are looking for the opportunity to take advantage of this extensive trail system.

"This is a wonderful improvement for the area,” said Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji. “We will see a significant upgrade in terms of safety and an enhancement in the connectivity of local trails with state trails."

The $1.75 million project was funded by the 2011 legislative session through bonding. It is a cooperative effort between the DNR, city of Bemidji, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and Ottertail Power Co.

Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, helped secure funding for the project in the Legislature by pointing out that the project “was ready to construct in a short period of time. I want to thank all the people at the local and state level that worked to make the funding for this trail bridge a reality,” said Persell. “The safety of trail users will be significantly increased by having a bridge over Highway 197, and for that I am grateful.”
 
Construction will consist of a painted, steel-truss bridge over Highway 197 (Bemidji Avenue and Paul Bunyan Drive) and 2,740 feet of trail with bituminous surfacing for bicycle, pedestrian and snowmobile trail use. The bridge will be in three sections, with a 200-foot center span over the traffic lanes and 125- and 100-foot approach spans. It will have a 12-foot walkway with a concrete deck, handrails, decorative abutments and piers with architectural details to match the bridge over the Mississippi River. It will also boast a 54-square-foot trail logo/sign of Paul Bunyan at the bridge midpoint on both sides.

“The Highway 197 and First Street intersection has the highest traffic counts in the city of Bemidji,” said John Chattin, Bemidji city manager. “This new trail bridge will provide a safe way for all Paul Bunyan Trail users to cross Highway 197. The cooperation between the city, DNR, MnDOT and Otter Tail Power has been the key to making this project a reality. This will be a great enhancement to the Paul Bunyan Trail and will be appreciated by thousands of users.”
 
A ribbon cutting ceremony is planned once construction is completed in late summer.

More information on the Paul Bunyan State Trail is available at www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/paul_bunyan.

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DNR to reassess deer population goals

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will begin reassessing deer population goals this spring.

From 2005 through 2007 the DNR used an extensive public input process to establish deer population goals for all of the state's approximately 130 deer permit areas. Now that those goal populations have been achieved in most areas, the DNR will use a similar process to reevaluate population goals in 23 permit areas in southwestern and north-central Minnesota.

"Hunter dissatisfaction has increased as deer numbers have decreased to meet established goals," said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife programs manager. "In fact, hunters are even expressing disappointment in certain areas where deer populations have increased to meet goals." As a result, he said, the agency wants to revisit population goals in order to strike the right balance between hunter, landowner and other societal and resource interests.

The last time the DNR set population goals about one-half of the state's deer hunting permit areas were slated for deer reductions. Conversely, about 40 percent of permit areas were slated for deer increases. Most of these areas were in the farmland country of western and southern Minnesota. Today, nearly 70 percent of deer populations are within goal, while 15 percent remain below goal and 18 percent are above goal.

"To a large degree we have achieved what we aimed to do," said Merchant. "However, many Minnesota hunters are telling us they are not seeing the number of deer they have in the past. So, we intend to formally listen to their voices and those of others prior to setting 2012 deer hunting bag limits." The agency intends to use the new population goals as an information tool for making 2012 deer season management decisions.

Merchant said the DNR decided to begin the reassessment process by convening stakeholder input groups in southwest and portions of northern Minnesota. As available, the agency will use the same stakeholder groups that met during the previous effort. The DNR will also take public comments via its website. The agency will make a formal announcement when the website's public survey is online.

"We believe that the original stakeholder participants, many of whom were deer hunters, did a good job listening to each other's points of view, and worked hard to reach consensus," said Merchant. "Their input and that of citizens who complete the online survey will give us a good sense of public sentiment."

The entire statewide reassessment process will take more than one year. It will begin by focusing on the following permit areas: 118, 119, 171, 173, 176-179, 181, 199, 234, 237, 238, 250, 252, 279, 286, 288, 289, and 294-296. Like last time, Merchant said, he expects stakeholders to bring forward their concerns about hunter satisfaction, forest health, crop depredation, deer-vehicle collisions and more. In the rest of the state where deer are at or below goal, DNR will set regulations for the fall of 2012 that will maintain or increase populations until the statewide goal review process is completed.

Acting Big Game Program Leader Erik Thorson will coordinate the reassessment. Thorson is serving in the position until a permanent replacement is hired for Lou Cornicelli, who recently vacated that position to lead the agency's wildlife research unit.

Minnesota's deer population has swung significantly over the past 50 years. In 1971, for example, the state closed the deer hunting season because the population was too low. The DNR rebuilt the deer herd through tighter hunting regulations during the following decades. The deer harvest peaked at 290,000 in 2003 as the agency began to reduce deer numbers. Last year's harvest was 192,300, down 7 percent from the previous year and 15,000 fewer than the 2010 harvest.

Nationally, deer managers look at deer density goals as a societal issue more so than a biological issue. Deer are capable of achieving high densities, so are generally managed at a level of social tolerance rather than managed for the maximum number that can be supported by the habitat. This involves balancing desires of hunters, wildlife watchers and others who may support higher deer densities with those of farmers, foresters or others who experience conflicts with deer who may favor lower deer densities.

White-tailed deer are an important resource to the state of Minnesota. Nearly 500,000 individuals hunt deer and countless other people enjoy viewing deer in the state.
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Spring light goose action begins

Interested participants are reminded that the spring conservation action on "light" geese (snow geese, blue-phased snow geese, and the smaller Ross's goose) will open Thursday, March 1, and run through Monday, April 30.

The action is allowed under a federal conservation order that permits the take of "light" geese during the spring.

A required spring light goose permit may be obtained through any Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) license agent, via telephone at 888-665-4236 or online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense. The permits are free, but there is a $3.50 application fee to cover the cost of issuing the permit. No other license, stamp or permit is required to participate.

Customers using the phone will receive a temporary authorization number in lieu of the permit until it is mailed to the applicant. Internet customers will be able to print their own permit when completing the transaction, and will not receive a permit by mail.

Most regulations that are in place during fall waterfowl season also apply during the spring season, including nontoxic shot requirements and federal baiting regulations. In addition, all refuges closed to either duck or goose hunting during fall seasons will remain closed during the spring season. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset. No daily or possession limits apply. Use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns are allowed.

The conservation order season is in place in an effort to reduce the population of snow geese and Ross's geese that breed in the Arctic coastal areas and around Hudson Bay. High populations of these birds have caused considerable habitat damage to these fragile ecosystems.

Minnesota has participated in this spring conservation action each year since 2000. Harvest of light geese has varied from a few hundred to several thousand birds each spring.

"Minnesota is on the extreme eastern edge of the spring migration corridor for snow geese through the Upper Midwest," said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. "In addition, March weather, particularly snow and ice conditions, have a major impact on spring migration, migration routes and migration timing of snow geese in Minnesota. With such a mild winter and lack of snow cover, migration this year could be much earlier than normal."

A summary of regulations will be available from license vendors, DNR wildlife offices or by calling the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367.

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Moose population continues to decline; hunting season to be evaluated

Minnesota's moose population continues to decline, dropping from an estimate of 4,900 in 2011 to 4,230 in 2012, according to the annual aerial survey by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

"Estimates from the survey and results from research using radio-collared moose both indicate that the population has been declining in recent years," said Mark Lenarz, DNR forest wildlife group leader.

Minnesota's moose population was estimated at 8,840 in 2006 and has trended downward since then.

The causes of moose mortality are not well understood. Of 150 adult moose radio-collared since 2002 in Minnesota, 119 have subsequently died, most from unknown causes thought to be diseases or parasites. Ten moose died as a result of highway vehicle accidents. Two were killed by trains. Only 11 deaths were clearly the result of wolf predation.

This year's aerial survey, however, showed some positive trends. The number of cows accompanied by calves and twin calves increased in 2012, which means more calves can potentially mature into adults. But the cow and calf ratio, estimated at 36 calves per 100 cows in 2012, remains well below 1990s estimates that likely contribute to a peak population in the early 2000s.

The 2012 survey results also showed the bull-to-cow ratio increased from 2011 to an estimated 108 bulls per 100 cows, indicating that more bulls were available to breed with cows.

DECISION ON HUNTING SEASON TO COME
While this year's aerial survey showed improved calf survival and bull-to-cow ratio, the DNR will be evaluating the data and consulting with tribal biologists before making a decision on a 2012 hunting season. The decision on the season will be announced in the coming weeks.

Last fall, the DNR continued a bulls-only hunting season and cut the number of moose-hunting permits by more than half, from 213 in 2010 to 105.

Although hunting mortality of bulls is not driving the moose population decline, the state's moose management plan does have science-based triggers for closing the hunting season. One of those triggers is if the bull-to-cow ratio drops below 0.67 bulls-per-cow for three consecutive years.

While the bull-per-cow ratio dropped to .64 bulls/cow in 2011, it went up this year to 1.08.

ABOUT THE AERIAL SURVEY
DNR wildlife researchers estimate the moose population by conducting an aerial survey of the northeastern Minnesota moose range. The surveys, which have been conducted each year since 1960, are based on flying transects in 49 randomly selected plots spread across the Minnesota's Arrowhead region.

Since 2005, the downward trend in moose numbers, as reflected in the survey data, has been statistically significant.

Moreover, a study of radio-collared moose in northeastern Minnesota between 2002 and 2008 determined that non-hunting mortality was substantially higher than in moose populations outside of Minnesota. Although the formal study ended in 2008, researchers have continued to monitor non-hunting mortality, which has continued to be high.

A new, two-year study begins in 2013 that will concentrate on identifying disease and parasites that might be responsible for high moose mortality. Funding for the $600,000 study comes from the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which gets proceeds from the Minnesota State Lottery. The funding, recommended by Legislative-Citizen Commission on Natural Resources, has been appropriated by the Minnesota Legislature.

Funding and personnel for the annual DNR aerial survey are also provided by the Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Chippewa and 1854 Treaty Authority.

A copy of the 2012 aerial survey report is available online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/moose. The DNR's Moose Management and Research Plan, approved in 2011 as a way to possibly identify causes of moose mortality and potentially slow Minnesota's declining population, is available at www.mndnr.gov/moose.

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