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Last Updated: June 2012

Record heat may be contributing to fish kills in Minnesota lakes

Breeding mallard numbers average; Canada goose population high

Jay Cooke State Park closed indefinitely; camping/lodging reservations canceled through October; no reservations taken until further notice

Ruffed grouse counts decline

DNR says aquatic invasive species violation rates are unacceptable

Spring turkey harvest up in 2012

TIP call leads to big fishing violation catch

Heavy rains and high water affecting state trails and public accesses

Angler hundreds of fish over the legal limit faces thousands in fines

Minnesota state parks report increase in reservations for 2012

DNR outlines wolf season details, seeks public comment

 

 

Record heat may be contributing to fish kills in Minnesota lakes

Record-setting heat may be contributing to fish kills in lakes across the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Natural summer fish kills are not unusual,” according to Brian Schultz, DNR assistant regional fisheries manager. “In the past several days, however, we’re getting increased reports of dead and dying fish in many lakes from around the state.”

Unusually warm weather has raised water temperatures of many shallow lakes. Schultz has received reports from DNR field staff of surface water temperatures in some lakes reaching 90 degrees, with temps at the bottom only a few degrees cooler where maximum depths are less than 10 feet. “Those are some high readings and northern pike are especially vulnerable when the water gets this warm,” Schultz said. “They are a cool water species and just can’t adjust to the high temperatures when sustained for more than a few days.” Warm water temps can also impact other species such as walleye, yellow perch and bluegills.

Should the high heat continue, there may be die-offs of both northern cisco (tulibee) and lake whitefish in central and northern Minnesota lakes.

Oxygen depletion can be another factor contributing to fish kills of a broader range of fish species. Heavy rains earlier in the summer caused unusually high runoff from fertilized lawns, athletic fields, golf courses and farm fields, starting a chain reaction of high nutrient loads in some lakes.  

The runoff carries nutrients into the lakes, which combined with hot weather, can accelerate the growth of algae. Hot, dry, sunny and calm weather can cause algae growths to suddenly explode, according to Craig Soupir, DNR fisheries habitat specialist.

“Aquatic plants remain relatively stable over time, but algae have the ability to rapidly increase or decrease under various conditions,” Soupir said. 

Algae produces oxygen during the daylight hours, but it uses oxygen at night. This can create drastic daily changes in lake oxygen levels. These daily changes can result in complete saturation of oxygen during peak sunlight and a near complete loss of oxygen during the night. “All of this can add up to stressful conditions for fish,” Soupir said, “and even summer kill events.” Fish don’t seem to sense when oxygen depletion occurs and may suffocate in isolated bays, even when another area of the lake contains higher levels of oxygen.

Disease may also be a contributing factor to some fish kills. Schultz explained that when lake temperatures rapidly change, fish can become more susceptible to bacteria and viruses that naturally occur in the water. Columnaris is one of the most common diseases. 

The bacterium is always present in fish populations but seems to affect fish when water temperatures are warming rapidly and fish are undergoing some stress due to spawning. Fish may die or be seen weakly swimming along shores. Species affected are usually sunfish, crappies and bullheads and occasionally, largemouth bass and northern pike.

“It is difficult to pin a summer kill on just one cause,” Schultz said, “and although it is a natural occurrence, it can be disturbing.” 

Fish kills are usually not serious in the long run. Most lakes contain thousands of fish per acre and the fish kills represents a very small percent of that total. 

Some positive effects from partial fish kills is that it creates an open niche in the fish population, allowing the remaining fish species to grow faster with less competition.  

Minnesota lakes are resilient. The DNR has documented these conditions many times over and lake conditions and fish populations do return to managed expectations, either naturally or with the help of stocking if necessary.

If strange behavior is seen in fish, contact the local DNR fisheries office immediately. “If we can sample fish before they die, we may be able to learn what’s going on in the lake,” Schultz said.  “Once the fish are dead it can be difficult to determine what happened.”

Visit http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/areas/fisheries/index.html for a complete list of DNR fisheries offices in the state. People can also call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367.

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Breeding mallard numbers average; Canada goose population high

Breeding mallard numbers average; Canada goose population high
Annual spring breeding waterfowl index surveys indicated average numbers of breeding mallards, lower numbers of blue-winged teal and other ducks, and large numbers of Canada geese in Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The survey, designed specifically for mallards, estimates duck numbers for just a portion of the states. The survey areas estimated breeding mallard population index was 225,000, which is similar to the long-term average of 226,000 breeding mallards, but 21 percent lower than 2011 and 17 percent lower than the 10-year average.

The blue-winged teal index was 109,000 this year compared with 214,000 in 2011 and 50 percent lower than the long-term average of 219,000 blue-winged teal.  

The survey results for other ducks combined, such as wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads, was 135,000, which is 29 percent lower than last year and 24 percent below the long-term average.

The estimated number of wetlands (Types II-V) decreased 37 percent from last year and was 10 percent below the long-term average.

“It was a very unusual spring for weather, wetland conditions and breeding waterfowl,” said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. “We had record warm temperatures and early ice-out by late March, so ducks moved into the state early. But wetland conditions were extremely dry at that time.”

Conditions have improved dramatically since then, but much of the precipitation to date came after ducks had already begun nesting or moved through the state, Cordts said. Those, and other factors, make it more difficult than usual to interpret this year’s population indices.

The same waterfowl survey has been conducted each May since 1968 to provide an annual index of breeding duck abundance. The survey covers 40 percent of the state, which includes much of the best remaining duck breeding habitat in Minnesota.

A DNR waterfowl biologist and pilot count all waterfowl and wetlands along established survey routes by flying low-level aerial surveys from a fixed-wing plane. The survey is timed to begin in early May to coincide with peak nesting activity of mallards. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides ground crews that also count waterfowl along some of the same survey routes. This data is then used to correct for birds not seen by the aerial crew.

The goal in the DNR’s Duck Recovery Plan is to attract and hold a breeding population of 1 million ducks.

“Although the survey does not estimate total duck populations in the state, the decline in this year’s spring duck population index indicates we’re likely well below our goal,” said Dennis Simon, DNR Wildlife Section chief. “The DNR remains committed to our long-term habitat goals of improving breeding and migration habitat for waterfowl in the state.”

Canada Goose
The Canada goose population is estimated by a separate helicopter survey conducted in April.  This year’s estimated goose population was 434,000, which was higher than last year’s estimate of 370,000.

“Because of the early spring, Canada geese nested early,” Cordts said. “Production appears to be excellent, with large numbers of goose broods across the state. This has resulted in increased reports of agricultural damage by geese this year.”

The Canada goose hunting season established by the DNR in recent years is open for 107 days, the maximum number of days allowed.

“We may have to explore additional options in the future in order to address the large Canada goose population,” Cordts said.

The Minnesota waterfowl report can be viewed online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

DNR will announce this fall’s waterfowl hunting regulations in early August.

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Jay Cooke State Park closed indefinitely; camping/lodging reservations canceled through October; no reservations taken until further notice

Because State Highway 210 remains closed due to severe flood damage, Jay Cooke State Park in northeastern Minnesota also will remain closed indefinitely, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The highway, which provides the only vehicle access to the park, is impassable due to mudslides and large, washed-out sections.

Damage estimates are not yet available for the park, but the DNR anticipates losing approximately $175,000 in camping and lodging revenue while the park is closed.

Reservations at the park are being canceled through Oct. 31. Full refunds are being issued to customers. No reservations will be taken until further notice.

Jay Cooke State Park is the ninth most visited of Minnesota’s 75 state parks and recreation areas. It had more than 302,000 total visitors in 2010 and nearly 35,000 overnight visitors.

Damage to the campground and park buildings was minimal and no one was hurt, but the park’s iconic swinging bridge over the St. Louis River was severely damaged. There has also been extensive damage to the park’s 50-mile trail system, and water and sewer service remain unavailable.

The Willard Munger State Trail, a popular paved bike route that was severely damaged by the flooding, remains closed between Carlton to Duluth until further notice.

The DNR urges people not to go near Jay Cooke State Park or the closed section of the Willard Munger State Trail, because conditions are still very unsafe. Those curious about flood damage are advised instead to view the photos online at www.mndnr.gov

For updates on park and trail conditions, visit www.mndnr.gov or call the DNR Information Center, 651-296-6157 or toll free 888-646-6367 toll-free between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The DNR is also providing photos and updates via Facebook (Minnesota State Parks and Trails) and Twitter (@mnstateparks).

Jay Cooke State Park Facts

Best known for its iconic swinging bridge, which leads across the thundering St. Louis River, Jay Cooke State Park features nearly 50 miles of trails for bikers, hikers, horseback riders and skiers. The Willard Munger State Trail connects visitors to the nearby town of Carlton.

The park also features a historic cemetery, year-round interpretive programs, 78 campsites, five camper cabins and two group camps.

Year established:  
1915 

Park size: 
8,125 acres 

Annual visits:  
302,052 total in 2010 (ninth most visited Minnesota state park overall) 34,915 overnight in 2010 

Swinging bridge:

1924 - Forest service builds the first swinging bridge.     

1934-35 - The CCC builds the bridge with the familiar stone pillars we see today.

1950 - Swinging bridge is destroyed in the now second largest flood on record. This flood was recorded as 42,000 cubic feet per second. Like the 2012 flood, the smaller pillars were knocked down and reports were that one main pillar went too. The decking was destroyed.
   
1953 - The bridge reopens.  The concrete caps seen on top of the pillars were added to raise the bridge level.  It has been raised a total of 7 1/2 feet since it was originally built.

Late 70s/early 80s – Bridge was tightened it up and redecked.
      
June 2012 - The bridge is destoyed again. This flood is reported by MN Power to be 55,000 cubic feet per second.
Distance from St. Paul: 135 miles 

Park Infrastructure:                       
A total of 24 buildings, including three miles of gravel road, three parking lots (one paved and two gravel), city of Thomson water supply, WLSSD sewage system, historic district with two log and stone CCC-era buildings, 50 miles of trails including nine miles of paved bike trails and 32 groomed cross-country ski trails.

Wildlife:     
Animal species – 46 including white-tailed deer, black bear, timber wolves and coyote.
Bird species – 173 including pileated woodpeckers, marsh hawks and great blue herons.
Reptiles and amphibians species – 16.
  
Park address:     
780 Highway 210
Carlton, MN 55718

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Ruffed grouse counts decline

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were lower than last year across most of the bird’s range, according to a survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Compared with drumming counts conducted in 2011, 2012 survey results showed an average decline of 24 to 60 percent, to 1.1 drums per stop, in the northeast survey region, which is the core and bulk of grouse range in Minnesota. Drumming counts in the northwest declined 33 to 73 percent to 0.9 drums per stop. Drumming counts did not change significantly in the central hardwoods or southeast, which had averages of 0.6 and 0.7 drums per stop, respectively.

“The grouse population is in the declining phase of its 10-year cycle,” said Mike Larson, DNR wildlife research group leader and grouse biologist. “The most recent peak in drum counts was during 2009, but hunter harvests remained relatively high through at least 2010.”

Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions. This year observers recorded 1.0 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2010 and 2011 were 1.5 and 1.7 drums per stop, respectively. Counts vary from about 0.8 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 1.9 during years of high abundance.

Drumming counts are an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population. The number of birds present during the fall hunting season also depends upon nesting success and chick survival during the spring and summer.
 
Minnesota frequently is the nation’s top ruffed grouse producer. On average, 115,000 hunters harvest 545,000 ruffed grouse in Minnesota each year, also making it the state's most popular game bird. During the peak years of 1971 and 1989, hunters harvested more than 1 million ruffed grouse. Michigan and Wisconsin, which frequently field more hunters than Minnesota, round out the top three states in ruffed grouse harvest.

One reason for the Minnesota’s status as a top grouse producer is an abundance of aspen and other ruffed grouse habitat, much of it located on county, state and national forests, where public hunting is allowed. An estimated 11.5 million of the state's 16.3 million acres of forest are grouse habitat.

For the past 63 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations. This year,
DNR staff and cooperators from 15 organizations surveyed 126 routes across the state.

Sharp-tailed grouse counts decrease slightly
Sharp-tailed grouse counts in the northwest survey region decreased approximately 18 percent between 2011 and 2012, Larson said. Counts in the east-central region declined approximately 33 percent.

Observers look for male sharptails displaying on traditional mating areas, called leks or dancing grounds. Despite three years of declines, this year’s statewide average of 9.2 grouse counted per dancing ground was similar to the long-term average since 1980. The 2009 average of 13.6 was as high as during any year since 1980. During the last 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground.

Overall, sharptail populations appear to have declined over the long term as a result of habitat deterioration. In recent years, the DNR has increased prescribed burning and shearing that keep trees from overtaking the open brush lands that sharp-tailed grouse need to thrive.

The DNR’s 2012 grouse survey report, which contains information on ruffed grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, will be available soon online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/grouse.

DNR releases long-term management plan for ruffed grouse

A long-range ruffed grouse habitat and population management plan is now available on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) website at www.mndnr.gov/grouse

“The plan reinforces the state’s commitment to ensure the viability of ruffed grouse and their forest habitat, manage grouse as an integral part of Minnesota’s forested landscapes, and encourage and promote hunting and observation of ruffed grouse in their natural habitat," said Bob Welsh, DNR wildlife habitat program manager.

An average annual harvest of more than 500,000 birds over the past 25 years places Minnesota as one of the nation’s top three ruffed grouse states. Grouse hunter numbers have traditionally followed cyclic changes in drumming survey indices, but when drumming surveys trended upward recently, hunter numbers did not follow as they had in the past. The plan includes strategies to reverse that trend by offering improved habitat and access, as well as programs to help new hunters.

The DNR’s ruffed grouse management plan was approved earlier this year after public comments on the draft plan were reviewed and considered.

“Now that the plan has been approved, we can continue to implement and accelerate our strategies to maintain great hunting opportunities,” said Ted Dick, DNR grouse coordinator. “Those strategies include improved access to hunting land, better information for hunters and education for new hunters, and focused input to the timber planning process that will ensure that grouse habitat needs are well-presented and considered in all forest planning processes.”

Minnesota leads the nation in aspen-birch forest type, the preferred habitat of ruffed grouse, and offers more than 11 million acres of federal, state and county land open to public hunting.

Persons interested in learning more about grouse, hunting opportunities and available online tools are encouraged to visit the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/grouse. More information, including podcasts, more detailed mapping and hunter education class announcements will be posted there as they are developed.

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DNR says aquatic invasive species violation rates are unacceptable

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has released some initial statistics from its increased aquatic invasive species (AIS) patrol efforts.

So far this year, the AIS violation rate among boaters is 20 percent. "This rate is unacceptable," said Maj. Phil Meier, DNR Enforcement Division operations manager. "The majority of violations could have been avoided if people had taken the time to change their routine when leaving lakes and rivers, and comply with AIS laws."

The extra patrols began May 12 and will continue through the summer.

"Enforcement activities, whether educational opportunities or issuing citations and warnings, are geared towards compliance," said Meier. "Enforcement is a primary motivator to changing the behavior of those who may intentionally or unintentionally move invasive species."

Through June 6, conservation officers had worked nearly 3,200 hours dedicated to AIS enforcement, making more than 20,000 combined law and education contacts. During this time, 193 criminal citations, 463 civil citations, 975 written warnings and 267 verbal warnings were issued.

Last year about 850 citations or warnings were issued to violators of Minnesota's AIS laws. That compares with 293 citations and warnings issued in 2010.

"We hope these citations, warnings and public contacts will continue to raise awareness that this state looks at invasive species very seriously," Meier said. "We will enforce the rules."

Under Minnesota law, it is illegal to transport invasive aquatic plants and animals, as well as water, from water bodies infested with zebra mussels and spiny waterfleas. Violators could face fines up to $500. Some penalty amounts will double beginning July 1.

To help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, anglers and boaters are required by law to:

"Once an invasive species gets established into our waters, it's very unlikely we can eliminate it," Meier said. "That's why vigilance and prevention are critical."

For more information on aquatic invasive species and how to prevent their spread, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/index_aquatic.html

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Spring turkey harvest up in 2012

Preliminary harvest numbers show that the 2012 spring turkey harvest of 11,324 is the third-highest ever, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

"Minnesota's turkey population largely has rebounded from the severe winter of 2010-2011 and last year's cold, wet spring," said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife program and populations manager. "These resilient and productive birds provided hunters with more opportunity."

Hunters purchased 42,563 licenses this year, down from the 45,923 purchased in 2011. The 2010 spring turkey harvest was the highest on record. That year also had an early spring. Last year, spring season hunters harvested 10,060 turkeys, down significantly from the 2010 spring harvest of 13,468.

"I suspect license sales were down this year partly because of last year's poor spring season," Merchant said.

Turkey zone consolidation from 80 zones to 12 gave hunters more options to hunt. The 2012 hunter success rate was 27 percent.

Wild turkeys were extirpated from Minnesota around 1900. Re-introduction efforts have been incredibly successful and wild turkeys thrive throughout the non-boreal forest portion of Minnesota.

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TIP call leads to big fishing violation catch

A recent call to the Turn-In-Poachers (TIP) hotline led a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officer to three anglers committing alleged over-limit fishing violations on the Rainy River along the Minnesota/Canada border. They face fines and restitution of $3,000.

State conservation officer Robert Gorecki of Baudette recently received an anonymous TIP call about a group of anglers possessing an over-limit and double tripping during the May 12 fishing opener on the Rainy River in Lake of the Woods County. The caller also said one of the anglers didn't have a fishing license.

According to Gorecki, the call led to several charges. James A. Fleck, 50, of Hillman was charged with 40 sunfish and 11 walleye over the legal limit. The current daily possession limit for walleye/sauger on the Rainy River is six. (Only one walleye can be more than 28 inches; not more than four can be walleye; walleye 19½ to 28-inches must be immediately released). The daily possession limit for sunfish is 20. Fleck faces fines and restitution totaling $1,780.

Gerald L. Hatch, 67, of Milaca was charged with 12 walleye more than the legal limit. He faces fines and restitution of $715.

Daniel E. Hastings, 50, of Baudette was charged with six northern pike over the limit. He faces fines and restitution of $370. The current daily possession limit for northern pike on the Rainy River is three (only one more than 36 inches). All northern pike from 24 to 36 inches must be immediately released. Hastings was also charged with angling without a license, a $135 fine.

A consent to check a refrigerator/freezer found three bags of northern pike and two bags of walleye. Six more bags of walleye and three bags of sunfish were discovered in a freezer chest.

Hastings admitted to not having a license, but said most of the fish were Fleck and Hatch's, who were currently fishing. Hastings said he had just spoken to the two men who said they had caught a couple of bags of fish that morning and had another six walleye in the boat.

"I seized all of those fish and went to speak to Fleck and Hatch," Gorecki said. "Mr. Hastings also gave up his marijuana after I informed him I could smell it."

Fleck and Hatch eventually told the officer they didn't have any walleye and were only fishing "catch and release." However, they later admitted to dumping seven dead walleye that they had caught when they heard Gorecki was coming to talk to them.

"They stated that they 'didn't want to get in anymore trouble,'" Gorecki said.

Fleck admitted the sunfish were his and he planned on giving them away to a friend. He said he caught them in the Morrison County area. Fleck and Hatch both admitted that the bags of walleye were theirs, including the fish that they had caught that morning.

Gorecki said eyewitness reports are among the strongest tools a CO has in combating code violations.

"A CO has only one set of eyes," Gorecki said. "I cover 650 square miles. If the public out here is concerned about natural resources, every person is another set of eyes that can help catch those violating the law."

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

People should contact the Minnesota State Patrol or a DNR regional or area office for the name and phone number of a conservation officer in their area.

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Heavy rains and high water affecting state trails and public accesses

Recent heavy rainfall and high water levels may create problems for boaters and recreational trail users throughout Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).For the next few weeks, travelers are encouraged to check the DNR website www.mndnr.gov to confirm their favorite recreational trails or forest roads are open.

Some areas of the state received upwards of 12 inches of rain in the last week, prompting rising water levels in lakes, rivers and streams, and reports of washed out roads and trails.

For example, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, near Ironton, experienced widespread trail closures due to wet conditions and washed out trails but is expected to reopen June 1.“Crews responded quickly to repair the damaged trails and get riders back on their mountain bikes and enjoying the trail system,” said Scott Kelling, DNR Parks and Trails Division, Northeast Region operations manager.In the Central Region, state parks temporarily impacted by high water include:
“The rivers are swollen and people should use extreme caution near the water,” said Joel Stedman, regional manager for the Central Region of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division.Some general guidelines for recreating during periods of high water or heavy rains include:Lakes and public water accesses: Be prepared to encounter high water levels at boat landings. Stationary docks may be underwater until crews are able to make adjustments.

Water trails: Rising water and rapid currents can create challenging conditions and increase the skill level needed to navigate water trails. Some buoys and markers may have been moved by strong currents.

Recreational trails: Trail conditions for DNR managed trails are updated on the DNR website.

Forest roads: Forest roads traverse remote areas and damage may not be immediately discovered or repaired. People should not attempt to travel roads that appear to have sustained damage or are soft.

DNR Parks and Trails maintenance crews are responding to public safety needs first and will be completing repairs as soon as possible.
For more information about conditions, the state’s recreation trail system, public access locations or other recreational resources, visit www.mndnr.gov.

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Angler hundreds of fish over the legal limit faces thousands in fines

The sharp eye of a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources netted Chien Van Tran, 39, of Otsego, with 413 sunfish and 30 crappies over the legal limit.

That’s a gross misdemeanor offense carrying a maximum $3,000 fine and one year in county jail. Restitution value for the fish is $2,015. If convicted, Tran could lose his fishing privileges for three years. He’s scheduled to appear in Wright County Court May 30.

State Conservation Officer Rick Reller of Buffalo watched as Tran placed a bag of fish in a locked compartment of his boat before leaving Pelican Lake in Wright County on April 4.

“I asked how fishing was and if he had any fish onboard the boat,” said Reller. “He stated the fishing was ‘okay’ and he showed me a cooler with approximately a dozen panfish in it.”

Panfish is a term commonly used by anglers to refer to any small catch that will fit in a pan, but is large enough to be legal. This includes sunfish and crappies.

Asked several times if there were other fish on the boat Tran said “no.” He eventually admitted that there were more fish on board, around 100. The total was 134 sunfish and 19 crappies. The state daily/possession limit is 20 sunfish and 10 crappies.

Reller asked Tran if he had any more fish at home. With Tran’s permission, a check of a freezer found 11 bags of fish containing 299 sunfish and 21 crappies bringing the total number to 413 sunfish and 30 crappies over the legal limit.

“I told Mr. Tran that I would be seizing all the fish,” Reller said. “I also advised him that I was seizing his boat, motors, trailer, and fishing license as part of a gross misdemeanor over limit of fish.”

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

People should contact the Minnesota State Patrol or a DNR regional or area office for the name and phone number of a conservation officer in their area.

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Minnesota state parks report increase in reservations for 2012

Eager to get outdoors to enjoy Minnesota’s scenic beauty, more campers have booked overnight stays at Minnesota state parks for Memorial Weekend 2012 than they did a year ago, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

A total of 2,924 cabin and campsite stays are booked for Saturday, May 26, up 4 percent from the 2,809 reservations made for the Saturday night of Memorial Weekend in 2011.  

Likewise, reservations are up 4 percent for arrival dates between Memorial Day and Labor Day 2012. As of May 17, the total reservations made for that time period in 2012 were 33,372, compared with 32,014 reservations made by May 17 in 2011, and 31,948 reservations made by that same date in 2010.

Even with a higher percentage of the reservable sites reserved this year than in the past, there are still plenty of places to camp, according to the DNR. Up to one-third of the campsites at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For reservation information, visit www.mndnr.gov (dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/can_camp.html) or call 866-857-2757 (TTY: 952-936-4008) between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily.

For day and overnight visitors alike, many free naturalist-led programs are planned for the holiday weekend, from Archery in the Park at Temperance River State Park to an outdoor photography workshop at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park to a fossil field trip at Whitewater State Park, and much more. Also this weekend, interpreters will lead the first public tours of the mine and physics lab at Soudan Underground Mine State Park since a fire on March 17, 2011, required the park to suspend its popular tours for more than a year.

For more information, check the online calendar of events at www.mndnr.gov/parks or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 (888-646-6367 toll-free or 800-657-3929 TTY) between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Visitors can also pick up a free catalog of spring and summer programs and special events at all Minnesota state parks and recreation areas this weekend.

State park facts and figures:

Total number of Minnesota state parks and recreation areas: 75

Total visits to Minnesota state parks and recreation area (calendar year):

Total overnight visits to Minnesota state parks and recreation areas (calendar year):

Top three state parks for overnight visits:(2)

1.  Itasca State Park (107,200 overnight stays).
2.  Whitewater State Park (52,429 overnight stays).
3.  St. Croix State Park (50,579 overnight stays).

Top three state parks for overall visits: (2)

1.  Fort Snelling State Park (911,435 visits).
2.  Gooseberry Falls State Park (630,269 visits).
3.  Itasca State Park (550,599 visits).

Overnight accommodations at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas:

Return to the economy:

(1)  Minnesota state parks were closed for three weeks in July 2011 due to the government shutdown. In addition, St. Croix State Park was closed for two months due to a severe windstorm that occurred July 1, 2011, and Soudan Underground Mine State Park was unable to conduct its popular underground mine tours due to a fire that occurred in March 17, 2011.
(2)  Based on 2010 data.

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DNR outlines wolf season details, seeks public comment

Minnesota's first regulated wolf hunting and trapping season will be conducted this fall and winter. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is seeking public comment on details of the proposed season.

Consistent with state law, the state's first regulated wolf season will start with the beginning of firearms deer hunting on Saturday, Nov. 3.

The DNR is proposing to split the season into two parts: an early wolf hunting season coinciding with firearms deer hunting; and a late wolf hunting and trapping season after the firearms deer season for those with a specific interest in wolf hunting and trapping.

A total of 6,000 licenses will be offered, with 3,600 available in the early season and 2,400 in the late season. Late season licenses will be further split between hunting and trapping, with a minimum of 600 reserved for trappers. The target harvest quota will be 400 wolves for both seasons combined, and will initially be allocated equally between the early and the late seasons.

The early hunting only season will be open only in the northern portions of Minnesota where rifles are allowed for deer hunting. It will start on Saturday, Nov. 3, the opening day of firearms deer hunting. It will close either at the end of the respective firearms seasons in the two northern deer zones (Nov. 18 in Zone 1 or Nov. 11 in Zone 2), or when a registered target harvest quota of 200 is reached, whichever comes sooner.

The late hunting and trapping season will begin Saturday, Nov. 24. It will close Jan. 6, 2013, or when a registered total target harvest quota of 400 in both seasons combined is reached, whichever comes sooner. The late season will be open statewide.

"The DNR is taking a very conservative approach to this first season," said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations program manager.

Total proposed licenses and target harvest quotas are consistent with DNR testimony during the Legislative session, Merchant said. While Minnesota's wolf population of approximately 3,000 animals likely could sustain a much higher harvest rate, this first season is designed to provide information on wolf hunting and trapping interest and success rates that will help inform the design and implementation of future seasons, Merchant said. The proposed season is consistent with the goal of the state's wolf management plan to assure the long term survival of the wolf and address conflicts between wolves and humans.

The DNR is also continuing to consult with tribal governments and tribal resource agency staff on the proposed state wolf season.

Wolves were returned to state management in January 2012 when they were delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act. Prior to their complete protection under federal law in 1974, wolves were unprotected under state law and DNR had no wolf management authority. This proposal marks the first regulated harvest season for wolves in state history.

Wolf numbers and their distribution have remained relatively stable for the past 10 years and have been well above the federal wolf recovery population goal since the late 1990s.

Merchant said wildlife experts took into account wolf damage control mortality when setting the harvest number. Typically, about 80 farms have verified wolf depredation complaints each year. Over the past several years, an average of 170 wolves have been captured or killed each year by federal trappers in response to verified livestock depredation. About 70 wolves have been trapped and killed so far this spring following verified livestock damage complaints, primarily on calves.

Wolf hunting licenses will be $30 for residents and $250 for nonresidents. Nonresidents will be limited to 5 percent of total hunting licenses. Wolf trapping licenses will be $30 (limited to residents only). A lottery will be held to select license recipients. Proof of a current or previous hunting license will be required to apply for a wolf license. The application fee will be $4.

The DNR is required by law to take public comment prior to implementing a wolf season. While decisions about whether to have a wolf season and when to start it have already been made through the lawmaking process, the DNR is seeking public comments on remaining details, many of which are outlined in this announcement. The complete proposal is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/wolves. Given how soon the season must be put in place, the DNR will only take comments through an online survey, also at www.mndnr.gov/wolves through June 20.

Specific details of the wolf season proposal include:

Season Structure

Licensing Application process Registration Back to Top

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