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Last updated: July 2013

 

Minnesota’s wolf population remains strong

Numbers are down but above state and federal thresholds

The wolf population remains firmly established on Minnesota’s landscape, according to a comprehensive population survey conducted by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The latest survey results estimate that within Minnesota’s wolf range there were 438 packs and 2,211 wolves last winter – down 710 wolves from the survey five years ago. Minnesota’s wolf range generally covers the state’s forested region.
The DNR intends on putting in place another conservative wolf season in fall and winter 2013.
Although lower than the 2008 wolf population survey estimate of 2,921 wolves, the population exceeds the state’s minimum goal of at least 1,600 wolves and is above the federal recovery goal range of 1,251 to 1,400 animals.
“Results from the 2013 wolf survey continue to demonstrate that Minnesota’s wolf population is fully recovered from its once threatened status and the population is responding naturally to the availability of deer, wolves’ primary food source,” said Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist.
One of the primary factors influencing the wolf population estimate was a 13 percent increase in average wolf pack territory size to about 62 square miles. The increase in territory size likely is caused by fewer deer per square mile, which has declined 25 percent since 2008 in the forested region of Minnesota.
A 12 percent decrease in the average number of wolves per pack from 4.9 to 4.3 also contributed to the lower population estimate. John Erb, DNR research biologist, said the reduction in average pack size likely is a combination of reduced prey and the harvest of wolves in the two months immediately preceding the mid-winter wolf pack counts.
Survey data is collected in mid-winter before pups are born. The birth of pups significantly boosts the wolf population each spring. With an estimated 438 packs in Minnesota and an average litter size of six, as many as 2,600 wolves were added to the population when pups were born this spring.
“This is part of the annual population cycle for wolves in which many pups are born each spring and then the population declines through the rest of the year through various sources of mortality until the next whelping season the following spring,” Erb said.
The DNR periodically conducts comprehensive wolf population surveys and annually monitors wolf population indicators such as carnivore scent post surveys, winter track surveys and wolf depredation trends. Survey data allows wildlife biologists to assess the population’s status and help ensure the long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota
The DNR will more closely monitor pack and territory sizes in the next few years. More frequent radio collaring of wolf packs will provide additional data on the population’s response to wolf season harvest.
Compared to previous years, wolf populations had added mortality as a result of the 2012 wolf season and higher than normal livestock depredation control but continue to thrive. Wolves are widely distributed throughout their range and total wolf range has expanded in several areas along the southern and western boundaries since the last survey in 2008.
The DNR will continue to monitor and regulate the take of wolves, to ensure that human-caused mortality will not exceed safe levels for long-term population sustainability.
The DNR’s fall and winter 2013 wolf season will be based on the framework established for the 2012 season. Season details along with application information for prospective hunters and trappers will be available in late July once DNR biologists develop a final proposal and tribal authorities are consulted on the season framework.
The DNR’s goal for wolf management, as outlined in the state’s wolf management plan, is to ensure the long-term survival of wolves in Minnesota while addressing wolf-human conflicts that inevitably result when wolves and people live in the same vicinity. The DNR’s wolf management plan includes wolf-specific population and health monitoring, research, depredation management, public education and law enforcement efforts. 

Visit the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/wolves to find the full report, an FAQ, and an overview of wolf management in the state, including the wolf management plan.

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Upper Red Lake’s mid-season slot adjustment remains for 2013

Regulations that allow Upper Red Lake anglers to keep larger walleye after June 15 will be in effect again for the 2013 open water season, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
From the walleye fishing opener, May 11, through Friday, June 14, anglers must release all walleye 17-to 26-inches long. Effective Saturday, June 15, anglers may keep walleye up to 20 inches and must immediately release all walleye 20-to 26-inches long. During both time periods, anglers can possess no more than four fish and only one of those fish can be longer than 26 inches.
“This will be the fifth open water season with the same mid-season slot adjustment and anglers have become accustomed to it,” said Gary Barnard, the DNR’s Bemidji area fisheries supervisor. “Last winter was the first time we were able to extend the 20-to 26-inch protected slot through the winter ice fishing season, and we hope to be able to continue that as well.”
Total harvest from both winter and open water periods will determine regulations for next winter.
The more restrictive size limit remains necessary for the early open water season when angler catch rates are high and mature spawning walleye are extremely vulnerable. During the first month of the season, anglers must sort for smaller, keeper-sized males and immature walleye.
As the open water season progresses, catch rates and fishing pressure decline, reducing the impact of harvesting larger walleye. “This regulation package, which has been very popular with anglers and local businesses, is effective at managing walleye harvest within established safe harvest levels,” Barnard said.

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Woman sustains non-life-threatening injuries in bear attack

An Aitkin County woman was injured in a black bear attack Monday evening, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The 72-year-old McGregor woman was bitten and clawed by a sow bear before the animal and her three yearlings left the woman’s property. The woman’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening. The bears had been seen on the property prior to Monday’s incident.

A conservation officer later killed the 190-pound female, or sow, bear, after the animal ran at the officer as well.

“Like any wild animal, bears can be unpredictable,” said Rodmen Smith, acting director of the DNR’s Division of Enforcement. “This situation was clearly unusual bear behavior and presented a public safety risk.”
 
Black bears are rarely aggressive and attacks on people are rare. Until this incident, the DNR has documented only four bear attacks on people involving serious injuries in the state since 1987. None have been fatal. The most recent attack requiring hospitalization was in 2005. The documented attacks show no clear pattern. Each year in North America there are thousands of interactions between people and black bears without incident.  

According to the DNR, the incident on Monday began when the woman let her dog outside after checking to make sure the bears, which had been seen on the property for several days, weren’t around. When the three yearlings unexpectedly ran from under the deck, her golden retriever ran off the deck and gave chase.

When the woman reached the bottom of her deck stairs, she saw the sow nearby. The sow initially ran toward the dog, but when the woman yelled for the dog to return, the sow changed direction and came at her, striking her left arm and side with its claws and knocking her to the ground. The bear retreated, and then attacked a second time, biting her on the right arm and leg, leaving puncture wounds. The sow bear ran in the direction of the three yearlings. The woman called 911 around 7 p.m.

An Aitkin County Sheriff’s deputy arrived on the scene but was unable to locate the bears. A DNR conservation officer arrived and found the bears about 200 yards from where the incident occurred. When the sow ran toward him, he shot and killed it.

Under DNR policy and state law, conservation officers and other enforcement agencies may kill a bear if it is considered a threat to public safety. The sow has been taken to the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul for necropsy. The yearlings, which appeared healthy and would naturally become independent of their mother by early June, were left in the area.

Black bears are normally wary of humans, but they can be provoked by unusual circumstances. Bears that feel comfortable living near people may become more unpredictable when faced with a stressful situation, such as a dog in chase of their offspring. Typically, mothers with cubs or yearlings are no more dangerous than solitary bears.

Homeowners should strive not to attract bears to their property. Removing sources of food such as bird feeders, feeding pets indoors, storing trash in bear-proof containers and keeping barbeque grills clean can help avoid attracting bears.

For more information about human-black bear interactions, visit the DNR’s website at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/livingwith_wildlife/bears/index.html.
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Appeals Court upholds DNR rulemaking on wolf season

A court decision issued today by the Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) authority to set wolf seasons. The following is a statement from DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr:
“This decision affirms that the DNR, as directed by the Legislature, set the correct and proper course in establishing last year’s wolf season. Furthermore, the recent Legislature clarified the rulemaking process for setting future seasons, affirming the DNR is using the correct season-setting process.”
The DNR used the same rulemaking process for the wolf season as it does for dozens of other game species. Landwehr said the DNR is committed to the long-term sustainability of the state’s wolf population, the largest in the lower 48 states, and the agency took a conservative approach to the inaugural season.
Plans are underway for a 2013 wolf season. The DNR will set the season this summer after analyzing data from the previous season and a wolf population estimate is completed.
Visit the DNR website www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/wolves/mgmt.html.

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DNR initiates public input process on Leech Lake special walleye regulation

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is initiating the public input process on potential walleye regulation changes on Leech Lake.
The DNR is considering relaxing harvest regulations for the 2014 fishing season. The current
18- to 26-inch protected slot limit was put in place March 1, 2005 and extended on March 1, 2011. Modification to a 20- to 26-inch protected slot limit would become effective March 1, 2014.
Walleye abundance, including spawning stock, has increased on Leech Lake. Data indicate natural reproduction continues at rates similar to other large walleye lakes throughout the region. Public input during the 2010 regulation review process supported continuation of the 18-to 26-inch protected slot limit provided there was flexibility to adjust to a 20- to 26-inch protected slot limit if thresholds established during the regulation review process were met. The Walker area fisheries office is following through on this commitment.
Anglers can expect to see informational signs on all public water accesses on Leech Lake beginning on the statewide fishing opener May 11. In addition to the signs, the DNR will host public input meetings this fall.
Comments may be sent to Doug Schultz, DNR area fisheries supervisor, 07316 State Highway 371 NW, Walker, MN 56484 or emailed to doug.schultz@state.mn.us.

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Grass Carp

Grass carp near Sartell is northernmost find for Asian carp

An angler bowfishing on the Mississippi River north of Sartell last week shot a 25-pound grass carp, an exotic species that previously has been found only much further south in Minnesota, including lower portions of the Mississippi, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Because DNR fisheries biologists believe the fish could not have gotten past the dams at Coon Rapids, St. Cloud and Sartell, it likely escaped via flood waters from a private pond, or was released intentionally.
Possession of grass carp is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. It is legal for reporting purposes to possess specimens, as the angler did.
There are state regulations in place to prevent the importation of these species and transfers between lakes. As a result, the DNR has not seen a lot of invasive fish spread though overland transfer compared to other animals and plants.
“Minnesota has strong laws against introducing exotic species into our public waters because it’s a serious matter,” said Steve Hirsch, director of the DNR’s Ecological and Waters Division.  “Invasive species like this can pose a significant threat to our native fisheries, recreational opportunities, and ecosystems.”
While the problems caused by bighead and silver carp are raised more frequently, grass carp is another species that can cause environmental harm. They are voracious consumers of aquatic vegetation, can grow to 70 pounds, and can cause water quality problems. Brought to the U.S. from Russia and China in the 1960s to control unwanted vegetation in reservoirs and aquaculture farms, they escaped and are now reproducing in some southern states.

Grass carp previously have been found in southeastern Minnesota, but they are not known to reproduce in Minnesota. A preliminary examination of the 36-inch female grass carp arrowed near Sartell, however, found what appeared to be viable eggs.

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DNR conservation officers recognized

Six conservation officers (CO) with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) were recognized recently during annual in-service training at Camp Ripley in Little Falls.
Paul Kuske of Pierz was named the 2013 Minnesota Conservation Officer of the Year. The
23-year veteran has been involved in many investigations, arrests, projects, assignments and extra duties.
“He is recognized immediately in the area where he works as a consummate professional who represents the best of our officers and instills in the public the ideal of a conservation officer,” said Col. Jim Konrad, DNR Enforcement director. “This prestigious award is not given out, but earned through dedication, perseverance and hard work.”
Other honors:
Nikki Shoutz of the Crosslake field station received the DNR’s Education Achievement Award. This award recognizes an officer based on overall career performance with emphasis on involvement in the division’s education programs; support and involvement with volunteer instructors; and educational efforts through the media and special presentations.
Keith Backer of the Black Duck field station received the DNR’s Waterfowl Enforcement Achievement Award. This annual award is presented to a conservation officer dedicated to protecting Minnesota’s natural resources, serving the public and preserving waterfowl heritage.
Water Resource Enforcement Officer Joe Stattelman received the DNR’s Willard Munger Wetland Achievement Award, named after the long-time legislator and environmental activist who died in 1999.
Jeff Denz of the Willmar field station received the DNR’s Boat and Water Safety Achievement Award. This honor is based on demonstrated leadership ability and outstanding achievement in boating safety education, Boating While Intoxicated enforcement, and service to other law enforcement agencies.
Tim Gray of the Bagley field station received the DNR’s Award of Honor for his actions in a lifesaving incident.

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