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Last updated: Sept 2013

 

Wolf believed to have bitten teen tests negative for rabies

A gray wolf that wildlife experts suspect bit a 16-year-old boy during the early hours of Aug. 24 at the U.S. Forest Service West Winnie Campground at Lake Winnibigoshish has tested negative for rabies.

The confirmation was made Wednesday, Aug. 28 by the Minnesota Department of Health laboratory, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The wolf that was tested had been trapped Monday at the campground and sent to the lab for rabies testing.

The agency also reported:

  • It is premature to say with 100 percent confidence that the wolf that tested negative for rabies is the wolf that inflicted the bites. That won’t be known – or may never be known - until DNA testing is complete. The youth’s shirt (a potential source of wolf saliva DNA) and wolf muscle tissue have been sent to a laboratory at the University of California – Davis for forensic analysis. The analysis expected to take several weeks. The DNR will release the results when they are available.
  • The U.S. Forest Service has reopened the West Winnie Campground, which had been closed since Saturday.
  •  The University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has conducted an initial examination of the wolf. The results of additional tests will take several weeks at which time a final necropsy report will be issued.

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Mille Lacs Lake area anglers face heavy fines

Many local residents assume anglers from outside their community commit most of the fishing violations on area lakes, but that’s not always the case, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Recently, three anglers, including a married couple that lives along Mille Lacs Lake, were charged with over-limits of fish and face heavy fines and restitution.

Richard E. Southworth, 70, and Linda J. Southworth, 59, of Isle were recently charged by DNR conservation officers with a gross over-limit of 52 walleye. During a routine check on Mille Lacs Lake, the couple was found with three lines in the water. Later it was discovered that they were in possession of 26 bags of fish. Restitution for the 49 Mille Lacs walleye, in addition to three Red Lake walleye, amounts to $1,560.

The gross over-limit of wild animals penalty totals $1,000. Toss in another $1,000 for a misdemeanor charge of angling with two hooks or a treble hook and the Southworth’s face nearly $6,000 in fines and restitution if convicted. Seized in the investigation were a boat, rods and reels, and their fishing licenses.

Edwin F. Seidl, 65, also of Isle, finds himself in the same boat. DNR conservation officers caught him with an illegal 13-inch walleye while fishing Mille Lacs Lake. Further investigation found Seidl in possession of an additional 16 walleyes and a northern pike from the lake. Seidel was 15 walleye over the legal limit and charged with misdemeanor possession. The possession limit on Mille Lacs Lake is two walleye with a slot restriction of 18-20 inches. Restitution for the fish is $610 along with a $400 fine.

This is Conservation Officer (CO) Chris Tetrault’s first year on the lake after graduating from the CO Academy earlier this year.

“I’m seeing a lot of illegal length fish being taken from Mille Lacs Lake,” the Isle-based officer said. Tetrault noted that he seized 120 illegal fish from anglers in July alone, something long-time Mille Lacs Lake COs had never seen before.

“That may not seem like a lot of fish, but when you can legally keep two walleye from 18 to 20 inches, and violators are taking 49 walleye in one instance, 16 in another instance, five from another person, and the rest illegally taking one or two fish per person, it adds up quickly,” Tetrault said.

In this instance local residents were discovered with gross over-limit and misdemeanor cases within a mile of each other. “With the lake encompassing 120 miles of shoreline we’re likely catching only 2 to 5 percent of the violators who either visit or reside on the lake,” Tetrault said.

The Southworths and Seidl are scheduled to appear in Aitkin County court in October.

Busts that start as routine fish or fishing license checks have proven very effective for DNR conservation officers. A routine patrol earlier this year on Lake Winnibigoshish netted three men with 203 yellow perch or 83 over the legal limit. Fines, restitution, and court costs totaled $3,300.

In 2012, the sharp eye of a conservation officer netted an Otsego man with 413 sunfish and 30 crappies over the legal limit. The gross misdemeanor offense contained a restitution value for the fish of $2,000.

Catching fish poachers is never easy because it's rare that officers actually see the crime in action. The average Minnesota officer patrols about 650 square miles, so it's impossible for officers to watch every lake.

“That’s why we need the public's help,'' Tetrault said. “We need all the eyes and ears we can get.”

Anyone witnessing a fish or wildlife violation is encouraged to contact the 24-hour, toll-free Turn In Poachers (TIP) hotline at 800-652-9093. Cell phone users can dial #TIP.
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World’s oldest-known wild black bear dies at 39

The world’s oldest-known wild bear has died of old age in northern Minnesota at the age of 39½, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Known to DNR researchers as Bear No. 56, the female American black bear was first captured and radio-collared in July 1981 by DNR scientists during the first summer of a long-term research project on bear population ecology. The bear was 7 years old at the time and was accompanied by three female cubs.  

Bear No. 56 became a significant animal in the DNR research project. During a 32-year study period, she and her many offspring provided an almost uninterrupted record of reproduction, survival, movements and, eventually, senescence (aging), within a single matriarchal lineage. Data from this bear and her offspring have contributed significantly to the scientific literature on black bear biology.

From 1981-1995, Bear No. 56 produced eight litters of cubs and successfully reared a remarkable 21 of the 22 cubs to 1½ years of age. In 1997, at age 23, she uncharacteristically lost two of her three cubs before weaning. In 1999, at age 25, she bore and raised her last cub. In 2001, when she was next expected to give birth, researchers found her healthy in her den and producing milk but without cubs.

Bear No. 56 outlived by 19 years all of the 360 other radio-collared black bears that DNR researchers have followed since 1981. She also outlived any radio-collared bear of any species in the world. Only a very few individual study bears have been reported to reach age 30. The second-oldest was a brown bear that lived to 34.

Researchers suspect Bear No. 56’s longevity probably is best attributed to a combination of factors, including the location of her home range in a forested area with few people or major roads; a more reticent nature than that of many bears, in terms of  her avoidance of people; and luck.  

“Getting this information about this bear has taken a lot of effort. This really attests to the value of a long-term study with a large sample of bears,” said Dave Garshelis, DNR bear project leader. “Had we not studied so many bears, we likely would not have encountered this intriguing outlier. It was not just documenting that she lived to be so old, but understanding how she was able to live to be so much older than other bears that made this incredibly interesting and useful.”

In the last few years of her life, Bear No. 56 began to visit some hunters’ baits, but hunters passed up shooting her, abiding by a DNR request that hunters not shoot collared bears.

When last handled in March 2010, Bear No. 56 was a healthy weight but her teeth showed excessive wear and her eyes were clouding. Since then, her hearing and eyesight continued to deteriorate. Rarely observed through most of her life, Bear No. 56 had been observed by people during the past two summers with increasing frequency, foraging along trails and traveling dirt roads, likely because of the greater ease of travel than in the woods.  

Sometime in July, Bear No. 56 left her normal home range, as bears often do in late summer, to explore other areas for rich food sources on which to fatten for winter. After locating her radio signal several miles from her typical home area, DNR bear researcher Karen Noyce found her decomposed body in a secluded wooded location. From all indications, she died a quiet death, with no sign of struggle at the site and no evidence of broken bones or traumatic injury.

“This is the first bear in our study to die of old age, and there is something satisfying in that,” said Noyce, who, along with Ken Soring, DNR’s current enforcement director, conducted the first capture of Bear No. 56 as a rookie biologist in 1981.

“We knew she was getting feeble,” Noyce said. “It would have been sad to find her on the side of the road somewhere, hit by a car. After following her all these years, I’m glad to know she died peacefully. It was a fitting death for a fine old bear.”

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Carcass of leaping Asian carp found on Mississippi River near Winona

The carcass of a silver carp – the kind that leaps from the water when disturbed – was found recently on a dam abutment just north of Winona, the furthest upstream a silver carp has been discovered in the Mississippi River, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“Finding this carp on the sill of the dam suggests that it was attempting to jump over it; it wasn’t just leaping due to a disturbance,” said Nick Frohnauer, DNR invasive fish coordinator. “That confirms our assumption that silver carp may use their leaping ability to attempt to overcome barriers.”
A worker with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first noticed the fish on Aug. 9. The fish was atop a concrete abutment just below Lock and Dam 5, about 20 miles further upstream of the previously northernmost instance of a silver carp. The dam is about 110 miles south of Lock and Dam 1 in St. Paul.
A DNR fisheries biologist investigated, snagged the fish with a treble hook and reeled it up from the abutment, which was otherwise inaccessible. Because the carp had been dead for at least a week, weight, gender and reproductive ability could not be determined, but the carcass measured about 30 inches long. 
Silver carp are one of four species of invasive Asian carp threatening the Mississippi River and other native ecosystems. They can grow to 60 pounds, and they impact the base of the food chain by consuming large amounts of plankton that native fish also rely on. Populations of bighead and silver carp are established in the Mississippi River and its tributaries downstream of Pool 16 in Iowa. Bighead carp have been found in Lake Pepin and the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, and as far north as the mouth of the St. Croix in Prescott, Wis. But there is no indication bighead or silver carp are reproducing in the Minnesota waters of the Mississippi or St. Croix rivers.
The DNR continues to take a multi-pronged approach to managing Asian carp including: 
  • Monitoring for Asian carp by using targeted surveying and contracted commercial fishing. 
  • Partnering with the University of Minnesota’s Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, which is researching ways to prevent the spread and to manage populations of Asian carp.
  • Contracting on the design and approval of an electric barrier using new “sweeping” electrical technology at Lock and Dam 1 in St. Paul.
  • Improvements to the Coon Rapids Dam to make it a better fish barrier.

The agency maintains that the best approach to keeping Asian carp out of the upper Mississippi River watershed is to close the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock. The lock is administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and it would require an act of Congress to close the lock.

For more information on Asian carp in Minnesota, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/asian-carp/index.html

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Minnesota DNR announces fall duck and goose seasons

Minnesota’s waterfowl season will open a half-hour before sunrise on Sept. 21 and continue for 60 days under a north, central and southern zone structure with different season dates for each zone, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
This is the same structure the DNR used for the first time last year. The opener is one day earlier than last year and the earliest since 1945.
“Hunters had a good waterfowl season last year,” said Paul Telander, DNR wildlife section chief. “We heard positive reports so we maintained the same season structure.”
The daily bag limit remains at six ducks per day. The mallard bag limit remains at four per day, including two hen mallards. The wood duck bag limit will remain at three per day. The only bag limit changes from last year are the daily limit for scaup which drops from four to three per day and the canvasback limit increases from one to two per day.
Telander said the other notable change is possession limits have increased from two times the daily bag limit to three times the daily bag limit for all migratory birds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offered the increase to all states. Telander also noted this year’s opening date is based on a federal framework that enables Mississippi Flyway states to open their season on the Saturday nearest Sept. 24 each year. Next year’s season could open no earlier than Sept. 27.
Mallard abundance from a continental spring survey, including Minnesota, is used to determine overall duck season length. This year’s estimate was 10.4 million mallards, which was similar to last year’s estimate of 10.6 million mallards and 36 percent above the long-term average.
Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist, said breeding duck numbers were good for mallards and all other duck species this year and wetland conditions in the major waterfowl breeding areas were also favorable.
“In Minnesota, the population index of resident breeding mallards was also good, with an estimated 293,000 mallards in our survey area, Cordts said. “That’s 30 percent above the long-term average.”
Duck harvest in Minnesota last fall was up 19 percent from 2011, from 621,000 ducks in 2011 to 749,000 ducks in 2012. Most of the increase was due to increased harvest of blue-winged teal and wood ducks. “We’ve made some changes with duck hunting regulations the past few years to increase harvest opportunity, particularly early in the season,” Cordts said. “These changes seem to have worked as we have seen increased harvest of early migrating species like teal and wood ducks.”  

DUCK SEASON

  • In the North Duck Zone (north of Highway 210), duck season will run from Saturday, Sept. 21 through Tuesday, Nov. 19.
  • In the Central Duck Zone, duck season will run from Saturday, Sept. 21 through Sunday, Sept. 29 and Saturday, Oct. 5 through Sunday, Nov. 24.
  • In the South Duck Zone (south of Highway 212), duck season will run from Saturday, Sept. 21 through Sunday, Sept. 29 and Saturday, Oct. 12 through Sunday, Dec. 1.

YOUTH WATERFOWL DAY
Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day will be Saturday, Sept. 7. Hunters age 15 and under may take regular season bag limits when accompanied by a nonhunting adult (age 18 and older, no license required). Canada geese, mergansers, coots and moorhens may be taken from a half-hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. Motorized decoy restrictions are in effect. Five geese may be taken statewide.   

OPEN WATER HUNTING
A small number of lakes will be open to open water hunting this fall. These new opportunities are an outcome of a DNR-led waterfowl hunter focus group and citizen input process. Lake Superior, Lake of the Woods, Mille Lacs Lake, and Lake Pepin will be open to open water hunting as long as boats remain at anchor. On the Mississippi River south of Hastings, with the exception of Lake Pepin, hunters must remain within 100 feet of shoreline, including islands. This matches the Wisconsin regulations on this portion of the river. Hunters should consult the 2013 Waterfowl Regulations for additional information.
Maj. Phil Meier, DNR enforcement operations manager, said these new open water hunting opportunities will require extra safety precautions. “Hunters should wear their life jackets not just have them aboard,” Meier advised, noting this type of hunting involves small shallow boats and some of Minnesota’s largest and most windswept lakes. “They’ll also have to be on the lookout for recreational boaters, large waves from barges and other commercial traffic and unfavorable changes in the weather. It’s a different type of hunting; it takes a different safety mindset.”

GOOSE SEASONS

August Canada goose
An August Canada goose management take will open Saturday, Aug. 10 and run through Sunday, Aug. 25, in the Intensive Harvest Zone only. Bag limit is 10 Canada geese per day. A $4 permit t is required. This is the first year Canada goose hunting has been allowed during August due to high populations of Canada geese and agricultural crop depredation.  Goose hunters should consult the DNR Web page for additional information at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/waterfowl/index.html.
  
Early September Goose Season
The early September Canada goose season will open statewide on Sunday, Sept. 1 and run through Friday, Sept. 20. Bag limits for Canada geese are 10 per day in the Intensive Harvest Zone and five per day in the remainder of the state. 
A $4 permit is required to hunt Canada geese during September season. The restriction prohibiting hunting within 100 yards of surface water remains in effect in the Northwest Goose Zone, Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area, Ocheda Lake Game Refuge, and an area surrounding Swan Lake in Nicollet County. Early season goose hunters should consult the 2013 Waterfowl Supplement for zone maps and additional details.

Regular goose season
Minnesota’s regular goose season will open in conjunction with the duck season statewide on Saturday, Sept. 21, with a bag limit of three Canada geese per day the entire season.  Goose season will be closed in the central and south duck zones when duck season is closed.

In the North Duck zone, goose season will run from Saturday, Sept. 21 through Monday, Dec.16.  In the Central Duck zone, goose season will run from Saturday, Sept. 21 through Sunday, Sept. 29 and Saturday, Oct. 5, through Saturday, Dec. 21.  In the South Duck zone, goose season will run from Saturday, Sept. 21 through Sunday, Sept. 29, and Saturday, Oct. 12 through Friday, Dec. 28.

Sandhill Crane Season
The season for sandhill cranes will run from Saturday, Sept. 14 through Sunday, Oct. 20 in the Northwest Goose and Sandhill Crane Zone only. The daily bag limit will be two sandhill cranes per day. A sandhill crane permit is required in addition to a small game hunting license. Cost is $3.
Additional details on the duck, goose, sandhill crane, and other migratory bird hunting seasons will be available in the 2013 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations, available in mid-August on online at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

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Minnesota fishing and hunting licenses go mobile

Forgot to buy your license? Then connect to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) mobile licensing page to purchase select fishing and hunting licenses via your smartphone.
“This service is a convenience for people who need a license when they’re on the go,” said Steve Michaels, DNR license program director. “Not every type of license is offered but the mobile purchase site is ideal for people who have yet to purchase a fishing, small game or state stamp validation and suddenly discover that they need one.”
Customers who purchase off the mobile site won’t receive a conventional paper license. Instead, they’ll receive a text message or email that serves as proof of a valid fish or game license to state conservation officers.
More than 1,100 sales of electronic licenses have been logged since the mobile site’s soft launch in late June.
“The site isn’t, as yet, full service,” Michaels said. “There are features and products in the works. Even so, mobile license purchasing is a convenience DNR has not offered before and the sales numbers show our customers are responding.”
License types available for purchase on the mobile site include short-term angling, individual angling, resident combination angling, resident individual sports, resident combination sports, small game and state stamp validations. Any license that requires a site tag such as deer or turkey is not available for mobile purchase.
Once a customer purchases and receives mobile license information by text, email or both, he or she must be able to provide the email or text information to a DNR enforcement officer upon request as proof of a valid license.
Mobile device users will automatically be identified when visiting the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense and selecting the “Purchase” button at the bottom of the page.
Minnesota residents 21 and older who never have purchased a hunting or fishing license can’t purchase a license electronically. They should initially purchase from a license agent or call DNR at 888-646-6367 and provide their driver’s license number so electronic purchasing can be enabled.
The mobile site is for purchasing only. It is not a mobile version of the complete DNR website.
All licensing information such as seasons, dates, times, eligibility or restrictions should be reviewed before a mobile purchase is completed.
Similar to the licenses purchased via the DNR website or by phone, a 3 percent convenience fee will be added to the customer’s order total.
License dollars are the fiscal foundation of fish and wildlife management in Minnesota. License revenue is dedicated to managing 5,400 fishing lakes, thousands of miles of rivers and streams, 1,400 wildlife management areas and more than 150 field conservation officers. Buying a license means lakes are stocked and managed, fish and game laws are enforced and conservation efforts happen on the ground.

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DNR announces first August Canada goose season

Minnesota will conduct its first August Canada goose season from Saturday, Aug. 10 to Sunday, Aug. 25, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.
“The state’s Canada goose population is very high and exceeds our statewide goal,” said Steve Cordts, the DNR’s waterfowl specialist. “We have continued agricultural depredation concerns in the western portion of the state with large numbers of Canada geese. This is one more option for us to try and increase our harvest of Canada geese.”
Hunting will be restricted to an intensive harvest zone in west-central Minnesota. The daily bag limit will be 10 Canada geese with no possession limit.  Shooting hours will be from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. A small game hunting license, special goose permit and state waterfowl stamp are required.
“It’s hard to gauge what hunter participation will be since this is the first time we have had August goose hunting,” Cordts said. “But for those who are interested, there should be ample opportunity.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the hunt as a management option for states dealing with overabundant populations of resident Canada geese. Additional details are on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/waterfowl.
The DNR will announce details of fall waterfowl seasons, including the September Canada goose hunt, in early August.

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Breeding duck numbers improved, Canada goose population declines

Despite lingering winter weather that included record late ice-out in 2013, Minnesota’s breeding duck populations improved from last year, according to the results of the annual Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) spring waterfowl surveys.
The state’s estimated breeding duck population was 683,000 compared with last year’s estimate of 469,000. This year’s estimate is 10 percent above the long-term average of 620,000 breeding ducks.
This year’s mallard breeding population was estimated at 293,000, 30 percent above last year’s estimate of 225,000 breeding mallards, 14 percent above the recent 10-year average and 30 percent above the long-term average.
The blue-winged teal population was 144,000 compared with 109,000 in 2012 but remained 33 percent below the long-term average of 216,000.
The combined populations of other ducks, such as wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads was 246,000, This was 82 percent higher than last year and 39 percent above the long-term average.
The estimated number of wetlands (Types II-V) was 258,000, up 13 percent from last year, and 2 percent above the long-term average. “Although wetland numbers were average, conditions changed from extremely dry before May 1 to fairly wet by the end of May in most of the state,” said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist.
“Also, in a normal year, ducks begin arriving back to Minnesota in April or early May to begin the nesting season,” Cordts said. “But with record late ice-out and significant snow cover present in some areas until early May, the spring migration and nesting season were delayed so we had to delay the survey about two weeks.”
The DNR’s waterfowl survey has been conducted each year since 1968 to provide an annual index of breeding duck abundance. The survey covers 40 percent of the state that 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 provide 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.
This year’s Canada goose population was estimated at 250,000, which was considerably less than last year’s estimate of 416,000. The number of breeding Canada geese in the state is estimated via a helicopter survey of nesting Canada geese in April. The survey, which includes most of the state except for the Twin Cities metropolitan area, counts Canada geese on randomly selected plots located in prairie, transition and forested areas.
Although this year’s estimate was lower than recent years, much of that change could be the result of the spring weather conditions that may have impacted goose distribution and abundance in the state. Cold temperatures and April snowfall combined with a late ice-out reduced nesting success and effort, reducing the number of goslings. During the past 10 years, the Canada goose population’s average has ranged from 275,000 to 350,000.
“While that should not impact the population in the future, fewer young geese in the early fall usually makes goose hunting more difficult for hunters,” said Paul Telander, DNR wildlife section chief. “The bottom line is our Canada goose population remains higher than we’d like it to be and we’ll continue to maximize hunting opportunities this fall.”
The Minnesota waterfowl report can be viewed online at www.mndnr.gov/waterfowl.
The DNR will announce this fall’s waterfowl hunting regulations later this summer.

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Grouse counts decline, later spring nesting may help hatch

Ruffed grouse drumming counts were down across most of the bird’s range, according to the annual survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“This decrease was not unexpected because the ruffed grouse population is still in the declining phase of its 10-year cycle,” said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse biologist. “Drum counts peaked most recently in 2009.”
Drumming counts dropped from 1.1 to 0.9 per stop in the northeast, which is the forest bird’s core range in Minnesota. Counts in the northwest declined from 0.9 in 2012 to 0.7 drums per stop in 2013. Drumming counts did not change significantly in the central hardwoods or southeast, with an average of 0.9 and 0.4 drums per stop, respectively.
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. Drumming counts are an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population.
This year, observers recorded 0.9 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2011 and 2012 were 1.7 and 1.0 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.
The number of birds present during the fall hunting season also depends upon nesting success and chick survival during the spring and summer. Drumming did occur later this year because of the late spring, suggesting that nesting likely occurred later than normal.
“Later nesting would have pushed the hatch out a bit, hopefully beyond the spring rains,” Roy said. “Time will tell if that occurred and the impact on production.”
 
Minnesota frequently is the nation’s top ruffed grouse producer. On average, 115,000 hunters harvest 545,000 ruffed grouse in the state each year, 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 64 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations. This year,
DNR staff and cooperators from 14 organizations surveyed 117 routes across the state.

Sharp-tailed grouse counts decrease slightly
Sharp-tailed grouse counts in the northwest, the bird’s primary range in Minnesota, were similar to 2012. Counts in the east-central region declined significantly.
Observers look for male sharptails displaying on traditional mating areas, called leks or dancing grounds.
Despite several years of declining numbers, 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 2013 grouse survey report, which contains information on ruffed grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, is available online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/grouse.

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