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OutdoorsWeekly.com Minnesota Archived News
Minnesota News

From the Minnesota DNR:

Moose population remains low but stable for a seventh year

Spring light goose harvest begins Feb. 15

Southeast Minnesota landowner deer permits effective now through mid-March

Phil George named Conservation Officer of the Year

DNR hires new Mille Lacs Lake fisheries supervisor 

State of Minnesota approves Lake Calhoun name change to Bde Maka Ska

DNR offers opportunities to learn how to hunt turkeys this spring



Moose population remains low but stable for a seventh year

Population estimate statistically unchanged from last year’s estimate

Results of the 2018 moose survey indicate the moose population in northeastern Minnesota remains stable but relatively low for the seventh year in a row, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
“While the population appears stable, low numbers of moose are still a major concern for the DNR,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “We continue to pursue the best science, research and management tools available to us to help Minnesota’s moose.”
The 2018 aerial moose survey estimated 3,030 moose in northeastern Minnesota, statistically unchanged from last year’s estimate of 3,710. The survey is statistically sound, but there is inherent uncertainty associated with such surveys, because researchers will never see and count all of the animals across the 6,000 square mile survey area. Statistically, the DNR is 90 percent certain that the population is between 4,140 and 2,320 moose.  
“The stability of moose numbers in recent years provides a reason for some optimism – after all, we’re not facing a significant decline,” said Glenn DelGiudice, DNR moose and deer project leader. “But this year’s results would be more palatable had they reflected the beginning of a turnaround in the population trend.”
Each year the population estimate is compared to 2006, because the state’s highest moose population estimate of 8,840 occurred that year. Currently, northeastern Minnesota’s moose population is estimated to be 65 percent lower than the peak estimate of 2006.
“While the trend of stability is encouraging, it does not allow us to forecast the future trajectory of the population,” DelGiudice said.
Reproductive success and adult survival have the greatest impact on the annual performance and dynamics of the moose population over time.
“Our field research has shown that annual pregnancy rates of adult females in this population have been robust,” DelGiudice said. “But it is a challenge to maintain a high number of adult females that can become pregnant, produce calves and rear them to 1 year of age.” 
Survey results also indicate that calf survival to January has been relatively stable, but consistently low. Field studies have indicated that it is even lower by spring, translating to low numbers of moose calves living through their first year. Importantly, the DNR’s detailed investigations have shown that wolf predation has consistently accounted for about two-thirds of the calf mortality compared to one-third of the adult mortality.   
Annual aerial moose surveys have been conducted each year since 1960 in the northeast.  Adjustments were made in 2005 to make the survey more accurate and annual results more comparable.
This year’s survey involved flying in 52 survey plots distributed across northeastern Minnesota’s moose range from Jan. 3 to Jan. 13. The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and 1854 Treaty Authority contributed funding and provided personnel for the annual moose survey.
More information about moose is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/moose.

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Spring light goose harvest begins Feb. 15

Enormous flocks of snow geese fill the skies each spring in the central United States, including in far western Minnesota, as they migrate toward the Arctic.
The flocks weren’t always so large. More intensive agriculture in decades past gave the birds easier access to food, and eventually an overpopulation of the geese caused considerable damage to fragile ecosystems in Arctic coastal areas and around Hudson Bay.
Hunters have an opportunity to help reduce the population of light geese through a federally authorized spring conservation harvest. This year, light geese can be taken Thursday, Feb. 15, through Monday, April 30. Light geese are snow geese, blue-phased snow geese and the smaller Ross’s goose.
“Minnesota participates in the action, but in our region the majority of the light geese take happens west of the state,” said Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “The harvest in Minnesota has varied from a few hundred to several thousand.”
The conservation action is authorized by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which allows harvest of specific bird species during times when other waterfowl seasons are closed. Minnesota has participated in this spring conservation harvest each year since 2000.
To participate, a spring light goose permit is required and may be obtained wherever Minnesota hunting licenses are sold, via telephone at 888-665-4236 or online at mndnr.gov/buyalicense. There is a $2.50 application fee to cover the cost of issuing the permit. No other license, stamp or permit is required.
A summary of regulations is available at mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl/lightgoose, from license vendors, DNR wildlife offices or by calling the DNR Information Center at 888-646-6367 or 651-296-6157.

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Southeast Minnesota landowner deer permits effective now through mid-March

Sampling results from special late-season hunt reveal no new cases of chronic wasting disease

Landowner deer permits in portions of southeastern Minnesota’s chronic wasting disease management zone become effective this week as the Department of Natural Resources works with eligible landowners to reduce the possibility of disease spread.
“We’re targeting our efforts this year and contacting eligible landowners via letter with the details they need to participate,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “With their help, we want to lower deer densities in core chronic wasting disease locations and remove potentially infected deer.”
Only landowners within 2 miles of any CWD-infected deer discovered in 2016 or 2017 are eligible to receive a shooting permit, which will be effective from mid-February to mid-March. Only landowners or their authorized designees can take deer. There is no public hunting opportunity.
The DNR will sample all deer taken, including fawns. Participating landowners are required to submit heads for testing at designated collection boxes located in the disease management zone.
To encourage participation, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association will conduct a drawing for a muzzleloader. A person will be entered in the drawing each time they take a deer and submit the head for sampling.
If any deer taken during the landowner shooting phase test positive for CWD, the landowner or designee will be contacted and results posted on the DNR’s CWD website at mndnr.gov/cwd.
The special late-season hunt in southeastern Minnesota revealed no new instances of CWD. Late season participation and harvest was down from 2017. Participants harvested 374 deer, down from the 2017 late hunt harvest of 900.
The total number of CWD positive wild deer sampled in this disease management area remains at 17, with six new positives identified in the fall of 2017.
A map of the disease management zone and additional information about the DNR’s efforts to keep Minnesota’s wild deer healthy are available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/cwd. Because disease information can change rapidly, people are encouraged to regularly check back for updates.

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Phil George named Conservation Officer of the Year

George among honorees at annual Enforcement Division awards ceremony

Phil George
L-R: DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, Conservation Officer Phil George and DNR Enforcement Division Director Rodmen Smith.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Phil George has been named the 2018 DNR Conservation Officer of the Year, an annual award given to an officer who’s recognized as a leader among natural resource enforcement peers. Enforcement Division Director Rodmen Smith presented the award to George in January at the division’s annual awards ceremony and training at Camp Ripley.
George, who has been a conservation officer since 2006, patrols the Rochester area and is one of the Enforcement Division’s acting regional training officers. He’s also a use of force instructor. The award is based upon overall career performance with an emphasis on the officer’s most recent job evaluation period.
“Officer George is heavily involved in educational efforts throughout his area, emphasizing it – along with enforcement and outreach – to gain voluntary compliance among users of the outdoors,” Smith said. “He’s a go-to officer in his district and has a no-quit attitude. His hard work and dedication are apparent when you talk with people who work with Officer George.”
Other members of the Enforcement Division who were honored include:
Boat & Water Safety Officer of the Year – Scott Fitzgerald
CO Scott Fitzgerald, who patrols Crow Wing County, was recognized for his leadership and outstanding achievement in boating safety education, boating while intoxicated enforcement and service to other law enforcement agencies.
“Officer Fitzgerald takes every chance he gets to educate boaters and promote safe and responsible boating and recreation,” Smith said. “He is a model for other officers when it comes to boating safety enforcement, and always can be counted on to provide assistance when it’s needed.”
Education Achievement Award – Matthew Frericks
CO Matthew Frericks, who patrols the Virginia area, received the award for his commitment to the Enforcement Division’s educational programs.
“Officer Frericks is a great proponent of the Enforcement Division’s safety programs and has a keen understanding for how they fit with his role as a conservation officer,” Smith said. “He understands that when kids know about ethics, laws and their responsibilities as sportsmen and women, they make informed decisions while afield.”
Waterfowl Enforcement Achievement Award – Thor Nelson
CO Thor Nelson, who patrols the New Ulm area, received the award for his dedication to protecting natural resources, specifically those vital to waterfowl. The award also recognizes his commitment to preserving Minnesota’s waterfowl heritage.
“Officer Nelson never passes on an opportunity to visit with young hunters he encounters in the field and share his extensive knowledge of waterfowl behavior and identification,” Smith said. “He understands the important role officers have in habitat and wetland protection, as well as the direct link between habitat and waterfowl populations.”
Willard Munger Water Resources Protection Award – Keith Bertram
Named after the longtime advocate for conservation and the environment Willard Munger, who served 43 years in the state House of Representatives, the award recognizes an officer who’s particularly devoted to the protection of water resources. CO Keith Bertram, who patrols the Long Prairie area, is this year’s recipient.
“When it comes to wetlands and water-related issues, Officer Bertram is the go-to person and routinely goes above and beyond what’s expected of an officer,” Smith said. “He’s constantly taking advantage of opportunities to educate the public on the importance of water resources and water-related habitat.”
Meritorious Service Award – Mike Scott 
CO Mike Scott, a water resources enforcement officer, is this year’s Meritorious Service Award winner for his leadership on a project to honor officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. In the Enforcement Division’s 130-year history, 19 officers have been killed in the line of duty, and others have died as a result of accidents or drowning.
“Officer Scott makes sure we honor these officers all year long,” Smith said. “Paying tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice is more important now than it has ever been.”
Appreciation and Recognition Award – Caralee Bjerkness
Caralee Bjerkness has worked for the Division of Enforcement since 1975 and is an office and administrative specialist. She works closely with the Enforcement Division’s Aviation Unit as well as the division’s water resources protection officers.
“Caralee’s can-do attitude is infectious and she sets a great example for everyone else in the division,” Smith said.
Airborne Law Enforcement Association Safety Award – Brad Maas
The Airborne Law Enforcement Association advances, promotes and supports safe and effective use of aircraft by governmental agencies. Natural Resources Pilot Brad Maas was honored for the significant number of accident- and violation-free mission flight hours he’s flown for the Enforcement Division.
Lifesaving Awards – Joel Heyn, Thephong Le and Rick Reller
Three officers were honored for their lifesaving roles. Officers Heyn and Le, who patrol the Plainview and metro areas, respectively, worked with other law enforcement agencies and thermal imaging equipment mounted to a drone to locate an 84-year-old hunter in Olmsted County on the opening day of the deer season. The hunter was stuck in the mud and unresponsive when the officers located him. They helped remove him from the mud and load him for transport to the hospital.
Officer Rick Reller, who patrols the Buffalo area, received the award for responding to a December incident in which a vehicle went off the road and into a holding pond. Reller helped the 17-year-old driver out of the vehicle, which soon went under the water, and then kept her warm in his truck until paramedics arrived.

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DNR hires new Mille Lacs Lake fisheries supervisor 

heinrich_TOMTom Heinrich, who most recently was the large lake specialist covering Lake of the Woods for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, will now supervise Mille Lacs Lake fisheries management.
“We’re pleased that Tom Heinrich has accepted this new role. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge from other large walleye lakes in Minnesota and elsewhere, strong scientific skills and an open ability to communicate with and relate to various groups in the public,” said Brad Parsons, central region fisheries manager.
Heinrich begins as Mille Lacs Lake fisheries supervisor on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at the office in Garrison. He will oversee the extensive field operations that happen throughout the course of the year to assess fish populations and harvests; work with fisheries research and other partners to study walleye productivity; study the potential impacts of big fish on young walleye survival; review goals for spawning stock biomass; and coordinate other work needed to answer complex questions about the lake.
“This is an important position because Mille Lacs always has been a vital and popular fishery and there is still a lot to learn about the lake and the changes we are seeing. Adding Tom to the team to perform the detailed, complex work needed will benefit the resource, the DNR and groups with an interest in the lake,” Parsons said.
Heinrich begins his new role as the DNR continues efforts to understand and improve a walleye population in Mille Lacs Lake that has undergone a decline over the past two decades that has coincided with significant aquatic system changes including increased water clarity and decreased walleye productivity; the introduction of zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny water fleas; a changing zooplankton community that may be altering the aquatic food web; and declines in certain forage species, including tullibee.
Heinrich began his natural resources career in New York as a fisheries technician on eastern Lake Erie and worked in that role from 1984 until 1990, when he accepted a position in Baudette for the Minnesota DNR. In 1991, he became the large lake specialist for Lake of the Woods and has been in that position since.

More information about Mille Lacs Lake can be found on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/millelacslake.

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State of Minnesota approves Lake Calhoun name change to Bde Maka Ska

pronounced: Bah-Day-Ma-Kah-Ska

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Jan. 18 announced the State of Minnesota has approved changing the name of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis to Bde Maka Ska. The DNR’s decision follows a Hennepin County Board resolution requesting the change.
“The DNR respects the role of elected county boards in determining name changes for geographic features,” DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said.  “In this instance, I am confident the Hennepin County Board carefully considered community values and citizen perspectives in determining that this was the right action to take. DNR’s role is to ensure the county followed the proper process.”
The DNR’s decision means the lake name change will become official in Minnesota when the DNR’s approval is officially recorded by Hennepin County and published in the State Register. Hennepin County commissioners voted to seek the name change Nov. 28.
The DNR will submit the Hennepin County resolution, along with the state approval, to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, which will approve or deny the name change for federal use.
The DNR is the state agency that approves or denies name changes for geographic features, after Minnesota counties consider name change resolutions, gather public input and vote on proposed changes.
In considering county requests to name a geographic feature or change a feature’s name, the DNR’s role is to consider 1) whether the county followed a proper public process prior to taking its action, and 2) whether the county-approved name complies with naming conventions. For example, names must avoid confusion with similarly named features, and names may not commemorate a living person.
A copy of the DNR’s order for this name change and details on how Minnesota geographic features are named are available on the naming geographic features webpage.                                               

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DNR offers opportunities to learn how to hunt turkeys this spring

Youth and adults can learn to hunt turkeys this April with experienced volunteers who will cover safe hunting techniques, how to call-in turkeys, hunting tactics and field dressing a bird.
“We teach the skills and techniques that allow new turkey hunters to become lifelong hunters,” said Mike Kurre, learn-to-hunt program coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “This has been a successful program and as a bonus, we love hearing how former participants go full circle to teach others how to hunt.”
Participants can apply through Monday, Feb. 12. The hunts are Saturday, April 21, and Sunday, April 22, and provide opportunities to access locations that may otherwise be closed to hunting.
“We get volunteers from the National Wild Turkey Federation and this is the 16th year we’ve cooperated for these hunts,” Kurre said. “Over the years we’ve introduced more than 5,000 people to these hunting experiences. We also work with the Minnesota National Guard to get military adults and their families into turkey hunting.”
Details about how to apply and costs to participate are available at mndnr.gov/turkeyhunt.
A pre-hunt orientation is required and all participants will need to have a valid firearms safety certificate or its equivalent. Youth must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Overall participation in the hunts is restricted by the number of volunteers and private lands that are available. Anyone interested in providing turkey hunting land for the mentored youth hunts should contact the Keith Carlson, Save the Habitat Save the Hunt coordinator for the National Wild Turkey Federation in Minnesota, at kcanoka@comcast.net.

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