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Last updated: Oct 2013
The results of recent fall test netting on Leech Lake conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) show the walleye population remains strong and anglers who visit Leech Lake should continue to expect quality fishing.
Lake-wide, walleye counts in DNR test nets averaged 8.9 walleye per net lift, which was similar to results from the past 5 years and was above the long-term average of 7.7 walleye per net lift.
“September gill nets showed above-average numbers of all sizes of walleye,” said Doug Schultz, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Walker. “Fishing reports have been excellent all season, and this survey confirms that good walleye fishing is expected to continue through the winter and into next year.”
Schultz added that the strong 2010 year class reached harvestable sizes this summer, which “had a lot to do with angling success.” Additionally, 36 percent of walleye sampled were within the current slot limit and have provided anglers the opportunity to catch larger fish.
The DNR is considering relaxing the current 18- to 26-inch protected slot limit on Leech Lake to a 20- to 26-inch protected slot limit. If the proposal is carried forward, the relaxed slot limit would be effective for the 2014 fishing opener.
“The proposed change in the slot limit would allow anglers the opportunity to add 18 and 19-inch walleye to their bag,” said Schultz. “These fish comprise about one-third of walleye currently protected with the existing 18- to 26-inch slot limit.”
Schultz noted this regulation review and potential relaxation of the slot limit was programmed into the current management plan. The management plan detailed that if walleye population objectives were met or exceeded and all metrics indicated the walleye population could sustain increased harvest opportunity, the DNR would consider relaxing the slot limit. Results of this year’s survey indicate the timing of this review is appropriate.
Other game fish species targeted with test nets include yellow perch and northern pike. Yellow perch abundance declined for the sixth consecutive year, while northern pike abundance continues to remain stable. The primary species of nongame fish assessed with the test nets is cisco. Fall test netting indicated cisco continue to be present at moderate levels of abundance.
For the first time since surplus permits were offered in 2007, no leftover either-sex deer permits are available for purchase after the lottery deadline, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.
The DNR offered 38,850 either-sex permits in 58 deer permit areas this year. Every permit area received applications for at least 100 percent of the permits available.
In lottery deer areas, firearm and muzzleloader license holders who intend to take an antlerless deer must have an either-sex permit; otherwise, they are restricted to hunting bucks. The total bag limit for deer in lottery areas is one deer per year.
Availability of leftover permits has declined since the development of the hunter choice management designation, which was first used in 2011. Similar to lottery areas, hunter choice-designated areas have a bag limit of one deer; however, no limit is placed on the number of available either-sex permits and lottery applications are not required.
“Closing off public access to our national wildlife refuges and public lands is the last thing we want to do, but is consistent with operations called for during a government shutdown” said Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe. “This is difficult news for the families, birdwatchers, hunters and anglers, and recreationists who enjoy the great outdoors on the refuges – as well as for the many local businesses who depend on the tourism and outdoor recreation economy they generate. I think it’s most difficult for the thousands of furloughed Service employees who are impacted in carrying out their mission to protect our nation’s resources and providing for their families.”
Main impacts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the lapse in appropriated funding include:
• All 561 National wildlife refuges are closed to public access. Visitor centers and other buildings are closed.
• The National Wildlife Refuge System hosts more than 46.5 million people per year, and generates more than $342 million in local, county, state and federal tax income. Refuges also support more than 35,000 private-sector jobs.
• All activities on federal lands and in public buildings are canceled. This includes hunting and fishing activities on refuge lands.
• No permitting work or consultations will occur with respect to the Endangered Species Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species, the Lacey Act or the National Environmental Policy Act.
• The shutdown will affect more than 7,000 Service employees, who are furloughed until an appropriation is passed.
• Employees and others may not volunteer their services on behalf of Service functions or on federal lands.
Services and programs that will remain operational fall into the following exempted categories:
• Programs financed by sources other than annual appropriations.
• Activities expressly authorized by law.
• Activities necessary to protect life and property.
• Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration and Sport Fish Restoration.
• Natural Resource Damage Assessment Fund activities
• Refuge Law Enforcement emergency operations
• Firefighting emergency operations
• Care and feeding activities at hatcheries and captive breeding facilities.
Because the website will not be maintained, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website will be down for the duration of the shutdown. Additional information will be available at www.DOI.gov/shutdown as well as at OPM.gov, which will contain information about the government’s operating status on Tuesday, Oct.1, 2013, and the days following.
DNR advises park visitors to wear blaze orange or bright
colors at parks that remain open during special hunts
Special hunts to prevent overpopulation of deer and protect resources will take place this fall at several Minnesota state parks, and access to the parks will vary during these hunts, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.
Some parks will remain open to all visitors, some will have limited access and some will be open only to hunters with special permits (closed to the general public). The deadlines for youth and adults to apply for a special permit to participate in the hunts – which include regular firearms, muzzleloader and archery options – have passed.
For a list of parks that are open, partially open or closed during the 2013 hunting season, visit (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/hunting.html) or contact the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157, toll-free 888-646-6367, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Details on which areas of each park will be affected by the special deer hunts also are included in the “Visitor Alert” boxes on the individual park Web pages at (www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks).
The DNR advises anyone planning to visit a state park between now and the end of December to look online or call ahead to find out whether a hunt is planned and confirm whether the park will be open. The DNR also advises visitors to parks where hunts are planned to wear blaze orange, even if they will not be hunting. Visitors should check for hunt-related information at the park office when they arrive, look carefully for hunt-related signage and follow instructions.
“These annual resource management hunts help control the deer population at state parks,” said Ed Quinn, resource management consultant for the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “Too many deer in one area can negatively affect native plants and the health of the ecosystem. In managing natural resources, we’re always striving for a sustainable balance.”
Parks that will be open only to hunters with special permits (hunt dates in parentheses):
Afton State Park (Nov. 9-10).
Blue Mounds State Park (Dec. 7-8).
Camden State Park (Nov. 2-3).
Crow Wing State Park (Dec. 13-15).
Frontenac State Park (Nov. 23-25).
Great River Bluffs State Park (Oct. 26-27).
Iron-Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area (Nov. 9-24).
Lake Shetek State Park (Oct. 26-27 and Dec. 7-8).
St. Croix State Park (Nov. 2-3, Nov. 15-18).
Sibley State Park (Oct. 26-27, Nov. 30-Dec. 1).
Whitewater State Park (Nov. 23-24).
William O’Brien State Park (Nov. 9-10).
Parks with special hunts that will remain open or partially open to all visitors:
Banning State Park (Nov. 2-3).
Buffalo River State Park (Nov. 9-10).
Cascade River State Park (Nov. 9-24).
Flandrau State Park (Oct. 19-Dec. 31, see “special situations”).
Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park (Nov. 9-10).
Glacial Lakes State Park (Nov. 14-17).
Gooseberry Falls State Park (Nov. 9-24).
Greenleaf Lake State Recreation Area (Sept. 14-Dec. 31).
Hayes Lake State Park (Nov. 9-24).
Itasca State Park (Oct. 12-13, Nov. 9-17, Nov. 30-Dec. 15).
Jay Cooke State Park (Dec. 7-11).
Judge C.R. Magney State Park (Nov. 9-24).
Lake Bemidji State Park (Oct. 19-20, Nov. 9-12, Dec. 6-8).
Lake Bronson State Park (Nov. 9-10, Nov. 16-17).
Lake Carlos State Park (Nov. 9-10).
Lake Louise State Park (Nov. 16-17).
Lake Vermilion State Park (Nov. 30-Dec. 15).
Maplewood State Park (Nov. 9-12).
Myre-Big Island State Park (Nov. 30-Dec. 1).
Old Mill State Park (Nov. 9-12).
Savanna Portage State Park (Oct. 26-27, Nov. 16-18).
Scenic State Park (Nov. 9-24).
Schoolcraft State Park (Nov. 9-24).
Soudan Underground Mine State Park (Nov. 30-Dec. 15).
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park (Nov. 9-24).
Tettegouche State Park (Oct. 19-20, Nov. 9-24).
Zippel Bay State Park (Oct. 12-13, Nov. 9-24).
Parks that are wholly or partially open to hunting (all seasons) by legislation (plus “special” hunts, where indicated):
Big Bog State Recreation Area.
Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.
Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park (Nov. 9-10).
Garden Island State Recreation Area.
George H. Crosby-Manitou State Park.
La Salle Lake State Recreation Area.
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park (Nov. 9-24).
Temperance River State Park.
Tettegouche State Park (Oct. 19-20, Nov. 9-24).
Parks where no hunting will take place:
Bear Head Lake State Park.
Beaver Creek Valley State Park.
Big Stone Lake State Park.
Carley State Park.
Charles A. Lindbergh State Park.
Father Hennepin State Park.
Fort Ridgely State Park.
Fort Snelling State Park.
Franz Jevne State Park.
Glendalough State Park.
Grand Portage State Park.
Hill Annex Mine State Park.**
Interstate State Park.
John A. Latsch State Park.
Kilen Woods State Park.
Lac qui Parle State Park.
Lake Maria State Park.
McCarthy Beach State Park.
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park.
Minneopa State Park.
Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area.
Monson Lake State Park.
Moose Lake State Park.
Red River State Recreation Area.
Rice Lake State Park.
Sakatah Lake State Park.
Split Rock Creek State Park.
Upper Sioux Agency State Park.
Wild River State Park.
*The city of New Ulm is having an archery deer hunt Oct. 19-Dec. 31. Some of the deer stands are located within Flandrau State Park, but nowhere near trails or public use areas. The park will remain open to all visitors during this time. There is no archery or other hunting anywhere else in the park.
**Although there is no hunt at Hill Annex Mine State Park, the park is only open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
Due to the low numbers of deer that are taken, DNR staff will not be staffing these stations during either the archery or muzzleloader seasons. Instead, hunters will be required to submit the head of adult deer for sampling. A box will be located at each site with specific instructions regarding how to submit the sample. Hunters are encouraged to plan ahead and have a place to store their deer until test results are available if they plan to transport it outside of the 602 area. Deer cannot be transported out of the area without a negative test result.
Samples will be submitted every Monday and Thursday during the archery season and results will be reported back within three business days. Test results can be checked online at www.mndnr.gov/cwd.
Deer feeding prohibited
In addition to continued CWD surveillance, a deer feeding ban remains in place for Dodge, Goodhue, Olmsted and Wabasha counties.
“The prohibition on feeding has been in place to reduce artificial concentrations of deer,” said Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health program supervisor. “Animals congregating around a food source, even a bird feeder if accessible, increase the odds of spreading an infectious disease like CWD.”
The current feeding ban, which includes attractants such as salt and mineral blocks, is effective through February 2014.
DNR has been actively on the lookout for CWD since 2002, when the disease was first detected in captive animals. Surveillance efforts increased in southeastern Minnesota during fall 2009 after a captive elk farm near Pine Island was infected with CWD.
During fall 2010, a hunter-harvested deer was found positive for CWD, the first occurrence of CWD in wild deer in the state. As a result, a CWD surveillance zone (permit area 602) was created to help DNR manage the outbreak of the disease in wild deer.
Intensive surveillance efforts in 2011 and 2012 have failed to find any additional positive cases. The DNR CWD response plan requires 3 years of testing without a positive result before an area has its disease management status designation removed. If no positive results are found this year, the zone’s disease management status may change.
Detailed information regarding CWD management, registration, sample submission and carcass requirements can be found on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/cwd. Hunters are encouraged to monitor this site as new information is added as it becomes available.
A long winter followed by a cold, wet spring contributed to a significant decrease in Minnesota’s pheasant count, which declined 29 percent from 2012, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“Minnesota’s results reflect what we’re seeing in other states,” said Rachel Curtis, DNR wildlife research biologist. “South Dakota had a 64 percent decrease in its brood survey. North Dakota’s most-recent rooster crowing count is down 11 percent from last year. And Iowa reported a 19 percent decrease in its August roadside count.”
Minnesota’s 2013 pheasant index is 64 percent below the ten-year average and 72 percent below the long-term average.
Pheasant hunters still are expected to harvest about 246,000 roosters this fall. That’s down 44,000 from last year’s estimate and is less than half the number of pheasants taken during the 2005-2008 seasons when hunting was exceptionally good.
The highest pheasant counts were in the southwest region, where observers reported 51 birds per 100 miles of survey driven. Hunters should find good harvest opportunities in west-central, east-central and south-central Minnesota.
“Pheasant populations respond to habitat abundance and changes in weather,” Curtis said. “The steady downward trend in Minnesota’s pheasant population during the past several years is primarily due to habitat loss. Weather has caused minor fluctuations.”
The most important habitat for pheasants is grassland that remains undisturbed during the nesting season. Protected grasslands account for about 6 percent of the state’s pheasant range. Farmland retirement programs such as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, Reinvest in Minnesota and Wetlands Reserve Program make up the largest portion of protected grasslands in the state.
High land rental rates and competing uses for farmland diminish the economic attractiveness of farmland conservation programs. CRP enrollment declined by 63,700 acres in Minnesota’s pheasant range over the last year and contracts for nearly 400,000 acres of statewide CRP lands are scheduled to expire during the next 3 years. If not re-enrolled, this would reduce CRP acres in Minnesota by 30 percent.
To help offset continued habitat losses caused by reductions in conservation set-aside acreage, the DNR has accelerated acquisition of wildlife management areas in the farmland region of Minnesota. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service also acquires and protects habitat across the state. In addition, the DNR supports habitat conservation on private lands by working with a variety of partners in the Farm Bill Assistance Partnership and Working Lands Initiative.
High spring precipitation and below average temperatures hurt nesting this year. This year’s average hatch date was delayed to June 20, which is 11 days later than the 10-year average of June 9.
Although fewer broods were seen, brood size was larger than last year and comparable to the long-term average. Actual reproduction rates may be higher than the survey suggests. Hens that were successful nesting later in the season tend to be underrepresented in roadside data and it is possible that hens were still nesting or in heavier cover with young chicks during the survey period.
The pheasant population estimate is part of the DNR’s annual August roadside wildlife survey, which began in 1955. DNR conservation officers and wildlife managers in the farmland region of Minnesota conduct the survey during the first half of August. This year's survey consisted of 171 routes, each 25 miles long, with 152 routes located in the ring-necked pheasant range.
Observers drive each route in early morning and record the number and species of wildlife they see. The data provide an index of relative abundance and are used to monitor annual changes and long-term population trends of pheasants, gray (Hungarian) partridge, cottontail rabbits, white-tailed jackrabbits, mourning doves and other wildlife.
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:
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