Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

Dec. 6, 2004

I can hear them yelping and howling

In the fall, especially late fall, coyotes become very vocal. They howl, yelp or bark by themselves, in pairs, and although they do not live in packs like wolves, they will congregate to howl and yelp.

In my neighborhood in the northeast corner of Lester Prairie, that howling and yelping has become common place this fall.

Most nights, starting at about 6:30 p.m., it sounds like six or seven coyotes, sometimes more, sometimes less.

According to readers, the same sounds are being heard on a consistent basis just northwest of Howard Lake, around lakes Ann and Emma and east of New Germany.

Rollie Radtke, who also lives in the northeast part of Lester Prairie, reported seeing coyotes in the wooded area near his back yard one evening last week. He also noted the howling and yelping has been a consistent part of the fall.

Personally, in the past few weeks I saw a pair of coyotes just east of Lester Prairie, and on the same day another pair near the north end of Howard Lake.

Coyotes, with a bushy tail, piercing eyes, and a pointed muzzle, resemble a small, lean German shepherd dog.

Males weigh 25 to 45 pounds; females 22 to 35 pounds. Most coyotes have coarse, long brown or gray hair with dark guard hairs.

They can range from almost black in color to almost white.

The animals I have seen in the area are mostly gray, and have looked in good health with full, beautiful coats.

In Minnesota, coyotes are found throughout the state and, without question, are increasing in numbers in southern Minnesota, and in the Twin Cities area.

They prefer a habitat of farm land mixed with forested areas.

Our area, in general, seems to have become a prime area for coyotes, and we have seen a major increase in their population numbers.

Until about six to seven years ago coyotes were almost unheard of in these parts, now they seem to have become commonplace, and a part of the natural environment.

Four years ago, in 2000, I ran into my first coyote while pheasant hunting in southern Wright County.

That was the first one in many years of local bird hunting. Since then, and in the last few years, I bump into two or three a season.

In the mid 90’s, the DNR noted expansion of the coyote range into our area with animals traveling, or gradually expanding their territory via the Minnesota River valley from western Minnesota.

That pattern probably created a connection with both forks of the Crow River, which lead to the dynamic increase of coyotes in our area.

Coyotes general do not impact other wildlife populations, however they do compete with fox and raccoon, where food sources are similar.

In most cases, coyotes do not affect the whitetail deer population at all, but in North Dakota, where the coyote population is large, some conservationists and hunters are concerned that coyotes are taking a larger number of fawns every spring.

Finally, in the past few weeks, when I’m up late at night working at my home office, I’ll put on a sweatshirt, wool socks and open the window and listen to the coyotes howl as I work.

In our area it’s a new, but pleasant sound.

Some snowmobile trails not yet ready for riding; ice not safe

From the DNR

Snowmobile trails open in early December depending on weather and maintenance conditions.

Each year, some snowmobile enthusiasts take to the trails after the first snowfall, but many trails are not yet ready for riding, said Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Regional Trails Supervisor Les Ollila.

Before opening for travel, several conditions must be met:

• Trails must be cleared of dead falls, signs need to be in place and the gates need to be opened. DNR staff and snowmobile club volunteers are working on these tasks now.

• The landowner permits that allow the trails on their land must be in place.

• The ground needs to be frozen allowing for crossings in wet areas. And, even though we have had a few cold days and many Northeastern Minnesota lakes have ice, the ice is not yet thick enough to support snowmobiles. The DNR recommends 5 inches of new clear ice for snowmobile.

• Adequate snow cover, about 12 inches, is necessary to allow for packing and grooming the trails.

Trail users should call ahead to the local trail club or chamber of commerce, suggested Ollila. Or, they can check state trails conditions on the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us or by calling 1-888-MINN-DNR.

Minnesota has over 20,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails.

Snowmobile trail maintenance costs are partially funded through snowmobile license fees and a representative portion of the un-refunded gas tax.

Donations, fund raisers, and volunteer work by trail clubs make up the remainder of the costs and efforts to operate these trails.

Trail clubs always need more help. They will welcome new members to help keep trails open and join in other club activities.

Most snowmobile trails are not open to ATV or any other uses. Unauthorized uses are trespasses.

Minnesota’s 1,800 miles of cross-country ski trails are partially funded through the sale of state ski passes.

For more information, contact: Les Ollila, Regional Trails and waterways Supervisor, 218-327-4409

No positives found in 1st round of Chronic Wasting Disease tests

From the DNR

No positives were found in Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) tests of 682 lymph node samples taken from wild deer harvested during the 2004 firearms season, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced today.

The results are the first from 12,500 samples that were taken from wild deer harvested by hunters this year.

Samples were collected at 130 big game registration stations located in the north-west, north-central, east-central and southwest portions of the state.

“We’re encouraged by the initial round of results and hopeful the remaining samples will be negative as well,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. “Once again, we’re appreciative of the fact that hunters were glad to help us out. The process went very well.”

Samples tested were from deer harvested in permit areas 152, 170 and 225. Results are posted at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/deer/cwd/testingresults2004.html.

Additional permit areas will be posted online as they are completed.

The 2004 CWD effort involved more than 500 people from DNR, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Natural Resources, North Dakota State University, Minnesota Conservation Corps, Vermillion Community College, Fond du Lac and 1854 Authorities, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other Universities and volunteers.

The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Minnesota is conducting all the tests.

Hunters who volunteered a sample this year received a DNR cooperator patch and were placed in a drawing to win one of several firearms and bows being offered by Gander Mountain, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Cabela’s, the Minnesota State Archery Association, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Austin-Halleck muzzleloaders.

This is the third and final year of DNR testing for CWD in Minnesota’s wild deer population.

During the 2002 and 2003 deer hunting seasons, the DNR collected and tested 14,450 deer, none of which tested positive for CWD.

Outdoor notes

• The ice has not yet arrived on our area lakes, and unless we get some darn cold weather for an extended period of time, at least a good two-day stretch, ice over may be late this year.

• Remember that no ice, especially ice at this time of year, is ever completely safe.

• The Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s club will meet tonight, Monday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the clubhouse located approximately one mile southwest of Lester Prairie.

• It’s time to get your ice fishing gear ready. Change line, sharpen hooks, and get new auger blades.

• The pheasant hunting season in Minnesota closes Friday, Dec. 31.

• Look for the scoop on the upcoming ice fishing season in next week’s column.

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