Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

March 19, 2007

Trumpeter swans die from lead poisoning near Annandale

From the DNR

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has determined that a die-off of about 15 trumpeter swans at the north end of Clearwater Lake near Annandale during February was caused by lead poisoning from old shotgun pellets.

The swans had ingested the pellets while feeding in a shallow open-water channel between Clearwater Lake and Grass Lake.

The rush-lined portion of northern Clearwater Lake has long been a popular duck hunting area.

Many decades of duck hunting has apparently left a significant concentration of lead shotgun pellets on the lake bottom in the channel where the swans were wintering.

Although a few swans had wintered in this area previously, DNR Conservation Officer Brian Mies said this year, he counted up to 48 swans using the channel.

After receiving reports of sick and dying swans, he picked up three dead swans to determine the cause of death.

Two swans had lead shotgun pellets in their gizzards and other symptoms of lead poisoning. The analysis of the third swan has not yet been completed.

With the current return of warm weather, trumpeter swans have begun dispersing from their wintering sites. Only one swan was seen at the Clearwater Lake/Grass Lake bridge March 8.

In future years, this location will need to be checked in early winter to actively discourage swans from wintering there, according to Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor.

Since 1987, all waterfowl hunting in Minnesota requires the use of nontoxic shotgun pellets to avoid the poisoning of ducks, geese, swans, loons and other wildlife.

However, old deposits of lead on the bottom of lakes and marshes may continue to pose a threat to the state’s waterfowl and waterbirds in some areas for many years to come, according to the DNR.

Minnesota’s trumpeter swan population is currently estimated at more than 200 nesting pairs and 2,200 birds. Trumpeter swans are listed as a state threatened species.

Register for DNR firearms class at LP Sportsmen’s Club

A Minnesota DNR firearm safety class will begin Thursday, April 5 at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club. Class will meet Mondays and Thursdays from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and will run until Monday, May 7.

Cost is $12, and space is limited. If you plan on getting your certification this year, call Gary Godel at (320) 395-2561 by Friday, March 23 to register for the class.

Winsted Sportsmen’s Club hog roast/meat raffle

The annual Winsted Sportsmen’s Club hog roast, meat raffle, and membership drive is scheduled for Saturday, March 31 at the Winsted American Legion Club.

The event begins at 5 p.m. and will run through 8 p.m.

Tickets at the door are $8, while in advance, they are $7. You can get advance tickets at the following locations in Winsted: Winsted Co-op, Winsted Floral, Keg’s Bar, Papa Tom’s, and from club members.

Crow River Chapter Ducks Unlimited banquet

The Crow River Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will host its 27th annual banquet Tuesday, April 10 at the Blue Note in Winsted.

The doors open at 5:30 p.m., with the dinner starting at 7 p.m., and the auction to follow.

Tickets are $50 per individual, or $75 for a couple.

Your ticket includes dinner, and the opportunity to participate in the auction, silent auction, and numerous drawings.

To RSVP call (320) 543-3372. The early bird deadline is Monday, March 26.

Watertown youth wood duck box building day March 24

The 8th annual Youth Wood Duck Box Building Day is set for Saturday, March 24 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Watertown Rod & Gun Club.

Everyone is welcome to come, build a wood duck box with your child, and introduce them to conservation. The goal is for 125 wood duck boxes to be built and given away free.

There will be free hotdogs, chips, and pop.

Wright County Pheasants Forever banquet April 2

The 22nd annual Wright County Pheasants Forever (WCPF) banquet is scheduled for Monday, April 2 at the Buffalo Civic Center.

The doors will open at 5:30 p.m. with dinner scheduled at 7 p.m.

All proceeds raised at the banquet are used to purchase, restore, and enhance wildlife habitat for local and regional projects, as well as fostering conservation education for our youth.

Over the past 22 years, the WCPF chapter has raised over $500,000 that has been dedicated to acquiring and preserving habitat in the state of Minnesota and conservation education.

If you would like to attend the banquet, contact Walt Barlow at (320) 543-3660, Brad Hayes at (763) 682-3117, or Bruce Bartl at (763) 682-0653.

McLeod County PF Spring Banquet April 14

The 21st annual McLeod County Pheasants Forever Spring Banquet is scheduled for Saturday, April 14 at the Commercial Buildings at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.

The banquet begins at 4 p.m. with a prime rib dinner to follow at 7 p.m. A special event will then kick off at 8 p.m.

For banquet registration or questions call either 866-352-1270 or (320) 587-0052. If no answer, leave name and number and your call will be returned.

State assumes responsibility for gray wolf management From the DNR

Minnesota’s wolf population has been officially removed from the federal endangered species list and, starting today, will be managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Federal rules removing the Great Lakes population of wolves from the endangered species list took effect in Wisconsin and Michigan as well.

Wolves will be managed in Minnesota by state statute, rule, and under a wolf management plan.

“The recovery of the gray wolf in Minnesota and its removal from the protections of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 is a remarkable success story,” said Dave Schad, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “In Minnesota, we’ve been planning for the return of the wolf to state management for more than a decade. We’re well prepared to assume full management responsibility.”

The state wolf plan is designed to protect wolves and monitor their population while giving owners of livestock and domestic pets more protection from wolf depredation.

It splits the state into two management zones with more protective regulations in the northern third, considered the wolf’s core range.

The plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves to ensure the long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota.

The state’s wolf population, estimated at fewer than 750 animals in the 1950s, has grown to its current estimate of 3,020.

There will be no public hunting or trapping seasons on wolves for at least five years.

The endangered species act requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor wolves in Minnesota for five years after delisting to ensure that recovery continues.

Similar to federal regulations, the state plan allows anyone to take a wolf to defend human life.

Any wolves taken must be reported to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours, and evidence must be protected.

Unlike federal regulations, state regulations allow harassment of wolves that are within 500 yards of people, buildings, livestock or domestic pets to discourage wolves from contacting people and domestic animals.

Wolves cannot be attracted or searched out for purposes of harassment, and cannot be physically harmed.

The long-standing wolf depredation control program, managed by U.S, Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services in Grand Rapids, will continue uninterrupted by the legal changes, said Mike DonCarlos, DNR wildlife research and policy manager.

“Control of depredating wolves in Minnesota has been and will continue to be the key to public tolerance of a thriving wolf population on the landscape.”

In addition to the continuing federal wolf depredation programs, the state wolf plan has new provisions for taking wolves that are posing risks to livestock and domestic pets.

Owners of livestock, guard animals, or domestic animals may shoot or destroy wolves that pose an immediate threat to their animals, on property they own or lease in accordance with local statutes.

“Immediate threat” means the observed behavior of a gray wolf in the act of stalking, attacking, or killing livestock, a guard animal, or a domestic pet under the supervision of the owner.

Additionally, the owner of a domestic pet may shoot or destroy a gray wolf posing an immediate threat on any property, as long as the owner is supervising the pet.

In all cases, a person shooting or destroying a gray wolf under these provisions must protect all evidence, and report the taking to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours.

The wolf carcass will be surrendered to the conservation officer.

In the southern two-thirds of the state (Zone B), a person may shoot a gray wolf at any time to protect livestock, domestic animals or pets on land they own, lease, or manage.

The circumstance of “immediate threat” does not apply.

A DNR conservation officer must be notified within 48 hours, and the wolf carcass will be surrendered to the conservation officer.

Also in this area, a person may employ a state certified predator controller to trap wolves on or within one mile of land they own, lease, or manage.

“The major change with state management is the empowerment of individual people to directly protect their animals from wolf depredation, subject to certain restrictions,” DonCarlos said. “Other changes will include the development of a state certified predator control program that will operate in addition to the continuing federal control program administered by USDA Wildlife Services.”

To fully implement the state wolf management plan, DNR will hire a wolf specialist to coordinate all wolf management activities, and public information and education.

Additionally, Dr. John Erb, DNR wolf research biologist, will continue to address wolf research and population monitoring needs.

Dr. Erb, who coordinates wolf population surveys, is currently conducting a pilot research study to develop an aerial wolf census.

“John is an exceptional wolf technical expert and research biologist,” DonCarlos said. “With the addition of a wolf specialist the DNR will have the staff necessary to fully implement the state plan, and ensure that wolves continue to thrive in Minnesota while minimizing the inevitable conflicts that arise between wolves, humans and livestock.”

The DNR will also designate conservation officers in the wolf range to ensure enforcement of provisions of the wolf plan.

Although by law, DNR became the legal authority for wolf management in Minnesota today, several wolf protection groups have filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the removal of federal protection.

At this point, it is unknown if a lawsuit will be filed, and unknown what the ultimate outcome might be.

However, DNR is obligated to implement state regulations in the meantime.

The complete wolf management plan, zone maps, population survey information as well as a question and answer fact is available online at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

DNR announces second chance to help Minnesota’s wildlife
From the DNR

Minnesotans who forgot to donate to the line with the loon on their state tax forms now have a second chance to help Minnesota’s bald eagles, trumpeter swans, blue herons, peregrine falcons and bluebirds.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) now offers the opportunity to donate online to the DNR Nongame Wildlife Fund by visiting its Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

More than 800 nongame wildlife species depend on the generosity of Minnesotans.

The DNR Nongame Wildlife Program is a unique government program that receives 80 percent of its funding through donations to the wildlife fund.

According to Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor, last year 81,000 Minnesotans donated to the line with the loon on their tax forms, compared with 85,000 the previous year.

“Only one in 31 households contributed to the wildlife checkoff fund last year, so every dollar donated is an important gift to wildlife,” Henderson said.

Henderson noted many Minnesotans use tax services to prepare their taxes and never see their tax form, so they miss the line with the loon.

He said these same people enjoy watching the soaring eagles along the riverbanks and listening to the haunting call of the common loon.

“We are excited to offer this second chance to help wildlife and keep Minnesota a special place to live,” Henderson said. “It’s fast and easy to make your tax deductible donation; just go to the DNR Web site and click on the loon. Every dollar donated will help ensure the future of all wildlife in Minnesota.”

Applications taken for MCC summer conservation work for high school youth
From the DNR

Applications are being accepted for the Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) Summer Youth Program.

Ninety positions are available for youth ages 15 to 18.

Youth will be based, for eight weeks, at a residential program site in St. Croix State Park.

From this base site, they will travel in crews led by staff members to various state and federal lands to camp out and work on valuable conservation projects.

The outdoor residential nature of MCC provides a unique opportunity for youth to develop and strengthen leadership skills, work ethic, camping skills, and an understanding and appreciation for the natural environment, according to Eric Antonson of MCC.

“Participants can expect to work hard on projects such as trail construction, erosion control, bridge and boardwalk building, and invasive exotic plant removal,” Antonson said.

Participants will also take part in an experience-based curriculum that addresses career development, environmental topics, education planning, and leadership and life skills development.

Weekend activities include outdoor activities such as canoe trips, wilderness hikes and high adventure challenges.

The summer conservation work program will start June 17 and run through Aug. 11.

Applicants should enjoy working and living in a rustic outdoor environment. MCC, which hires an equal number of males and females, encourages minority youth to apply.

Up to 20 deaf and hard-of-hearing youth, who will work with deaf staff and trained sign language interpreters, will also be hired to work at the program.

Participants earn a stipend of $180 per week and room and board is provided at no charge.

Applications are due no later than April 24. To receive an application, contact Eric Antonson in the MCC office at Eric.Antonson@conservationcrops.org.

Seasonal road and trail closures in effect
From the DNR

With more warm weather on the way, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is temporarily closing some state forest roads and trails.

The DNR is asking riders to check on trail conditions and temporary closures before planning riding trips.

“Spring is hard on trails,” said Keith Simar, State Forest Recreation Program coordinator. “The spring thaw leads to soft soils that are susceptible to rutting.” Temporary closings will begin immediately in some areas, Simar said.

The latest information about temporary road/trail closures is available on the DNR Web site www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Click on trails closures. Trail condition information also is available from the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157, or toll free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

The DNR will post signs at entry points and at parking lots in state forests to indicate which roads and trails are closed.

OHV riders are reminded that Minnesota Rules state in part, “No person shall operate a motor vehicle or snowmobile on forest lands in a manner that causes erosion or rutting.”

“The DNR will work to let users know when and where they can ride,” Simar said. “We will lift road and trail closures as soon as possible. In turn, we ask users to check before riding to avoid areas that are temporarily closed, and to ride responsibly wherever they are.”

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