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Bird die-off in Meeker County

July 28, 2008

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Hundreds of double-crested cormorants, American white pelicans and other water birds were discovered dead or dying at two Minnesota lakes early last week.

The discovery was made by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff who were in the area banding pelicans at Minnesota Lake in Faribault County and Pigeon Lake in Meeker County.

The dead and dying birds were found on islands where pelicans, herons, egrets and gulls traditionally nest.

As of Friday, 687 cormorants and 37 pelicans, three ring-billed gulls and one great blue heron had been found dead.

Jeff DiMatteo, a DNR wildlife biologist working with pelicans, said staff saw the same thing happening at both lakes.

“We saw dead and dying adult cormorants, with the live ones unable to hold their heads up” at Pigeon Lake, DiMatteo said. “There were old carcasses that would suggest that it has been going on for at least a couple of weeks.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Litchfield is looking at sites in the vicinities of both lakes for any additional die-offs.

Initial tests for avian influenza were negative. The specific cause of the bird illness remains undetermined at this time.

Officials from the Minnesota DNR, U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are conducting site clean-ups, and collecting swab and carcass samples for lab analysis.

Some early lab results should be available later this week, although it might take longer to determine the exact cause of the bird illness.

While the die-off so far has been detected only in wild water birds at the two locations, wild birds can be a potential source of disease when they come into contact with domestic poultry.

For that reason, state animal health officials remind farmers to practice sound biosecurity, including monitoring their poultry flocks for signs of illness and taking steps to prevent wild birds from having contact with their domestic birds.

If birds show sign of sickness, producers should contact their veterinarian or the Minnesota Board of Animal Health at (320) 231-5170.

There are approximately 39 nesting colonies of double-crested cormorants in Minnesota, 87 percent of which occur along with other colonially nesting water birds.

Most active nesting sites have a long history of use, being utilized by the birds since the 1960s and 1970s.

Habitat keys highest Minnesota pheasant harvest since 1964
From Pheasants Forever

Minnesota’s 2007-2008 pheasant harvest of 655,000 roosters is the highest-recorded total since 1964, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Pheasants Forever (PF) notes the critical role quality habitat has played in the ring-necked pheasants’ resurgence across Minnesota’s farm country.

“Four out of the past five years have produced a harvest of over a half million birds in Minnesota, including the last three consecutive seasons,” said Matt Holland, PF Senior Field Coordinator. “Minnesota must be mentioned among the typical pheasant powerhouse states like South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. However, you’re only as good as your last acre of habitat work, and that challenge is never-ending.”

Last October, 79,677 Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres expired in Minnesota alone, and over half a million more Minnesota CRP acres are slated to expire over the course of the next five years.

“Quality habitat is the determining factor. We’ve made progress in Minnesota with one project, one program, and one acre at a time,” Holland said. “But it shouldn’t be a secret to any resident or non-resident hunter that harvest totals will decline if there is a continuing loss of habitat.”

Successful long-term habitat programs like the Minnesota River CREP and the Wetlands Reserve Program have added core wildlife habitat that pheasants and other wildlife populations have the ability to take advantage of in good weather years. Minnesota’s system of state= Wildlife Management Areas and federal Waterfowl Production Areas also provide for access as well as habitat.

“Credit for this progress goes to the decision-makers who have, and continue to, provide funding for conservation and to all the partners and landowners that make good programs work on their land,” Holland added.

Holland points to the new State Acres For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program, called the Minnesota Back Forty Pheasant Habitat program, as evidence of landowner interest in conservation and wildlife habitat still being strong.

Since the Minnesota SAFE sign-up began in April, over 10,000 acres have been offered for enrollment in the program, which is part of the continuous portion of CRP.

Minnesota has been allocated 23,100 acres for enrollment in the Back Forty Pheasant Habitat program, which establishes small blocks of grassland (10-40 acres) and enhances existing habitats.

Since its first project in 1984, Minnesota’s 75 PF chapters, one QF chapter and 27,000 PF/QF members have completed over 21,500 projects benefiting more than 184,000 acres of wildlife habitat.

In fact, Minnesota PF chapters have spent more than $33.7 million on habitat and conservation education in the state.

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are non-profit conservation organizations dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant, quail, and other wildlife populations in North America through habitat improvement, land management, public awareness, and education. PF/QF has more than 129,000 members in 700 local chapters across the continent.

DNR seeks designs for Minnesota’s first walleye stamp
From the DNR

Wildlife artists can submit entries for Minnesota’s first walleye stamp, which will be available to anglers when they purchase a 2009 fishing license.

Earlier this year, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law creating the voluntary walleye stamp, which will add $5 to the cost of a 2009 fishing license if an angler chooses to purchase the stamp.

Revenue from stamp sales is dedicated to walleye stocking and directly related activities.

The walleye now joins the trout and salmon, migratory waterfowl, wild turkey and pheasant as a species that offer a DNR-sponsored wildlife art contest.

Entries for the walleye stamp design will be accepted Monday, Oct. 13, to Friday, Oct. 24.

Artists must mail or hand deliver their entries by 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24 to: 2009 Walleye Stamp Contest, DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife, Box 20, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN, 55155-4020.

Designs should be securely wrapped and enclosed in an envelope or other container.

The words “Walleye Stamp” should be clearly marked on the outside of the container. Late entries will not be accepted.

The walleye (Sander vitreus vitreus) must be the primary focus of the design.

Other fish species may be included in the design if they are used to depict a common interaction between species or are common inhabitants of Minnesota’s lakes and rivers.

Artists are prohibited from using any photographic product as part of their finished entries. Any entry that contains photographic products will be disqualified.

The contest, which offers no prizes, is open to Minnesota residents only.

Winning artists usually issue limited edition prints of the artwork and retain the proceeds.

A contest entry form and reproduction rights agreement, which grants the DNR the right to use the design for the stamp image and other promotional, educational and informational purposes related to walleye, must be signed and submitted with the design.

Judging will take place at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at DNR Headquarters, 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul.

Contest judges will have expertise in art, ichthyology, fishing, aquatic habitats and/or printing.
For complete contest criteria and information contact the DNR Information Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4040.

Information also is available by calling the Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll free at 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367), or on the DNR Web site at www.mndnr.gov.

PF supports Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land, and Legacy amendment
From Pheasants Forever

Pheasants Forever (PF) strongly endorses voting YES for The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment on the November 4th ballot.

The Saint Paul-based national non-profit conservation organization has also recorded public service announcements (PSAs) in support of voting YES for the Amendment critical to ensuring Minnesota’s outdoor future.

“Getting this Amendment to the voters has been a process that’s taken Minnesota’s hunting, fishing, and outdoor community nearly a decade to bring to fruition,” says Joe Duggan, PF Vice President of Corporate Relations & Marketing and longtime advocate for the Amendment.

“Minnesota voters have in their control an opportunity to ensure the assets making our state the best place to live are protected for generations to come. Voting ‘Yes’ for this amendment will be one of the most important votes any Minnesotan will ever have the chance to cast.”

This one time opportunity to secure funding for long-term land and water stewardship will be introduced on the general election ballot as stated:

Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore our lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater; by increasing the sales and use tax rate beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eights of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2034?

Voting YES will ensure $100 million for the Outdoor Heritage Fund, $100 million for the Clean Water Fund, $59 million for the Cultural Heritage Fund and $43 Million for the Parks and Trails Fund. Choosing not to vote on this amendment when you go to the polls will result in a vote of NO.

The result of the November 4th voting will drastically impact Minnesota and Minnesotans far into the future.

Looking to eradicate Wild Parsnip in Wright County
From Wright County PF

The Wright County Pheasants Forever chapter is partnering with the Wright County Soil and Water Conservation District (WCSWCD) in an effort to eradicate Wild Parsnip.

This plant has become a weed of special concern in Wright County due to in very aggressive characteristics and ability to spread rapidly.

Increased concern with this weed is also due to its harmful characteristics when not handled properly.

If skin comes into contact with the sap and is then exposed to ultraviolet light (either sunny or cloudy skies) the affected area will redden and blister.

As part of this partnership, a volunteer effort is being coordinated for Saturday, Aug. 2 from 8 a.m. to noon.

If you are able to volunteer, please contact the WCSWCD Office at (763) 682-1933, ext. 3.

Instruction will be provided on how to safely handle the Wild Parsnip.

Please be sure to wear a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, gloves and bring a shovel. A lunch will be provided.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Boat anchors do a good job of keeping boats in place, but they can also cause damage to the aquatic vegetation in a lake or river. Is there any one style that causes little or no damage?

A: What a person does with a boat anchor – placement and retrieval – has more influence on the amount of damage it might do than the style of the anchor.

For example, lower the anchor when your boat has stopped moving; this will keep it from dragging through vegetation.

When you are moving your boat to a new location, even a short distance, be sure to lift the anchor off the bottom.

On windy days, when it is difficult to remain anchored in place, only use the anchor in sheltered areas where the anchor will hold your position.

It is particularly important to clean the anchor of vegetation and soils before you leave the lake so that you do not inadvertently transport invasive species from one lake to another.