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Mother Nature most likely solution to cormorant problem on area lakes

August 25, 2008

by Chris Schultz

Double-crested cormorants have been a problem on Pigeon Lake near Dassel for several years now and, in recent years, other lakes in the area like Ann, near the City of Howard Lake, have had to deal with an aggressive population of cormorants.

The black birds can eat large amounts of fish every day, and their feces is so acidic it actually kills vegetation and the trees the birds roost in.

Lately, the birds have created a wave of concern from anglers, cabin owners, and homeowners on Lake Ann.

Many feel the cormorants are devastating the fish population on Ann and may significantly damage the lakes shoreline vegetation.

Several solutions to the problem have been discussed, but now it looks like Mother Nature may take care of the problem.

Last week, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issued a press release, which is included in this week’s column, that double-crested cormorants on three Minnesota lakes, including Pigeon Lake near Dassel, have contracted a virulent form of Newcastle disease and many birds have been found dead.

Interestingly enough, a local reader from the Lake Ann area reported to me last week that he spent a day following the large group of cormorants using Lake Ann, and found that the birds travel back and forth from Ann to Pigeon.

At this time, I have not received any reports of dead cormorants on Lake Ann. But, I am assuming that the disease will significantly reduce the cormorant population in our area.

There are other concerns and issues that can arise from Newcastle disease. Please read the following press release for more information:

Virulent Newcastle disease confirmed in Minnesota water birds
From the DNR

The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, reports that several wild water birds from two Minnesota lakes have tested positive for the virulent form of Newcastle disease.

This strain of virus can be highly contagious among double-crested cormorants, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The birds that tested positive were from Minnesota Lake in Faribault County, Pigeon Lake in Meeker County, and Lake Kabetogama in Voyageurs National Park, according to Dr. Erika Butler (DVM), DNR wildlife veterinarian.

The DNR is working closely on this issue with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health (BAH), the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

The agency is also collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Health Center, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, and alerting surrounding states and provinces to the lab results.

There is little threat to humans from the disease.

“Newcastle rarely affects humans, generally causing conjunctivitis, a relatively mild inflammation of the inner eyelids. It is spread to humans by close contact with sick birds,” said Joni Scheftel (DVM, MPH), MDH state public health veterinarian.

The department recommends that people avoid touching dead birds. DNR staff required to collect the birds will follow biohealth guidelines. Some of the dead bird collection areas may also be off-limits to visitors until carcass cleanup is complete.

Since first discovered in July, the DNR reported that more than 900 double-crested cormorants, with smaller numbers of American white pelicans and other water birds were discovered dead or dying at Minnesota Lake and Pigeon Lake.

Since then, DNR staff has found dead or dying birds on the other lakes including Angle Island WMA (Wildlife Management Area) on Lake of the Woods, Marsh Lake, and Lake Mille Lacs. Lab tests on these birds are pending and could take weeks.

Although poultry can catch the disease from wild birds, BAH reports that farm biosecurity measures help ensure that such a possibility is highly unlikely.

“Even when the region experienced a high-mortality, multi-state Newcastle event in 1992, no Minnesota farms were affected,” said Dale Lauer (DVM), BAH Poultry Program director.

“However, because of the current Newcastle situation, BAH reminds poultry producers to practice elevated security measures,” added Lauer. “These include monitoring their flocks for signs of illness and taking steps to prevent wild birds from having contact with domestic birds.

“If birds show signs of illness, producers should contact their own veterinarians or the Board of Animal Health at (320) 231-5170.”

Anglers needed to reel in AEDs and bring Project Lifesaver to Wright County

Sign up now to compete in Buffalo Hospital Foundation’s second annual fishing tournament, Saturday, Sept. 20, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., on Buffalo Lake. To register, call (763) 684-6800.

The fishing tournament will raise funds to support Project Lifesaver and Heart Safe Communities, two initiatives designed to save lives in Wright County.

Buffalo Hospital Foundation will use funds raised from the fishing tournament to help launch Project Lifesaver in Wright County.

Project Lifesaver uses state-of-the-art technology to track lost children and adults dealing with Autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and related disorders.

Participants wear a wrist band with a radio transmitter.

If that person ever goes missing, emergency agencies use a mobile tracking system to locate them.

The average recovery time is less than 30 minutes.

When Keith Kennedy, an adult with Autism, walked away from a Wisconsin camp this past June, it took hundreds of searchers one week to find him.

Currently, five Minnesota counties and the city of New Brighton, use Project Lifesaver.

Heart Safe Communities provides Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) and the training needed for Wright County’s first responders.

The most effective treatment for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is an electric shock to the heart, called defibrillation.

This shock is administered by an AED and police officers are typically the first to arrive at the scene.
AEDs already placed through the county have been credited for saving more than a dozen lives.

• Tournament details

Registration and boat checks for the fishing tournament begin at 6:30 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 20. The tournament runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Entry fee is $100 per two-person team. Depth finders and live bait are permitted.

Winners are determined by largest fish in total weight in pounds and ounces for each category (walleye, bass and northern).

Winners will receive a trophy and cash: 1st place – $350; 2nd place – $100; 3rd place – $50.

To register, call Buffalo Hospital Foundation at (763) 684-6800.

Registrations will be accepted up to the day of the tournament.

• Sponsorship opportunities, donations

Consider becoming a major sponsor, registering a fishing team, donating a cash gift or silent auction item. Your support will help save lives in Wright County.

For $50, you can sponsor a large bobber with your name or organization on it to line a park walkway.

Call (763) 684-6800 for more information.

Ducks Unlimited banquet at the Blue Note Sept. 9

The Winsted chapter of Ducks Unlimited will be hosting its annual banquet Tuesday, Sept. 9 at the Blue Note in Winsted.

For additional information, contact Doug Chalupsky at (612) 770-7848 or Dale Gatz at (320) 485-4274.

Crow River Clean Up Day moves into fifth year
From the CROW

The fifth annual Crow River Clean Up Day is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 13 starting at 8 a.m.

The Crow River Clean Up Day began in 2002 and has continued to evolve over the past five years.

The clean up started in 2002 with citizens groups in Rockford, Hanover, and Delano.

The clean up activities inspired Diane Sander, Watershed Coordinator for the Crow River Organization of Water (CROW) to organize a regional event that would encompass the entire watershed.

In the past four years, the CROW, a 10 County Joint Powers Organization has helped coordinate over 1,040 volunteers to remove over 30 tons of trash from 118 miles of shoreline on the Crow River and its tributaries.

The Crow River Clean Up Day is a one-day event. Clean up activities start at 8 a.m. and run until noon in each community.

Following the clean up, volunteers enjoy a sponsor provided lunch while they admire their piles of trash.

Each volunteer receives a t-shirt commemoration the event as a thank you for all their hard work.

Planning for the Sept. 13 event had already begun. The CROW is assisting interested groups to organize clean ups across the watershed.

If you are interested in the clean up or other outreach programs, contact the CROW at (763) 628-1933, ext. 112.

Goose hunting application period begins for Lac qui Parle controlled hunt
From the DNR

The application deadline is approaching for hunters wishing to reserve a date to goose hunt in the controlled hunting zone at the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The department will accept applications postmarked between Aug. 25 and Sept. 17 on a first-come, first-served basis.

To apply, hunters must submit a standard 3-1/2 inch by 5-1/2 inch postcard with full name and address, and must list their first and second choice of hunting dates.

The limit is one postcard per hunter. Applications should be sent to: Controlled Hunt, Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area, 14047 20 St. NW, Watson, MN 56295.

Successful applicants will receive notification by mail designating the date of their hunt, and may be accompanied by one or two guests.

All hunters in the Lac qui Parle controlled hunt zone who are 18 years of age or older will be charged a $3 fee on the day of their hunt to partially cover controlled hunt expenses.

The DNR will assign goose-hunting stations during a drawing held on the morning of the hunt.

A split regular Canada goose season of 41 days is proposed at Lac qui Parle (West Central Zone).

The first segment is four-days in length beginning Thursday, Oct. 16 thru Sunday, Oct. 19.

The season will then close for five-days reopening Saturday, Oct. 25 and continuing thru Sunday, Nov. 30.

The reservation system will be in effect for the entire goose season.

For more information, call the Lac qui Parle headquarters at (320) 734-4451.

Wright County/West Metro Whitetails sends kids to Forkhorn camp
From Wright County/West Metro Whitetails

Summer is quickly drawing to and end leaving many kids with camp memories including 21 that the Wright County/West Metro Whitetails sponsored at the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association ‘Forkhorn’ Camp.

The MDHA started these camps in 1986 with one camp at Deep Portage and 52 campers attending.
Since that time the number of camps has expanded to six across Minnesota, last year hosting over 620 kids.

There are also now three levels of camps called Forkhorn I, II, and III.

At these camps the Forkhorns learn hunting ethics, fair chase, game tracking, orientating, wilderness survival, and depending on the camp, they can get their DNR certified Firearms Safety, Bow hunter Safety, or Advanced Hunter certificate.

The Wright County/West Metro Whitetails sponsored youth at all six of these camps.

The group pays for almost all of the camp minus the registration fee.

In return it asks that the youth, along with their parents, be members of the Chapter, and participate in their fundraisers to help pay for the camps.

One method of fund-raising is done through their Annual Membership banquet.

This year it is being held at the New River City Extreme Entertainment Complex in Monticello Sunday, Sept. 7 starting at 4:30 p.m.

Everyone is welcome to come and enjoy a meal of broasted chicken ad prime rib and then join in for raffles and games for some very nice prizes.

Wright County/West Metro Whitetails will offer free bowling and other games for the kids as well as a free drawing for them.

More information is available by calling Jim at (763) 682-2061 or Al at (763) 263-7893.

DNR adopts plan to enhance muskellunge, northern pike fishing
From the DNR

Creating more opportunities for anglers to hook lunker northern pike and muskellunge is the goal of a new long-range management plan adopted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Anglers have a growing interest in catching larger fish,” said Ron Payer, DNR fisheries section chief. “This long range plan establishes reasonable goals and decision making processes to responsibly manage these high-profile fisheries through 2020.”

The DNR began work on the plan in 2006, with fisheries managers sharing their expertise and soliciting input from stakeholders.

Interested stakeholders were invited to review and comment on earlier versions of the plan.

Stakeholders provided many comments, the majority of which supported the goals and objectives.

The department will manage muskellunge to emphasize trophy angling opportunities in waters the fish now inhabit, and will add up to eight new muskellunge lakes during the next 12 years.

New waters will be selected based on biological, physical and social considerations, including written proposals and a public meeting.

The DNR’s northern pike management plan focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of existing special and experimental regulations, modifying or dropping regulations as appropriate, and potentially adding up to 19 new waters for large northern pike management.

The long-range plan describes a variety of ways the DNR will work with interested stakeholders to improve fishing opportunities for muskellunge and large northern pike.

These include working with interested stakeholders to consider and evaluate potential changes to statewide regulations that may improve the size of northern pike and muskellunge.

Pokegama Lake in Itasca County will be added as a new muskellunge lake.

The DNR has evaluated the 6,612-acre lake for muskellunge management and determined that it has the physical and biological characteristics necessary to support a trophy muskellunge fishery.

“The majority of public comments support stocking Pokegama with muskellunge,” Payer said. “It is connected to native muskie habitat in the upper Mississippi River watershed, and our managers believe the decision to stock will not affect northern pike spearing or angling opportunities on the lake.”

Gull Lake in Crow Wing County will not be managed as a muskellunge lake, Payer said.

Although the lake has the physical and biological characteristics to support a trophy muskellunge fishery and muskellunge anglers strongly supported the idea, other anglers expressed strong concerns about the proposal.

Copies of the plan are available on the DNR Web site at www.mndnr.gov/esocid or by contacting the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

New DNR brochure provides hunters and trappers with info regarding ATV use
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a new brochure that discusses changes that will affect the use of vehicles (ranging from highway licensed cars and trucks to all-terrain vehicles or ATVs) for hunting on public lands across the state.

The brochures will be mailed to about 130,000 people who have a registered ATV in the state and also purchased a big game hunting license last year.

Brochures will also be available at the DNR Building at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, Aug. 21 - Sept. 1.

Using ATVs while hunting big game is a privilege, and the responsibility belongs to each hunter to protect that privilege, said Forrest Boe, DNR Trails and Waterways director.

Many big game hunters who use ATVs do not consider themselves to be ATV riders; however, they are.

This brochure will make the hunting public more aware of the changing rules regarding ATV use on public lands.

Every year hunters, trappers and anglers need to review the new synopsis to see what has changed. 

Likewise, those who use ATVs for hunting need to consider changes as well, and make sure they are familiar with the current laws. 

The DNR strives to provide a range of hunting opportunities,” added Dennis Simon, DNR Wildlife Section chief. “Some of those may involve the use of ATVs, which certainly can assist big game hunters and help disperse the use. We ask that hunters to be sensitive to others and familiarize themselves with current laws that apply to that hunting activity.”

Minnesotas hunting and trapping regulations as well as Off-Highway Vehicle regulations are available at the DNR Web site and at licensing centers.

For complete regulations, consult the state statutes and rules.

Hunting and trapping regulations information is available at www.mndnr.gov/regulations/hunting/index.html.

Off-Highway Vehicle regulations are available at www.mndnr.gov/regulation/ohv/index.html.

Go to www.mndnr.gov/ohv/hunting.html for details regarding use of ATVs while hunting.

This information is available in an alternative format upon request.

Contact the DNR information Center by e-mail at info@mndnr.gov or by calling (651) 296-6157 or 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367.)

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: In order to legally hunt any migratory game bird, which now includes mourning doves, hunters must be certified for the Harvest Information Program (HIP). What is the purpose of this?

A: HIP certification is a requirement for migratory bird hunters and a tool the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) uses in every state to monitor the number of migratory bird hunters and the number and kind of migratory birds harvested each fall.

The certification process simply identifies hunters of different migratory bird species so that the USFWS can select a sample of these hunters to participate in the actual harvest survey.

These hunters are then asked to provide more detailed information on their hunting activities.

USFWS uses this information is used to develop more reliable harvest estimates for all migratory birds.

This information is important for establishing future hunting seasons, which helps protect our hunting heritage.

Hunters can receive their certification by answering “yes” to the question asking if they intend to hunt migratory birds (including ducks, geese, doves, woodcock, snipe and rails) when buying their hunting license.

Hunters who have already purchased a license that does not say “HIP Certified” must register for the program before hunting any migratory birds.

Certification is free and is available at all of Minnesota’s more than 1,800 electronic licensing agents.

Outdoor notes

• The 2008 mourning dove hunting season opens Monday, Sept. 1 and runs through Thursday, Oct. 30.

• The 2008 early Canada goose hunting season opens Saturday, Sept. 6 and runs through Monday, Sept. 22.

• The 2008 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook is out as well as the Waterfowl Supplement. Please take the time to read and review them and pay special attention to new regulations for this year.

• We can expect another banner year of pheasant hunting in Minnesota and across the Midwest pheasant range.

Because of massive losses of Conservation Reserve Program acres, we can also expected this to be the last season of tremendous pheasant numbers for some time.

• Please review the 10 commandments of firearm safety before you take a firearm in the field this fall.

• Take a kid fishing; he or she will have fun, and so will you.