Snow goose season opened Sunday

March 2, 2009

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR
Minnesotans can harvest light geese (including white and blue phase lesser snow geese and Ross’ geese) from March 1 to April 30, under the terms of a federal conservation order.

The order, which affects 24 states, allows hunters to harvest the geese after the traditional close of hunting seasons.

This is part of an international effort to reduce habitat damage to Arctic coastal regions and the Hudson Bay area by overly large populations of lesser snow geese.

Minnesota has participated in the conservation order since 2000, with harvests varying dramatically from a few hundred geese to 6,000 birds depending on weather conditions.

“Minnesota is at the extreme eastern edge of the spring migration through the Midwest,” said Ray Norrgard, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wetland wildlife program leader. “March weather, particularly snow and ice conditions, can have a tremendous effect on the migration routes of light geese.”

Hunters must obtain a spring light goose permit, which is available at electronic license agents, online at www.mndnr.gov/licenses or via telephone at 888-665-4236.

The permit is free but a $3.50 application fee is charged. No other license, stamp or permit is required to participate.

Most regulations that apply to fall goose-hunting seasons also apply during the spring light goose hunt, including non-toxic shot requirements and federal baiting regulations. In addition, all refuges closed to either duck or goose hunting during fall seasons also are closed during the spring hunt.

Shooting hours will be one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset each day.

No daily or possession limits apply. Use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns loaded with more than three rounds is allowed.

A summary of regulations is available from license vendors, DNR wildlife offices, online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting or by calling DNR Information Center at 888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

Deadline to remove fish houses

The deadline to remove fish houses in the south area of Minnesota is Monday, March 2.

Watertown Rod & Gun Club to host annual sportsman banquet

The Watertown Rod & Gun Club will be hosting its 13th annual Family Sportsman Banquet Saturday, March 7.

Tickets for the event may be purchased by calling Gary Kubasch at (952) 807-2372. A limited number of tickets are available.

The banquet will take place at the Watertown Civic Center.

Wright County approves archery range agreement

An archery range that will be available for use by Wright County moved one step closer to its target during Tuesday’s board meeting.

The Wright County Board approved an agreement with the Hasty-Silver Creek Sportsman Club for construction of the range on property owned by the club north of Maple Lake.

The term of the lease will be 10 years.

In exchange for the use of the property, the county will make a donation to the club equal to the yearly real estate taxes on the entire club property each year the lease is in effect.

The club will be responsible for maintenance of the property.

The agreement includes a statement that the club agrees to hold the county harmless and indemnify the county against any claims for property damage, injury, or death arising from the construction, use, and maintenance of the club’s property for archery range purposes.

DNR offers outdoor skills classes for women
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) program is hosting its annual winter workshop March 6 - 8 at Deep Portage Environmental Learning Center in Hackensack.

“The winter workshop is very popular and provides women a unique opportunity to try out different winter sports in a supportive atmosphere,” said Linda Bylander, BOW coordinator.

Dog mushing, winter wildlife on snowshoes, cross country skiing, snowmobling, climbing wall, trapping, archery, ice fishing, air gun, and winter shelters classes will be offered.

Women sign up for three classes during the weekend.

Lodging, meals, instruction, equipment and evening entertainment are included in the $180 workshop fee. To register, call 888-280-9908.

BOW events are listed on DNR Web site at or are available by calling the DNR Information Center at 888-646-6367.

Use your state tax form to benefit wildlife in MN
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges Minnesota taxpayers to remember to help loons, eagles, swans, and other wildlife by donating to the Nongame Wildlife Fund.

All you do is write in the amount of your donation on of your state tax form.

These tax-deductible, voluntary donations account for 80 percent of the program’s annual funding and support more than 80 conservation projects throughout the state.

Many of these projects directly benefit wildlife in northwestern Minnesota.

On your Minnesota tax form (M-1) or property tax form (M1-PR), look for the line with the loon symbol. Write in the amount of the donation you wish to make.

If you are entitled to a refund, that refund is reduced by the amount of the donation and your donation is tax deductible on the following year’s tax return, if you itemize deductions.

If you own money, your donation is added to the balance due.

Nongame projects in NW Minnesota

• Loons

Loons have been identified as one of the species in greatest need of conservation.

The Minnesota Loon Monitoring Project, now in its 15th year, tracks the welfare of the common loon.

More than 600 volunteers have helped track the population status of Minnesota’s state bird in six index areas around Minnesota; two in Otter Tail and Becker counties.

From this long-term population monitoring study, the DNR has learned that despite some increasing risks factors, such as mercury and lead contamination and lakeshore development, the Minnesota loon population, range, and rate of reproduction has remained fairly steady.

Loons, as well as other terrestrial and aquatic species, are currently benefiting from a number of lakeshore restoration projects, which are also being funded by Nongame Checkoff donations.

Minnesota currently boasts the largest common loon population in the lower 48 states.

• Bald Eagles

The Nongame Wildlife Program has been monitoring nesting pairs of bald eagles throughout the state since 1978.

Since 2000, the Minnesota eagle population has increased 28 percent, with a current estimated statewide population of 1,312 nesting pairs – the second highest bald eagle population in the US.

In the northwest, the eagle population increased more than 30 percent in just five years in Polk, Mahnomen, Clearwater, Lake of the Woods, Roseau and Kittson counties.

Smaller increases were also observed in Otter Tail and Becker counties, while eagles were documented as nesting for the first time in Clay and Mahnomen counties.

• Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeter swans are a state-listed threatened species, as well as a species of general conservation concern.

Until recently, Minnesota was completely devoid of these large white birds.

Thanks to swan restoration efforts, which began in the Twin Cities metro area then expanded to become a Nongame Program initiative in the mid-1980s, swans now occupy wetlands in the northern third of the state.

It is estimated that Minnesota currently has a free-flying swan population of more than 2,500 individual birds, with 225 to 250 breeding pairs

• Other projects

Many other nongame projects continue to benefit the northwestern part of the state, including:

• piping plover, goshawk, osprey, grebe and common tern surveys

• dragonfly surveys

• frog and toad surveys

• Wildlife Management Area habitat management for nongame species

• the recently completed online Rare Species Guide available on the DNR Web site.

For more information about these projects or to receive the 2009 Nongame Wildlife Program poster featuring dragonflies, contact Mike North at (320) 345-0025 or michael.north@dnr.state.mn.us.

Have you already filed your taxes? The Nongame Wildlife Fund accepts online donations at www.mndnr.org.

Division change means managing for cleaner water
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced that it will align the responsibilities of two existing divisions into a new division focused on watershed management.

“This new division will approach conservation work differently,” said DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten. “Minnesotans value clean water and abundant habitat. We need to do all we can to manage our natural resources in the most comprehensive and efficient way.”

“In the end, it’s all about outcomes – including healthy, habitat-rich lands and fishable, swimable water for our children and grandchildren,” Holsten said.

Assistant Commissioner Larry Kramka will lead the effort to create the new division with staff from the existing divisions of Waters and Ecological Resources.

Kramka will work closely with Division of Waters Director Kent Lokkesmoe and Division of Ecological Resources Director Steve Hirsch throughout the process.

“We’ll be doing much more than integrating two divisions,” Kramka said. “We’ll take a careful look at how we can further progress toward our conservation goals in the areas of clean water, productive lands and high-quality habitat.”

Among those goals will be building the agency’s working relationship with private landowners, communities, watershed organizations and others.

The new division eventually will incorporate Division of Waters responsibilities, such as public waters protection, water supply management, and water levels measurement, with the Division of Ecological Resources functions of protecting and restoring ecosystems and providing support for land use decisions.

Waters has a staff of about 145 and a 2008-2009 budget of approximately $30.9 million.

Ecological Resources has about 166 staff and a budget of $50.7 million.

Online burning permits available in much of the state
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is expanding a program that allows people to purchase a burning permit online.

The online burning permit, which costs $5, allows a person to burn piled vegetative material or conduct a running fire of less then one acre during evening hours.

The permit is valid for the calendar year in which it is purchased, but must be activated each day burning occurs by calling a toll-free number.

Daily activation of burning permits allows local public safety departments to keep track of where authorized burning is occurring to distinguish authorized burning from reports of possible wildfires.

It also allows for daily updates to any burning restrictions that may be called for due to weather conditions or air quality alerts.

The online burning permit system was launched in a handful of Minnesota counties in 2007. Each year since, more counties have been added to the system.

For those who prefer not to use the Internet, burning permits may still be obtained from local fire wardens or from a DNR forestry office. For unusual fires or large running fires more than one acre, a burning permit must be obtained from a DNR forestry office.

While DNR issues statewide open burning regulations, some local jurisdictions may have additional requirements that need to be followed.

For more information, or to apply online for a burning permit, visit www.mndnr.gov.

Update to 2008 fishing regulation handbook
From the DNR

Minnesota ice anglers will have extra fishing opportunities in March because of some changes that were made late in the 2008 Legislative session but not included in the regulations handbook.

“These changes will allow anglers to enjoy some late season ice fishing,” said Capt. Ken Soring, acting Department of Natural Resources Enforcement chief.

The updated regulations are available online at www.mndnr.gov.

The fish house/shelter removal deadline for the southern part of the state is March 2, rather than March 1 as originally printed in the 2008 Fishing Regulations handbook.

The deadline for shelter removal in the northern part of the state, March 16, remains the same.

Shelters must be removed from the ice by these dates.

The other important change is that fish houses/shelters statewide can be on the ice between midnight and one hour before sunrise when occupied or attended after the March 2 and the March 16 deadlines.

This exception had previously applied only to fish houses/shelters north of the east-west line formed by U.S. Hwy 10, east along Hwy 34 to Minnesota Hwy 200, east along Hwy 200 to U.S. Hwy 2, and east along Hwy 2 to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.

The walleye and northern pike seasons on inland waters closed Feb. 22.

MN deer poachers plead guilty
From the DNR

Two southeastern Minnesota men are facing stiff fines and penalties after pleading guilty to 2007 charges of taking deer by spotlight and taking big game in closed season.

John D. Lurken, 19, Owatonna, and Jacob L. Marquette, 20, West Concord, recently pled guilty in Dodge County District Court and had their hunting privileges revoked for three years, placed on probation for two years, and ordered to pay fines/restitution totaling $1,600 each.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Phil George of Mantorville received a call from the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office on Dec.14, 2007 of a person shooting deer in a field near Claremont, Minn.

George also received similar reports from the Minnesota Turn-In-Poachers (TIP) hotline and in the course of his investigation found three dead deer lying in the field.

A number of .22 caliber shell casings were found along the roadway near the field.

It was reported that more than 40 deer were staying there during this time.

At 1 a.m. on Dec. 20, 2007, George received a call that a Dodge County deputy had stopped a truck near the field for shining and shooting a deer.

The truck was impounded, and two .22 caliber rifles and a spotlight were seized. Lurken, Marquette, and another man, Jon-Erik Meier, 20, also of Owatonna, were transported to the Steele County jail on gross misdemeanor charges of shining.

In addition to taking deer by spotlight and taking big game in closed season, Lurken and Marquette were also ordered to complete 30 hours of community service and complete a DNR firearms safety class.

Meier was fined $158 in court costs and received a stay of prosecution for one year on terms that he has no same or similar violations.

The investigation found that Meier never took part in the shining or shooting of any deer.

TIP is an important partner. To report poaching, call TIP hotline number (800-652-9093).