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Skunks, coyotes, and deer

March 8, 2010

by Chris Schultz

With spring finally starting to creep through the melting, dirty snow left from a long dreary winter, a variety of animals are responding and changing gears.

Last week was an interesting one, with a few of those changes becoming very noticeable.

It started early last week with a call from Dick Johnson from the Darwin area – Dick was a longtime friend of the late Harlan Yaeger from Howard Lake.

Harlan was a wildlife lover and longtime local conservationist.

Dick noted he had been feeding a good-sized herd of deer for most of the winter and wanted me to get over there one day last week to take some photos before longer days and warmer weather changed the animals’ habits and they would no longer be using his feeding area.

The deer had been feeding every day around dusk on corn, oats and other grains Dick was getting from a variety of sources.

He said they really had some trails worn down through the snow and have been a treat to watch for a good part of the winter.

I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to get over to his place last week to watch and photograph the deer, because Dick is right, if the warm weather continues, the deer will split up and no longer use his feeding station.

Maybe I’ll get there this week and the deer will still be there.

If not, I think the deer will appreciate an early spring just as much as the food Dick provided for them much of the winter.

Next, was a skunk seen Tuesday evening at about 9:30 p.m. at the Herald Journal offices in Winsted. I had the pleasure watching a very smelly skunk walk across the parking lot only a few feet from my truck.

I’m assuming the skunk was getting bothered by some the cats that run around the area and it was easier to walk on tar than icy snow.

Herald Journal may have a new subscriber, because the skunk, just as smelly, was back again the next night.

Finally, Thursday night, my back yard dog kennel was visited by six or more coyotes. The dogs were barking like crazy and when I became frustrated enough to grab the flashlight and go out to take a look, there they were, only a few feet from the kennel fence.

My two Labs were going crazy, and so were the coyotes.

It seemed the light from the big flashlight froze them for a moment, but they yelped and hopped around for a few minutes before they scattered.

To end this short column about deer, coyotes and skunks, it was actually rather pleasant to put up with the smell of a skunk again after a long cold winter.

Firearms safety training at LP

DNR firearm safety class at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club will begin Monday, April 5 and run through Tuesday, May 4.

The class will be Monday and Tuesday nights from 7 to 9 p.m.

To register, contact Gary Godel at (320) 395-2561 or garygodel@mchsi.com.

Firearms safety training in Delano

The Delano Sportsman’s Club is hosting a 10-day firearms safety training course this spring.

The registration date is Monday, March 29, from 7-8 p.m. at the Delano Sportsman’s Club.

The course is for students 11 years old and older. A parent is required to register minors. Adults are welcome and encouraged to take the course. The cost is $8 per person.

Each class is from 7-9 p.m. each night, starting Thursday, April 1. A parent or guardian is requested to attend the April 1 class. The course will end Saturday, May 1, with a field/range day, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The training course will cover hunter responsibility, firearms handling, archery, marksmanship, wildlife identification, game management and care, survival, water safety, and first aid.

Questions, call John McClay at (763) 675-2397 after 6 p.m.

The course dates
Thursday, April 1
Tuesday, April 6
Thursday, April 8
Tuesday, April 13
Thursday, April 15
Monday, April 19
Thursday, April 22
Monday, April 26
Thursday, April 29
Sat., May 1 field/range day

Prairie Archers steak/shrimp dinner

Prairie Archers will be hosting a steak/shrimp dinner at the Dodge House in Lester Prairie Saturday, March 13 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Reservations need to be made by Friday, March 12 at 6 p.m.

To make a reservation, call the Dodge House at (320) 395-2877 or Jim Richardson at (320) 395-2721.

New general CRP sign-up announced
From Pheasants Forever

At a Saturday Pheasant Fest luncheon in Des Moines, IA, US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced 150,000 acres of additional authority for a Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) practice titled State Acres For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), also known as CP-38.

Minnesota received an additional 10,800 acres available for enrollment immediately.

Minnesota’s last allocation of acres, in 2008, was approximately 23,000 and was exhausted within 11 months.

The focus of CP-38 is the restoration of grassland habitats for pheasant and other wildlife populations through the planting of critical nesting habitat within the pheasant and greater prairie chicken range of Minnesota.

Grasslands have been identified among the nation’s most threatened ecosystem and therefore are the limiting factor in population size and abundance of grassland dependent species such as the ring-necked pheasant and the greater prairie chicken.

In Minnesota alone, less than 1 percent of native grasslands remain.

Named the “Back Forty Pheasant Habitat practice,” it is one of the most versatile programs offered under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

The program allows landowners to enroll blocks of land that are 10 – 40 acres in size or areas that are less than 10 acres in size as long as it is adjacent to existing habitat.

The program can be designed to square up odd shaped fields, hard to farm areas, irrigation corners, and can be used in locations where most other practices cannot.

Enrollment in these additional CP-38 acres is scheduled to begin Monday, March 15.

“We know what happens when you restore grasslands and build upon existing habitats in the Minnesota pheasant range,” stated Joe Pavelko, MN director of conservation programs. “The birds and other wildlife respond quickly.”

Secretary Vilsack also announced plans for a new CRP general signup slated for later this year.

This will be the first general signup since 2006.

It arrives in time to address the 4.4 million acres of CRP expiring Thursday, September 30.

An additional 14.2 million acres of CRP are slated to expire between 2011 and 2013.

The date for this new CRP general signup has not been determined as yet.

Landowners interested in learning more about the CP-38 program or the upcoming general signup should contact their local USDA Service Center for more information.

DNR seeks watercraft inspector applicants
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is looking for watercraft inspector interns to help with important work at public accesses on lakes and rivers infested with invasive species such as Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels.

Other duties may include assisting with access posting, conducting invasive species plant removal and other natural resource projects.

Positions are available in the seven-county metro area, Lake Minnetonka area, Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake, Spicer/Willmar, Brainerd, Duluth, Bemidji, and Mississippi River-Red Wing to the Iowa border.

Positions also available in Chisago, Cook, Itasca, Otter Tail and Wright counties.

The full-time temporary internships start in late April and run through the middle of October, with flexibility for students still in school.

“We’re looking for enthusiastic young adults interested in doing important environmental conservation work,” said Heidi Wolf, DNR watercraft inspection program coordinator.

Applicants must have a valid Minnesota driver’s license, be enrolled in a natural resources or related program and eligible to receive school credit for the position.

Applications are due March 12. To view a complete job description or apply online go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/jobs/watercraft/index.html or contact Heidi Wolf at (651) 259-5152 or heidi.wolf@state.mn.us with questions.

New book offers tips for building backyard nesting boxes
From the DNR

Backyard birders and wildlife enthusiasts have a new resource available that helps make building and placing nest boxes easier and more enjoyable than ever.

“Woodworking for Wildlife,” the best-selling book produced by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), has been revised and is now on sale.

“The new version has been dramatically improved and expanded from the 1992 edition,” explained author Carrol Henderson, a DNR wildlife biologist. “It is the culmination of three years of work researching the best techniques for building, placing and managing nest boxes for Minnesota wildlife.”

The DNR is issuing this book to provide state-of-the-art guidance on projects that better connect people to the great outdoors, and to enhance appreciation for Minnesota’s wildlife.

The book features new information on how to eliminate predation by raccoons and cats on nest boxes and to reduce competition by exotic species like house sparrows and starlings.

It also includes ways to attract everything from bluebird, chickadees, purple martins, wood ducks to bumblebees, toads, owls, and woodpeckers.

There are 30 designs for nest boxes and nesting platforms and easy to follow diagrams to help with final decisions on how to cut out, assemble and where to place the boxes.

The designs can accommodate 46 species of wildlife including flickers, great crested flycatchers, toads, bumblebees, buffleheads, and purple martins.

The book also is a good example of in-state product sourcing.

The paper was produced in Cloquet and the book was printed in Minneapolis.

“Woodworking for Wildlife” is available at Minnesota’s Bookstore in St. Paul www.minnesotabookstore.com for $16.95 plus postage and handling or the DNR gift shop, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul. It will soon be available at major book sellers.