DNR ramps up aquatic invasive species inspections

August 8, 2011

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

DNR is accelerating its efforts to prevent the spread of zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species.

This weekend, the DNR will launch its new inspection and decontamination procedures at several large lakes with zebra mussel infestations and high boat traffic.

At the urging of a broad coalition of conservation interests, the Legislature gave the DNR greater authority to inspect and decontaminate boats suspected of harboring aquatic invasive species.

It also allocated more money to the DNR for aquatic invasive species prevention.

According to Luke Skinner, DNR aquatic invasive species unit supervisor, “Boaters are still the first line of defense against aquatic invasive species. Now DNR can help ensure their compliance because we can require inspections, deny launch, order removal of invasives, and require hot-water flushing and high-pressure washing.”

The DNR recently trained 17 invasive species staff to implement the new inspection authorities and operate three newly purchased decontamination (boat washing) units.

The portable decontamination units are capable of spraying 160-degree water at high pressure.

The equipment will be used to remove zebra mussels from boat hulls and treat livewells and other areas that can harbor invasive species.

DNR has already trained conservation officers to enforce new regulations.

The agency will train additional inspection staff during the remainder of the summer.

“We are focused on implementing the new inspection procedures and understanding how to use the new decontamination equipment safely and efficiently,” said Steve Hirsch, DNR Ecological and Water Resources director. “We ask that boaters are patient with the new inspection process. If boaters are well prepared when they enter and leave the water, the new inspection process should go smoothly.”

With new funds from the Legislature, the DNR was able to increase funding for its aquatic invasive species inspection program from $1 million annually to $1.9 million annually.

The increase will pay for additional inspectors and includes $300,000 for decontamination equipment.

The DNR plans to increase the number of decontamination units from three to a fleet of 20 or more by summer of 2012.

For the next few weeks, the DNR will focus its new inspection and decontamination procedures on lakes that are infested with zebra mussels and have high boat traffic, such as Minnetonka, Mille Lacs, and Pelican Lake (in Otter Tail County).

The portable decontamination units will be used at access sites around the state.

“The majority of boats won’t need to be decontaminated with a hot-water, high-pressure wash,” Skinner said. “Only boats that don’t pass an inspection will need to be decontaminated with the new equipment, and we suspect there won’t be too many of them on any given day.”

The DNR encourages boaters to follow a few simple steps before leaving a water access to help the new inspection and decontamination process go smoothly:

1. Leave a little extra time in your recreational schedule for the new inspection process

2. Remove visible aquatic plants and zebra mussels from boats and trailers

3. Drain water from your boat, livewell, bilge, and impellor by removing drain plugs and opening water draining devices

4. Drain portable bait containers

5. Remember: aquatic invasive species are a serious threat to Minnesota’s lakes, streams, and wetlands, and YOU are the first best prevention strategy

The DNR website has additional information on aquatic invasive species and on the new inspection and decontamination equipment.

Go to www.dnr.state.mn.us to watch a video presentation on the new inspection and decontamination procedures.

Upcoming events planned at Waverly Gun Club

Waverly Gun Club will host the following events during the month of August.

• Ladies night, Tuesday, Aug. 9 from 6 to 9 p.m.

• Conceal and carry class has been rescheduled from a two-day class to one day only Sunday, Aug. 21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To register, call Kevin at (763) 242-4553.

• Black powder shoot is Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 13 and 14. Individual competition is Saturday, team competition Sunday and cannon and mortar competition begins at noon Sunday, Aug. 14. There is no admission and the public is welcome.

More information can be found at www.waverlygunclub.com.

August deadlines to apply for this fall’s youth hunts are fast approaching
From the DNR

Youth and their parents need to act quickly to participate in numerous opportunities this fall to venture out in field, forest and wetland on hunts specially designed to spark kids’ interest and involvement in the outdoors.

“We’re on a very short timeline for people to get registered for this fall’s youth hunts,” said Mike Kurre, mentoring program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “But these are opportunities youth and their parents won’t want to miss.”

Lottery applications for this fall’s special youth deer hunts, many of them at state parks, are due Friday, Aug. 19.

Applications for the mentored youth waterfowl hunt are due Monday, Aug. 22.

The deadline to apply for the mentored upland bird hunt is Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Information about each of the hunts and participation guidelines are online.

DNR has authorized 12 special youth deer hunts throughout Minnesota.

These hunts allow an adult to accompany a youth and assist with planning, scouting and hunting.

Adults are not allowed to hunt, or to possess a firearm or bow in the field.

“These hunts, as well as the separate special youth deer season in October, allow adults to focus their attention, knowledge and skills on the youth hunter,” Kurre said. “The best way is to learn by doing, and that’s exactly the opportunity these special youth hunts provide.”

Youth ages 12-15 who want to connect to waterfowl hunting can apply to be one of up to 60 participants in this year’s mentored youth waterfowl hunt on Saturday, Sept. 10.

DNR teamed up with Ducks Unlimited, the National Wildlife Refuge System, and the Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club to provide participants with hands-on education and outdoors experience.

Hunts will be conducted at Hamden Slough near Detroit Lakes, Morris Wildlife Production Area near Morris, Sherburne Refuge near St. Cloud, and several locations surrounding the Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club in Prior Lake.

Participants are selected in a lottery. Selected youth and their guardians work with an experienced waterfowl hunter, who does much more than take a youth and a guardian into the field on Youth Waterfowl Day.

Before the adventure, mentors take time to discuss the importance and necessity of habitat, as well as explain and demonstrate waterfowl hunting safety, ethics, techniques and skills.

Much like the waterfowl hunt, the mentored upland bird hunt on Saturday, Oct. 22, at locations across Minnesota gives inexperienced youth and women an unparalleled opportunity for hands-on learning about pheasant and grouse habitat, behavior and hunting.

DNR partners with Pheasants Forever, Woodcock Minnesota and the Ruffed Grouse Society to provide experienced mentors for participating youth and their guardians.

To participate, youth must be ages 12-17 and possess a valid firearms safety certificate and purchase valid game licenses.

Like the mentored waterfowl hunt, a parent or guardian must accompany the youth at all times, and participate in all hunt meetings and activities.

Women 18 and older may participate without a guardian provided they have a valid firearms safety certificate or apprentice hunter validation and all appropriate game licenses.

“Each of these opportunities does much more than provide an opportunity to hunt,” Kurre said. “Techniques, skills, safety, ethics, wildlife habitat and animal behavior receive just as much focus, so youth participants and their mentors gain a better understanding and appreciation of the outdoors.”

Famlies can learn together at DNR’s deer day Sunday
From the DNR

Families who want to learn the basics of deer hunting are invited to attend the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Deer Day program.

Women, men, and youth 10 and older accompanied by a guardian, are welcome to attend this free event.

Also, people age 16 and older who are taking the online firearms safety course can complete their field day requirement at this event.

The event, hosted by the DNR’s Becoming An Outdoors Family Program, will be from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14, at the Wilkens’ Farm near Mora in Kanabec County.

Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator, will lead off the day with a presentation on white-tailed deer.

Afterward, participants will move through a series of hands-on stations where they will learn how to track deer; deer stand placement and safety; and shotgun, rifle, archery and muzzleloader shooting.

Instructors will include DNR wildlife staff, DNR conservation officers, Becoming an Outdoor Family volunteers and members of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.

“Deer Day is a wonderful opportunity for anyone interested in learning the basic of deer hunting to get hands-on experience,” said Linda Bylander, Becoming An Outdoors Woman program coordinator.

Register by contacting Bylander by phone at (218) 833-8628 or by email at linda.bylander@state.mn.us. Lunch is included with the program.

Duck season offers more options, opens one week earlier
From the DNR

A season of change is coming for Minnesota waterfowl hunters.

Opening day, opening day shooting hours and the annual youth waterfowl hunt all will be earlier than in the past.

Bag limits for wood ducks and hen mallards will be higher than last year.

And north and south hunting zones have been added to provide additional hunting opportunity.

“We needed a change,” said Tom Landwehr, commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “We heard from waterfowl hunters that they supported these changes, and with waterfowl hunter numbers at record lows, we don’t expect season changes to negatively affect breeding populations.”

Landwehr said the 60-day, six-duck limit waterfowl season will open Saturday, Sept. 24, opening day shooting will start one-half hour before sunrise and youth waterfowl day will be Saturday, Sept. 10.

Duck bag limits are consistent with most other states in the Mississippi Flyway.

“The changes are designed to maintain Minnesota’s waterfowl hunting tradition by increasing opportunity and better utilizing the federal regulatory framework set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under which we operate,” Landwehr said.

The changes reflect input from a recently formed citizen waterfowl hunting focus group.

This year’s earlier-than-usual opener will allow hunting when greater numbers of migrating wood ducks and blue-winged teal are around, yet maintains late-season opportunities.

Hunting north of Minnesota Highway 210 – the North Duck Zone – will be allowed continuously through Tuesday, Nov. 22.
Hunters in the South Duck Zone – anywhere south of Highway 210 – will have a split season.

Hunting will be allowed Sept. 24-25 to take advantage of early migrations then close for five days.

The season in the south will resume on Saturday, Oct. 1, and continue through Sunday, Nov. 27, Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“As we set this year’s season, we looked hard for ways to improve hunter opportunities and satisfaction while maintaining healthy waterfowl populations,” said Landwehr. “I believe this framework strikes that balance.”

Legal shooting hours on Sept. 24 will be one-half hour before sunrise rather than the 9 a.m. start that has been in place for the past seven years.

Shooting hours end at 4 p.m. daily statewide until Saturday, Oct. 8, when hunting will be allowed until sunset.

Hunters will be able to keep up to four mallards, two of which may be hens, and three wood ducks.

The hen mallard and wood duck limits increased by one compared with recent years. Daily limits for pintail, scaup and redhead remain at two.

Hunters may still take one canvasback and black duck.

The possession limit is twice the daily bag limit.

Minnesota’s 2011 mallard breeding population is estimated at 283,000, which is 17 percent higher than last year’s estimate of 242,000 breeding mallards, 3 percent above the recent 10-year average and 26 percent above the long-term average.

The continental population is 9 percent above 2010 and 22 percent above the long-term average.

“While we are very concerned waterfowl hunter numbers have been in decline in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Canada,” said Landwehr, “fewer hunters has resulted in lower duck harvests. In Minnesota, we are confident our mallard population is strong enough to absorb an increase in harvest, given the reduced pressure.”

The special September Canada goose season will remain similar to last year. September Canada goose season opens Saturday, Sept. 3, and runs until Thursday, Sept. 22 statewide, with a bag limit of five Canada geese per day.

The opening of the 85-day regular Canada goose season coincides with the opening of duck season on Saturday, Sept. 24, and retains a daily bag limit of three.

Hunters north of Minnesota Highway 210 may hunt continuously through Saturday, Dec. 17.

Hunters in the south zone may hunt Sept. 24-25 and resume on Saturday, Oct. 1, continuously through Thursday, Dec. 22.

Another goose zone near Rochester will provide additional late hunting opportunity.

Minnesota’s traditional Youth Waterfowl Day will be conducted Saturday, Sept. 10, two weeks before the regular duck opener.

It is timed to provide youth with an opportunity to hunt abundant early migrating teal.

To participate, youth 15 and younger must obtain a free small game hunting license, a Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification, and be accompanied by a non-hunting adult.

Duck limits will be the same as the regular season and youth will be able to take five Canada geese.

“I’m really looking forward to this waterfowl season, and I hope Minnesota’s duck hunters are, too,” said Landwehr. “Given favorable weather conditions, Minnesota hunters should see more birds in the sky and more in their bag. And if that happens – and the entire conservation community continues to work together on providing the food, cover, nesting and refuges areas that waterfowl need – it will be a good thing for hunters, waterfowl, and the businesses whose livelihoods are linked to hunting.”

Hunters should consult the waterfowl hunting regulations supplement for additional details.

The booklet will be available at all license vendors and online by late August.

CO weekly reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers in Stearns and Wright counties.
CO Mies also checked ATVs along with several boat and water work crews.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) handled calls on injured deer, orphaned animals and geese doing damage to crops.
State parks and trails were patrolled for illegal activity.
Anglers and boaters were checked on area lakes.
A boat and water safety detail was worked on Lake Minnetonka with CO Le finding multiple violations.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Mound) participated in a boat and water safety detail on Lake Minnetonka.
Numerous violations were found including BUI, no lights, no PFDs, transom riding, underage consumption of alcohol, overloaded boats, and no registration.
She also assisted the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Water Patrol with a drowning on Lake Minnetonka.
She responded to a TIP call in Minneapolis for a fishermen using illegal equipment.
Other fishing violations included overlimit of sunfish and no fishing license.

• CO Angela Graham (Hutchinson) patrolled state and county parks, checked anglers, boaters, and ATVs.
Officer Graham reports having numerous Personal Watercraft violations over the past week and would like to remind owners to review the boating guide/laws prior to operation.

• CO Wayne Hatlestad (Litchfield) checked angling, boating, and PWC activity.
Additional time was spent checking and advising boaters of invasive species.
Hatlestad also assisted on a big game violation, a commercial minnow check, and a pheasant count.
Time was also spent handling various complaints, including ATV, litter, and dogs chasing deer.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) reports a slow bite around the area with only a few lakes producing some pan fish.
CO Oberg spent the majority of the week working angling and invasive species enforcement.
Enforcement action continues for angling license violations.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Finding a place to ride an ATV or other OHV machine takes a little research.

Minnesota offers different riding opportunities.

Are there different levels of riding opportunities – from novice to adventurous? And how can riders find the trail that fits their needs?

A: Minnesota is using the standard ski hill symbols to identify level of difficulty.

The symbols are: green circle – easy; blue square – moderate; and black diamond – technical or advanced.

Most public OHV trails are green, with some blue levels available.

The Red Dot and Spider Lake systems are two sites that have some blue level trails.

At this point, the only public riding area with black diamond level opportunities is the Iron Range OHV Recreation Area in Gilbert.

It is important for riders to know their abilities and know their machines.

Most of these trails do not provide alternative routes; once the course is started, it must be finished.

The most advance trails are generally one way as well.

To find a list of OHV trails go to www.mndnr.gov/ohv/index.html.