DNR releases proposal for wolf harvest season this fall

January 30, 2012

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is proposing an inaugural gray wolf hunting and trapping season this fall that calls for a conservative harvest quota of 400 animals.

Wolf research indicates Minnesota’s wolf population could sustain a higher quota, but DNR officials say they are taking a measured approach to the state’s first season.

The proposal sets a quota of 6,000 licenses that will be allocated through a lottery system.

Only one license will be allowed per hunter or trapper.

Hunting would be allowed with firearms, archery equipment and muzzleloaders.

Calls and bait would be allowed with restrictions.

The season is proposed for the end of November and would be closed once the quota is met.

Hunters would be required to register animals on the same day they are harvested and data would be collected from carcasses.

Other states with harvest seasons for wolves and other big game animals similarly monitor seasons and close them when quotas are met.

DNR outlined its proposals to the Legislature Thursday, before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee.

While the legislatively approved wolf management plan authorizes hunting and trapping seasons, the agency is seeking additional authorization from the state Legislature this session to offer a wolf license and implement other management strategies.

Legislators will have to pass a bill by the end of the session and the governor will have to sign it in order for a season to be held.

The DNR will also take public comments prior to finalizing and implementing a wolf season.

The initial season will allow wolf biologists to collect information on hunter and trapper interest and harvest success and will provide biological information on harvested wolves to help inform future wolf population management and monitoring.

The state has an estimated population of 3,000 gray wolves and past surveys indicate the population is stable.

Wolves are prolific, survival of young is generally high and populations can offset effects of mortality caused by hunting and trapping seasons, DNR officials say.

The DNR intends to manage wolves as a prized and high-value fur species by setting the season when pelts are most prime, limiting the take through a lottery and requiring animals be registered.

DNR plans to adjust the framework of future wolf seasons based on information collected during the inaugural season.

This adaptive management approach will result in progressive changes as the DNR learns how to best manage a wolf season in Minnesota.

The wolf harvest quota does consider other causes of mortality such as removal due to livestock and domestic animal depredation and threats and vehicle collisions.

The agency will also be undertaking a new wolf population survey starting next winter.

Minnesota’s population of Great Lakes gray wolves transitions from federal protection to state management on Friday, Jan. 27.

That is when the DNR implements its state management plan, which is designed to ensure their long-term survival of wolves in the state.

The agency has three lead conservation officers designated to ensure enforcement of the state’s wolf laws by conservation officers throughout the wolf range.

The agency also has a wolf research biologist and management specialist.

Information on changes to regulations on taking wolves to protect domestic animals can be found online at www.mndnr.gov/wolves.

Minnesota Deer Hunter’s banquet

TThe Minnesota River Valley Chapter of the MDHA is having its 29th annual banquet Saturday, Feb. 18.

Everyone is welcome to attend. Social hour starts at 5 p.m., dinner is at 7 p.m., and the program starts at 8 p.m.

Cost for the banquet is $25 for adults and $15 for youth.

It will take place at the KC Hall in Shakopee, which is located at 1760 East 4th Avenue.

For tickets or more details, contact Barb Breeggemann at (952) 445-4396.

Kingston Lion’s Fishing contest Feb. 4

The 24th annual Kingston Lions Fishing Contest will take place Saturday, Feb. 4 from 1 to 3 p.m. on the northwest side of Lake Francis.

The cost is $5 per person, with prizes be awarded for the biggest walleye, northern pike, and bass.

Prizes will also be awarded for crappies and sunfish.

There will also be a drawing for prizes, and the concessions will be available at the contest by the Kingston Lions Club.

Da Shiver Ice Fishing tourney Feb. 4

The sixth annual Da Shiver Ice Fishing Tournament is Saturday, Feb. 4, from noon to 3 p.m. on the west end of Lake Sarah. The event benefits the Crow River Youth Hockey Association.

The early bird cost to fish is $35. After Jan. 20, the fee is $40.

Prizes are awarded to the 10 biggest fish, and door prizes will be given away throughout the day. The event also includes a raffle drawing for an Ice Castle fish house.

For more information contact Doug Lawman at dashiver@yahoo.com, (763) 479-1206 or (612) 991-5159.

DNR program pays landowners to allow public hunting on their land
From the DNR

Landowners in 21 southwestern Minnesota counties can earn money by allowing public hunting on their private land through the Walk-In Access (WIA) program, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

WIA, which is entering its second year as a pilot program, targets privately owned parcels of 40 acres or more that are already enrolled in a conservation program such as Reinvest In Minnesota or Conservation Reserve Program.

River bottoms, wetlands and other high-quality habitat will also be considered for WIA this year.

WIA pays landowners by the acre to allow hunting access.

Bonuses are added if more than 140 contiguous acres are enrolled, if the land is within one-half mile of existing state or federal hunting land, or if a multi-year agreement is signed.

This year’s sign-up period goes from Feb. 1 to April 15.

Local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) offices are handling program details and enrollments.

“We had a great response from hunters and landowners last year,” said Marybeth Block, WIA coordinator. She said that 90 landowners enrolled about 9,000 acres in 2011.

In 2012, she hopes to have a total of 25,000 acres enrolled.

“Studies across the country say that hunter numbers are declining because it’s getting tougher to find places to hunt,” Block said. “I see WIA as one way to address this, while also rewarding landowners for keeping their land in high-quality habitat.”

Block said that the program is entirely voluntary for landowners.

Recreational use laws provide extra liability protection for WIA acres.

DNR conservation officers will address trespass and hunting violations.

Enrolled acres are for walk-in traffic only; no vehicles are allowed on conservation land.

Parking is along roads or in designated parking areas.

WIA land is for public hunting only. No target practice, trapping, dog training, camping, horseback riding or fires are allowed.

Similar rules apply to WIAs as to other public wildlife lands.

Once private land is enrolled in the program, bright yellow-green hexagon signs are placed at the property boundaries.

More information on WIA and a map of the 21 counties involved in the program can be found at mndnr.gov/walkin.

Locations of parcels enrolled for 2012 will be on the website in August.

The WIA program is a partnership between the DNR, SWCD, Board of Soil and Water Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is funding the first two years of the pilot program.

Remember to help wildlife during tax season
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Nongame Wildlife Program is urging Minnesotans to remember to help wildlife by donating to the Wildlife Checkoff Fund on their tax forms.

Every dollar donated helps ensure the future of wildlife in Minnesota.

“The tough economy has affected our budget, and donations are down by more than 10 percent,” said Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor. “It is critical to the survival of the Nongame Program that donations maintain or increase.”

Eighty percent of funding for the Nongame Wildlife Program comes from donations to the Wildlife Checkoff Fund.

It is unlike other government programs that depend primarily on general tax dollars or license fees for funding.

“Every year, the number of people donating to the checkoff decreases, with fewer than one person in 35 households remembering wildlife at tax time,” Henderson said. “While we appreciate those who currently donate to our program, we need help from more Minnesotans.”

The tax deductible, voluntary donations fund more than 80 conservation projects, including monitoring of loon populations; surveys of wood turtles, ospreys, timber rattlesnakes and dragonflies; frog and toad research, habitat restoration and protection; monitoring of heron rookeries; and protection and management of important wildlife habitat for bald eagles, piping plovers, peregrine falcons and other wildlife at risk.

Recoveries of the bald eagle, trumpeter swan, peregrine falcon and other species were made possible in part by the donations to the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff Fund on state income and property tax forms.

The opportunity to donate to help wildlife first appeared on state tax forms in 1981 to provide funding for the protection of nongame wildlife in Minnesota.

Henderson suggested that people tell their tax preparer they would like to personally help Minnesota’s wildlife by donating to the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff fund on their tax forms.

Donations can also be made online any time of the year at www.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/nongame/checkoff.html.

CO Weekly Reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers last week.
CO Mies also worked on investigations along with a wetland complaint.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) checked anglers and trappers in Wright County.
Reller also gave a ride-along to a student attending Steven’s Point College.
Enforcement action was taken for angling with extra lines and ATV violations.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) gave a presentation to Mayer Lutheran High School students on hunting and fishing regulations.
After the presentation they shot clay pigeons and went ice fishing.
CO Walter had a meeting with a landowner and the SWCD office on illegal drainage of wetlands near New Germany; restoration is being worked on.
CO Walter met with organizers of the Vintage Snowmobile Event on ice thickness and safety of Lake Waconia where the event will be held Jan. 27-29.
Snowmobile trails were patrolled but with the minimal amount of snow only a few snowmobiles were observed.
Several calls were returned on nuisance coyotes in Chanhassen and Chaska but the problems were in city limits where no discharge of firearms is allowed.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Mound) completed a background investigation on a conservation officer candidate.
She followed up on two wetland violations in Mound and Shorewood.
She checked fishermen on area lakes finding violations of extra lines on a designated trout lake, unattended lines, no shelter id and no fish house reflectors.
She also spent time checking ATV and snowmobile activity.

• CO Wayne Hatlestad (Litchfield) checked angling and spearing activity.
Additional time was spent checking trapping and small game hunting activity.
Hatlestad also checked ATV and snowmobile activity on area lakes.
Hatlestad also continued work on a pre-employment background check, and spoke at a snowmobile safety class in Cedar Mills.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Do Minnesota bats have white-nose syndrome?

A: White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a disease that has devastated cave-dwelling bat populations in the eastern United States.

There is no evidence that WNS has reached Minnesota, but it has been found in bats as close as Ontario and Indiana (see map at www.batcon.org/images/stories/WNS_StatusMap_20111004_WNS_WebpageLarge.jpg).

WNS is caused by a fungus, Geomyces destructans, that is native to Europe.

Symptoms include white fungal growth on the bats’ muzzles and wing membranes and daytime flying outside their hibernacula during winter.

The fungus appears to spread primarily through bat-to-bat contact, but also can be transmitted by humans and their gear when they visit affected caves and mines.

The disease appears to only affect bats; there is no known threat to humans or other animals.

How you can help Minnesota’s bats?

To avoid possible human spread of WNS, observe all cave and mine closures and do not enter caves or mines where bats hibernate.

If you have visited caves in states known to have WNS, decontaminate your clothing, footwear and gear.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decontamination protocols are available at www.fws.gov/WhiteNoseSyndrome/pdf/WNSDecontaminationProtocol_v012511.pdf.

To help the DNR track this disease, report dead or dying bats, or bats flying during the day in the winter.

Go to the DNR Bat Observation Report Web page at www.mndnr.gov/reportbats or call the toll-free DNR Animal Report Line at 888-345-1730.