DNR urges snowmobile safety

December 24, 2012

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Recent snowfall will likely bring out more Minnesota snowmobilers and that means there’s an increased chance of an accident, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

There were six snowmobile-related deaths in Minnesota during the 2012 snowmobile season.

That compares to 13 fatalities in 2011 and 19 fatalities in 2010.

The usual causes of snowmobile accidents are operator inexperience, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and high speeds.

“Snowmobiles can travel as fast, or faster, than an automobile, and require every bit as much or more experience to operate,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR enforcement education program coordinator.

The speed limit for all snowmobile trails and public lands and waters is 50 miles per hour.

Hammer noted that today’s sleds can easily do 70, if not 100, miles per hour.

Unfortunately, they don’t stop like a vehicle or offer the same protection.

“Speed kills and that is a fact with snowmobiles,” said Hammer.

Going too fast can also cause snowmobile drivers to “overdrive” their snowmobile’s headlight.

Even at 30 miles per hour, it can take a much longer distance to stop on ice than the headlight shines.

Many fatal snowmobile through-the-ice accidents occur because the machine was traveling too fast for the operator to stop when the headlamp finally illuminated the hole in the ice.

Snowmobilers also need to be alert on all trails. They might not realize trails go over ponds or lakes where the ice might not be formed yet.

Many accidents also happen when snowmobiles collide with fixed objects such as trees, fences, stumps, rocks, logs and culverts.

Often these objects are partially or completely hidden by snow.

Snowmobilers sometimes hit one of these before they see it.

“Always be on the lookout for hidden wires, especially in areas that may have been farmed at one time or another,” Hammer said. “Too many accidents have been caused by running into wires in fields, guide wires next to poles and roads, barbed wire and chains used as road closures. Particularly in unfamiliar areas, you must drive at a speed which will allow you to stop quickly.”

Minnesota residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, must complete a DNR snowmobile safety training course before they can legally ride a snowmobile anywhere in Minnesota, including private land.

By taking a snowmobile safety course, students learn about the machine, laws, safe operation, ethics of the sport and how to avoid the most common causes of snowmobile accidents, Hammer said.

DNR snowmobile safety courses can be completed by either attending a snowmobile safety training course from a DNR-certified instructor or by CD.

To obtain the Snowmobile Safety Training CD, or for general information, call (651) 296-6157, or toll-free 888-646-6367, 800-366-8917 or email info.dnr@state.mn.us.

More than 1,800 volunteer instructors teach DNR snowmobile safety courses across the state.

For more information on the dates and locations of these courses, visit the DNR website: www.mndnr.gov or call toll-free 800-366-8917.

Prairie Archers steak/shrimp dinner

Prairie Archers will be hosting a steak/shrimp dinner at the Dodge House in Lester Prairie Monday, Dec. 31 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Options for the dinner include steak and shrimp combo ($13), steak ($11), pork chop ($10), six shrimp ($9), and ribeye ($15).

Each meal includes, coffee or milk, baked potato, tossed salad, bread, and dessert.

Reservations need to be made by Friday, Dec. 28 before 6 p.m., and be called in to the Dodge House at (320) 395-2877 or to Jim Richardson at (320) 395-2721.

DNR issues ice warning for aerated lakes
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) warns ice anglers, snowmobilers, skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts to use caution when going onto any lake covered or partially covered with ice, especially those that feature aeration systems.

“Open water areas created by aeration systems can shift or change shapes depending on weather conditions,” said Marilyn Danks, DNR aquatic biologist. “Leaks may develop in air lines creating other areas of weak ice or open water.”

Aeration systems are generally operated from the time lakes freeze until ice break-up in the spring.

They help prevent winterkill of fish, but they also create areas of open water and thin ice, which are significant hazards.

Two types of signs are used to post aerated lakes: “Thin Ice” and “Warning” signs.

The person who applies for the permit (permittee) is to maintain “Warning” signs at all commonly used access points to the lake.

This sign warns people approaching the lake that an aeration system is in operation and to use extreme caution.

The permittee must also put up “Thin Ice” signs to mark the area’s perimeter.

Some municipalities may have ordinances that prohibit entering into the thin ice area and/or prohibit the night use of motorized vehicles on lakes with aeration systems in operation.

These local regulations are often posted at accesses where they apply.

Aeration systems are inspected for safety and compliance with regulations by permittees and DNR personnel.

For more information, call a regional fisheries office or the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367.

The following is a list of the area lakes that will likely have aeration systems in operation this winter.

When there are lakes in the county with the same name as the aerated lake, the nearest town is shown in brackets.

Names in parentheses are alternate lake names.

Those names followed by an asterisk are newly aerated lakes.
• Carver: Eagle, Lucy*, Oak, Rice Marsh, Susan.
• Hennepin: Arrowhead, Bass, Crystal, Gleason, Hadley, Hyland, Indianhead, Mitchell, Penn (Lower Penn), Powderhorn, Rebecca [Maple Plain], Red Rock, Round, Snelling, Sweeney-Twin, Thomas, Wirth, Wolfe.
• Scott: Cedar (New Prague), Cleary, Crystal, Krenz(Sunset), Lakefront Park Pond, Legends, McColl, McMahon (Carls), Murphy, O’Dowd, Thole.
• Wright: Augusta, Crawford, Dean, Foster,* Little Waverly, Louisa, Mink, Somers, Sylvia.*
• McLeod: Marion, Swan [Silver Lake], Winsted.
• Meeker: Star, Thompson.

Give the gift of safety this holiday season
From the DNR

The holiday season is one of the most popular times of the year for parents to give their child a hunting rifle, an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or a snowmobile as a gift, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Therefore, it’s also important to give them the second part of the gift – a safety training program offered by the DNR.

“DNR outdoor education safety training programs teach responsibility at an early age,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR enforcement education program coordinator. “Safety is the best gift you can give your youngster this holiday season. And what better way to do that than by enrolling your son or daughter in one of the DNR’s many safety program offerings.”

According to Hammer, children enjoy outdoor sports and activities because they are fun, challenging and safe, but it’s up to the parents to decide if the youngster is mature enough for shooting sports or operating a motorized recreational vehicle.

It is also up to parents to decide if they themselves are prepared to teach safe firearm handling or safe recreational vehicle operation.

“Keep in mind that kids will be kids, and take that into account when buying a firearm, ATV, snowmobile or any other type of outdoor recreational gift,” Hammer said. “You know how well your child follows directions and handles responsibility. You know if your child is mature enough to be mindful of his or her own safety and the safety of others.”

Stocking stuffers include snowmobile safety CD training courses, ATV CDs, a boat and water safety packet, off-highway motorcycle CDs and off-road vehicle CDs.

All course materials are free by contacting the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll-free, 888-646-6367 or info.dnr@state.mn.us.

Free hunter education courses and class locations can be found on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov.

Support the outdoors with a year-end donation to the DNR
From the DNR

There’s still time to make a year-end gift to the outdoors through a donation to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

A year-end donation may be tax-deductible and will help ensure that Minnesota’s natural resources are protected and not lost for future generations. Monetary donations can be designated to support a specific project or program.

Choices include:

• Nongame wildlife program supports projects to protect birds, animals and their habitats, conduct surveys, and fund research for nongame species.
Eighty percent of this program is funded through tax-deductible donations.
Donate online at www.mndnr.gov/eco/nongame/checkoff.html or have a tax preparer check the loon box on the tax form.

• Minnesota Conservation Volunteer (MCV) is the magazine of Minnesota’s lands, waters, and wildlife.
MCV relies on reader contributions to deliver award-winning stories and photographs six times a year.
Connect with the great outdoors. Subscribe and give at www.mndnr.gov/magazine.

• Walk-In Access program allows public hunting on private land.
In two years, the program has grown to 15,000 acres across 21 counties in southwestern Minnesota.
Donations will allow the program to expand and grow, providing more opportunities for hunters to get on the land.
Visit www.mndnr.gov/walkin for more information.

• Donations can also be directed to the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Critical habitat matching program.
This program matches cash or land donations dollar for dollar with funds generated by the critical habitat license plate fees (deer and loon and other conservation plates) or other appropriations.

Funds are used to acquire or develop critical habitat in Minnesota.

Go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/grants/land/rim.html for more information.

Financial gifts of any amount can be also mailed to: DNR Donations, 500 Lafayette Road, Box 25, St. Paul, MN 55155.

Make checks payable to: DNR and specify the program in the memo.

For more information, call the DNR Information Center, (651) 296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: I’d like to go cross-country skiing. How do I find out about which trails are open, and the conditions?

A: Throughout the winter, DNR personnel monitor the condition of dozens of ski and snowmobile trails maintained by the agency.

Snow depth and trail condition information from Minnesota’s state parks, state trails and state forests is made available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/snow_depth.

The information is updated at least once a week on Thursdays after 2 p.m. and more frequently when conditions warrant.

Available information includes a map of snow depths across Minnesota; and a trail-by-trail description of snow conditions, trail base and grooming activity.

Additional location-based information such as driving and parking directions, trail maps, facilities and a landscape narrative is also provided.

Remember that all cross-country skiers age 16 and older must carry a Great Minnesota Ski Pass on ski trails in state parks or forests, or on state or grant-in-aid trails.

The ski pass fee ($6/daily, $20/one-season, $55/three-season) helps support and maintain Minnesota’s cross-country ski trail system.

For more information on how to purchase a pass, visit www.mndnr.gov/skiing or call the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367.

CO weekley reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) worked on wetland complaints.
Mies also investigated a deer case.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) finished up COC Silgjord’s first phase of field training.
Snowmobile activity was observed throughout the week with a high percentage of violations being found.
A TIP call was handled with an archery hunter being cited for hunting over bait.
Division snowmobile training was attended at Carlos Avery WMA.
Enforcement action for the week included failure to display snowmobile registration, failure to display valid trail sticker, speeding, and operating a snowmobile without a safety certificate.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) patrolled snowmobile trails for a few days but the warm weather and rain melted the snow.
A few ice anglers were checked with CO Kahre on Medicine Lake finding 100 percent violation rate.
Coyote hunters were out with the fresh snow having some success.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) investigated a TIP call of a possible over limit of deer and assisted with a call of nuisance turkeys.
CO Mueller also attended a snowmobile safety class in Fairfax.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) worked snowmobile and predator hunting activity.
CO Oberg also spoke at a snowmobile safety class in the area.
Officer Oberg responded to a call of sick and injured geese in Glencoe.