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2012 was a bad year for poachers

February 11, 2013

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

A record number of Turn In Poachers (TIP) hotline calls referred to conservation officers (CO) with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) led to a significant increase in poaching arrests in 2012.

TIP calls referred to COs jumped 54 percent in 2012 to 2,051, compared with 1,328 in 2011. The previous record was 1,866 in 1981, when TIP was founded.

Last year’s calls led to 359 arrests, mostly related to deer, fish and waterfowl violations.

The arrests represent a 29 percent increase over 2011. The record high is 428 arrests in 1991.

“Many good cases are the result of citizens calling the TIP hotline at 800-652-9093,” said Col. Jim Konrad, DNR Enforcement director.

Konrad said the record increase in TIP calls that were referred to COs and resulted in arrests indicates that more people are reporting illegal activities they see afield. He noted that eyewitness reports are strong tools in combating violations.

Last May, CO Eric Schettler of Fairmont received four TIP calls within 30 minutes about possible fish over-limits. The calls resulted in enforcement action against three poachers with 198 crappies more than the legal limit, three walleyes out of season and two nonresident anglers without licenses. Restitution and fines for the poachers were $1,550.

“If it wasn’t for TIP, these guys would have gotten away,” Schettler said.

A TIP call also led to three men catching and keeping a lot of fish from a Douglas County lake. The call contained important information: a description of the suspects, a license plate number of their vehicle and their location.

“A conservation officer has only one set of eyes and covers 650 square miles,” Konrad said. “If the public is concerned about natural resources, every person is another set of eyes that can help catch those violating the law.”

Since 1981 the TIP hotline has fielded thousands of reports of fish and wildlife violations, paying out nearly $358,000 in cash rewards that lead to arrests. Nearly half of informants turn the reward down.

Anyone witnessing a fish or wildlife violation is encouraged to contact the nearest conservation officer, law enforcement agency or the 24 hour toll-free TIP hotline at 800-652-9093. Cell phone users can dial #TIP.

Prairie Archers Sweethearts dinner

Prairie Archers will be hosting a steak/shrimp Sweethearts dinner at the Dodge House in Lester Prairie Saturday, Feb. 16 from 4 to 8 p.m.

It will be a prime dinner with a cost of $16. For non-prime rib lovers, there is a pork chop option for $10.

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

Reservations need to be made by Thursday, Feb. 14 before 8 p.m., and be called in at either (320) 395-2877 or (320) 395-2721.

Firearms safety class in Mayer

Minnesota Firearms Safety Hunter Education will take place at the Mayer Community Center Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7 a.m. for all persons 12 years of age and older (youth must be 12 years old by the next hunting season. Adults also welcomed.)

Parental consent is required and there is a small fee charged.

This course is sponsored by the Mayer - New Germany Sportsman’s Club.

For more information, call Beth Schrupp at (952) 442-4443 (days), or Doug at (612) 718-7188.

Mayer Community Center is located at 413 Bluejay Avenue in Mayer.

Conceal and carry class at Waverly Gun Club in February

The Waverly Gun Club will be having a conceal and carry class Monday, Feb. 18 and Wednesday, Feb. 20 at Waverly Gun Club, Waverly.

Call Harry at (763) 682-1576 to register.

Future dates are Monday, March 18 and Wednesday, March 20.

Firearm safety class at Waverly Gun Club in February

The Waverly Gun Club will offer firearm safey classes beginning Monday, Feb. 11 running for eight weeks, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Call Tracey at 612-910-2198

Moose population drops dramatically; hunting season will not open
From the DNR

A recently completed aerial survey of moose in northeastern Minnesota indicates the rate of population decline has accelerated dramatically.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced today that the northeast population declined 35 percent from last year.

Since 2010, the moose population has declined 52 percent.

In response to the survey results, the DNR will not open a 2013 state moose hunting season or consider opening future seasons unless the population recovers.

“The state’s moose population has been in decline for years but never at the precipitous rate documented this winter,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner. “This is further and definitive evidence the population is not healthy. It reaffirms the conservation community’s need to better understand why this iconic species of the north is disappearing from our state.”

Landwehr stressed the state’s limited hunts are not the cause of the population decline.

“Yet taking this action is reasonable and responsible in light of latest data and an uncertain future,” Landwehr said
Based on the aerial survey conducted in January, the new population estimate is 2,760 animals, down from 4,230 in 2012. The population estimate was as high as 8,840 as recently as 2006.

Completed in 2011, the DNR’s moose management and research plan established biological and management thresholds for closing the season.

While those thresholds have not been met, DNR managers did not anticipate such a precipitous decline in the overall moose population when the thresholds were established.

“It’s now prudent to control every source of mortality we can as we seek to understand causes of population decline,’’ said Landwehr, explaining the rationale for closing the season.

To help solve why moose are rapidly dying, the DNR is leading the largest and most high-tech multi-partner moose research effort ever initiated.

Starting in January, wildlife researchers began fitting 100 moose in northeastern Minnesota with GPS tracking and data collection collars.

This multi-year research project will investigate the causes of adult moose mortality, calf mortality, calf survival, moose use of existing habitat and habitat quality.

To date, 92 collars have been placed on moose in the Grand Marais, Ely, and Two Harbors areas.

Information and insights from this pioneering research may help identify management options that could stop or slow the moose population decline.

Rolf Peterson, a research professor at Michigan Technological University who is renowned for his study of the wolf-moose relationship on Lake Superior’s Isle Royale and chaired the DNR’s former moose advisory committee, concurred with the DNR’s commitment to conduct pioneering research and discontinue hunting until more is known.

“The DNR’s decision to suspend hunting makes sense given the disturbing and abrupt decline in moose numbers,” Peterson said. “To me, the big news is the incredibly disappointing survey results. The hunting decision is simply a logical reaction to an uncertain situation that researchers are trying to resolve.”

The DNR has conducted aerial moose population surveys in northeastern Minnesota since 1960.

The survey involves flying transects in 49 randomly selected plots spread across the Arrowhead region of Minnesota.

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and 1854 Treaty Authority contributed funding and provided personnel for the annual survey.

A copy of the aerial survey report is available online at www.mndnr.gov/moose, a Web page that also provides field updates from moose researchers, an interactive map of the study area as well as photographs and video of field research activities.

DNR recommends trimming oak trees before April 1
From the DNR

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds Minnesotans to prune oak trees before April 1 to prevent new oak wilt infestations.

“The best time to prune oak trees is during the winter months when the beetles that carry the oak wilt fungus are dormant,” said Ryan Blaedow, DNR forest health specialist.

Beetle activity usually peaks between April and June; however, oak wilt can be transmitted any time during the growing season when it is warm enough for the beetles to feed on the sap of wounded oaks.

“The key to keep oak wilt from spreading is to remove diseased trees before spore mats form and by preventing the transfer of spores to healthy trees,” Blaedow said. “If your oaks need to be pruned, get the work done before April 1, otherwise wait until fall. Unfortunately, people who prune their oaks in the spring find their tree is dead by the end of the summer.”

To prevent the spread of oak wilt, follow these management guidelines:

• If possible, trim oak trees during the winter.
• Avoid wounding oak trees between April and July when sap beetles actively feed.
• Immediately treat wounds with pruning paint during spring and summer months to stop flow.
• Remove diseased trees before the following spring to prevent spore mat development.
• It is best to remove trees in the winter to avoid wounding neighboring trees.
• To dry wood properly, cover split wood with plastic and bury the edges for at least six months to kill the oak wilt fungus and any insects.

Oak wilt is an aggressive disease that affects many species of oak, and kills thousands of oak trees each year in forests, wood lots and home landscapes in the eastern United States.

Trees in the red oak group are more susceptible to oak wilt than trees in the white oak group.

In Minnesota, black oak, northern pin oak and northern red oak belong to the red oak group, while bur oak, swamp white oak and white oak belong to the white oak group.

The disease is caused by a nonnative fungus that invades the water-conducting vessels of oak trees.

Oak trees respond to the invasion by plugging their vessels, which causes leaves to wilt from the top of the crown downward.

Infected trees in the red oak group often shed their leaves and start to die within a few weeks of symptom onset, while trees in the white oak group usually die slowly over one to many years.

Oak wilt can easily spread from infested trees to healthy trees through root connections.

Visit the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/treecare/forest_health/oakwilt/index.html for more information on oak wilt and how to prevent its spread.

DNR, NWTF mentored women’s turkey applications due Feb. 19
From the DNR

First-time adult women turkey hunters have the chance to step afield this spring and learn from an experienced National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) volunteer.

Women are encouraged to sign-up with an adult friend or family member for an on-the-ground adventure in wild turkey hunting.

An application and general information for the mid-May wild turkey hunt is available at www.mndnr.gov/discover.

The application deadline is midnight on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

Participants will be selected through a random lottery if oversubscribed.

“First-time women turkey hunters will learn life-long outdoor skills and how to be a responsible hunter,” said Mike Kurre, mentoring program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Thanks to the NWTF, their outdoor coaches will help create family-oriented hunters.”

The program is based on the successful mentored youth hunts where 2,000 youth have been introduced during the last 10 years to this unique educational and hunting experience.

With women being one of the fasting growing segments of the hunting society, the need is there.

Most hunts will occur Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, at several locations in Hugo area (northeast of the metro), with some areas yet to be determined.

Hunts include a mandatory turkey clinic leading up to an actual hunt.

All participants will hunt on private land thanks to the generosity of private landowners and the NWTF volunteers who obtained permission.

To be eligible, a women hunter must be 18 on or before Saturday, May 18.

All participants must possess a valid firearms safety certificate; purchase an apprentice hunter validation; or be born before Dec. 13, 1979.

The program is for first-time turkey hunters or with very limited experience (preference given to first-time hunters).

Participants will be assigned a NWTF volunteer coach, who must accompany them throughout the entire hunt.

Participation in the hunts is only restricted by the number of volunteers and private lands that are available.

Property owners, who have an interest in providing a quality experience in turkey hunting, or NWTF members who could share their hunting expertise, should contact Keith Carlson at: kcanoka@comcast.net for information about lending some land or a hand.

MN DNR debuts video-streaming bald eagle camera
From the DNR

Once pushed to the brink of extinction, the American bald eagle has become a poster child for the value of endangered species laws, and now a pair of the iconic birds will be playing a part in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) efforts to get more young people and families excited about the great outdoors.

Starting Feb. 5, live video from a nesting pair of bald eagles will be featured on the DNR’s website at www.eaglecam.dnr.state.mn.us.

A video camera was installed above the nest late last year with help from an Xcel Energy crew with a boom truck, and Floyd Security.

Located in the Twin Cities metro region, the eagle nest already contains three eggs that are expected to hatch sometime in early to mid-February.

The DNR is not disclosing the exact location of the nest to prevent it from drawing crowds that might disrupt the eagles.

“Unlike a lot of major metropolitan areas, the Twin Cities still has some pretty spectacular natural areas where wildlife such as eagles can flourish,” said Keith Parker, the DNR’s Central Region director. “We’re hoping that people will get excited watching this eagle family and get out to one of our state, county or city parks to experience nature first-hand.”

The eagle camera was paid for by DNR’s Nongame Wildlife program, which is largely funded by donations, especially those made when Minnesotans file their state income and property taxes.

Lines on the Minnesota income tax form and property tax form, marked with a drawing of a loon, give taxpayers the option to donate to the program, a feature often referred to as the “chickadee check-off.”

The Nongame Wildlife program works to protect and preserve more than 800 species of animals in the state that are not traditionally hunted or harvested.

In addition to bald eagles, populations of species such as trumpeter swans, loons, and American white pelicans directly benefit by contributions to the check-off.

Citizens can personally help Minnesota wildlife by donating on their tax forms, or directly online at www.mndnr.gov/nongame/checkoff.

Questions of the week
From the DNR

Q: How is Minnesota’s pheasant population being affected by the lack of snow this winter?

A: The lack of snow is a great benefit to pheasants.

Pheasants rely heavily on waste grain in crop fields for food, which becomes buried under snow in severe winters.

The DNR provides food plots on wildlife management areas, and some private landowners do the same, but only a small fraction of Minnesota’s pheasant population has access to food plots.

Similarly, pheasants rely on grass, cattail and brushy habitat for winter cover.

In severe winters, grass is buried in deep snow and not useful as cover. But in mild winters, cover is widely available.

This should result in greater survival of birds over winter.

CO weekley reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers.
CO Mies worked on several tip calls with an arrest made.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) gave a law presentation to a snowmobile safety class in Buffalo this week.
Reller also attended several days of department training at Camp Ripley.
Several complaints were handled about litter and angling violations also this week.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) attended a meeting with the City of Independence on the Lake Robina WMA.
Several illegal trapping complaints are under investigation for unattended and unmarked traps.
A call of coyotes killing deer behind a house was responded to in Norwood.
Several violations were detected on the Luce Line State Trail operating ATVs and trucks to enter Oak Lake for fishing, only snowmobiles are allowed on the trail.
Aeration inspections were done on area lakes.
The Waconia Lions wild game feed fund raiser was attended.
Enforcement action was taken for no reflectors and unmarked fish shelters, no angling licenses in possession, trespassing on posted private property, over limit of crappies, operate ATV and truck on Luce Line State Trail.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) spent the week checking anglers on area lakes.
There were two fishing tournaments in the area with minimal success as far as the number of fish caught during the tournament.
CO Mueller also followed up on a trespassing complaint from the previous week with coyote hunters.
Enforcement action was taken for the violation.
An accidental catch of an otter was also reported.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) spent most of the week working fishing enforcement.
Fishing has been slow in the area but northern pike continue to get speared.
CO Oberg also spent time working snowmobile and ATV enforcement in the area.
CO Oberg followed up and finished a case from the fall.
Officer Oberg also attended taser certification training in New Ulm.