More small game hunters go afield in 2012; pheasant, duck harvests up

September 2, 2013

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

More small game hunters ventured into Minnesota’s fields and forests in 2012, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) annual small game survey.

The number of pheasant and duck hunters increased 8 percent and corresponded with a slight increase in pheasant and duck stamps sales.

In 2012, an estimated 84,000 people hunted pheasants and 90,400 hunted ducks.

Although ruffed grouse are on the downward side of their 10-year population cycle, the number of grouse hunters increased 6 percent in 2012 to 97,200.

Statewide estimates show that hunters harvested 264,000 pheasants, 835,000 ducks and 355,000 ruffed grouse.

Harvest of ducks and pheasants in 2012 was comparable to 2011, with individuals taking an average of 9.2 ducks and 3.1 pheasants per hunter.

Harvest averages from 2011 showed the average hunter took 8.8 ducks and 2.6 pheasants.

Hunter harvest of pheasants and ducks likely was higher because an unusually mild winter of 2011-2012 followed by a warm spring allowed for above average winter survival and favorable reproductive conditions.

The harvest rate for ruffed grouse dropped from 4 birds per hunter in 2011 to 2.6 birds in 2012.

That decline is consistent with the current downward phase of the grouse population cycle.

DNR annually surveys small game hunters to make estimates of both hunter numbers and harvest trends.

For the 2012 season, 7,000 small game license buyers were surveyed of which 3,520 surveys were returned and usable.

The complete report is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/publications/wildlife.

Friends of Wright County Federation of Sportsmen’s Club annual banquet Sept. 23

The Friends of Wright County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs will hold its annual fundraising banquet Monday, Sept. 23, at the Classic Hall Event Center in Annandale.

Activities for the evening include a banquet meal, silent auction, and other games and activities.

Prizes and auction merchandise include limited edition firearms, knives, prints, and general outdoor gear.

The funds raised at the banquet will directly support local organizations whose events and activities are critical to the continuation of the shooting sports.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. If you would like to attend the banquet contact Bruce Bartl at (763) 682-0653.

Wildfire danger intensifies as fuels dry out in parts of MN
From the DNR

As precipitation over the last 30 days has been at 50 percent of normal over most of Minnesota, fire managers from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are seeing an increase in fire danger and are urging people to use caution when working and recreating in dry areas.

So far this summer, fire occurrence has been low, but a predicted dry spell could change that quickly.

DNR forestry areas with the highest fire potential are Bemidji, Park Rapids, Backus, Little Falls, Sandstone, and lands north of Cambridge and south of Cloquet.

Continuing warm dry weather could expand the area of concern to the Arrowhead region in northeastern Minnesota where lightning ignitions could become more likely if thunderstorms develop with light rain, fire managers said.

The National Weather Service predicts Minnesota is entering a warm and dry spell for the next week or so.

This is the time of year the state sees scattered rainfall where the amounts can vary widely even a few miles apart.

Most of the state is still green, but it can change with the hot weather, especially if it stays rain free.

Once the weather cools off, the possibility of a killing frost increases.

A killing frost pulls moisture out of fine fuels such as grasses and brush.

A combination of dry weather and dry, dead fuels could lead to another active fall fire season.

Fire starts are more probable in areas exposed to the sun and in areas of light, sandy soil.

Open stands of jack pine, especially where there is a higher ratio of dead fuels to live vegetation will have the higher probability of ignition.

This week, the southern third of Minnesota is at low fire danger.

The northern third of the state and the metro area at moderate fire danger, meaning fires start easily and spread at a moderate rate.

The central part of the state from Pine County in the east to the North Dakota border and from Marshall County to Lac qui Parle County has a fire danger rating of “high,” increasing the probability that wildfires could occur and spread at a rapid rate.

Burning of vegetative debris is allowed with a burning permit available through local forestry offices, local fire wardens, and online.

See www.mndnr.gov/forestry/fire for the fire danger ratings and burning permit restrictions.

Small grain harvest and haying operations could be a source of ignition during the coming weeks, as well as recreational vehicles such as ATVs.

DNR fire mangers urge people to use caution with all fire – campfires and burning debris.

Campfires are allowed if they are no more than 3 feet high by 3 feet across and in a cleared area.

When having a campfire, keep a shovel handy, make sure a water source is available, stay with the fire at all times, and make sure the fire area is cool to the touch before leaving.

Think the fire is out? Check again.

Teen sustains non-lifethreatening injuries in an apparent wolf bite
From the DNR

A 16-year-old boy was injured in an apparent wolf bite early Saturday morning, Aug. 24, near the lakeshore of the West Winnie Campground on Lake Winnibigoshish in north-central Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The boy sustained multiple puncture wounds and a laceration to his head of about 11 centimeters long. The wolf ran into the woods after the boy kicked it.

After receiving local first-aid, the boy was transported to a hospital in Bemidji.

The wound required multiple staples to close, but was not life-threatening.

Officers from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, U.S. Forest Service and the DNR collected reports from the boy and the boy’s father, as well as others at the camp.

Statements from other campers indicated there were other incidents at the U.S. Forest Service campground where an animal bit through tents, one resulting in the puncturing of an air mattress.

Another camper indicated that he witnessed a wolf near his campsite with coloration and markings matching the description of the animal involved in the attack on the boy.

“This is an extremely rare incident and not normal wolf behavior,” said Tom Provost, regional manager of the DNR’s Enforcement Division. “Because wolf bites or attacks on humans are so rare, they are poorly understood. These rare incidents have usually involved food-habituated wolves and have led to minor injuries, but no fatalities.”

Before this incident, a serious injury or fatal attack on a human had never been documented in Minnesota.

There have been two wolf attack fatalities in North America in the last decade. One was in northern Canada and another was in Alaska.

Enforcement officers from the U.S. Forest Service, Leech Lake and the DNR briefly located the animal matching the description in the wooded area adjacent to the campground, but were unable to immediately kill it. U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services was called for assistance in locating and capturing the wolf.

On early Monday morning, an average-sized male wolf of about 75 pounds, matching the description of the wolf in the attack, was trapped and killed in the campground.

The wolf is being taken to the University of Minnesota veterinary diagnostic lab to be tested for rabies.

Also, the lab will collect samples for DNA analyses and complete a thorough medical examination to determine the health of the animal.

Traps will be left in place for one more night to be sure another wolf is not present in the area.

The Forest Service has closed the campground until further notice.

Wolf safety tips

Always be alert in the outdoors.

Wild animals biting or attacking humans is a rare occurrence but people should be aware of the possibility and know how to react.

Animals are attracted to campgrounds due to food/cooking smells.

It is important not to feed wild animals.

Don’t make homes or camps attractive to wild animals:

Keep a clean camp; don’t dispose of food by dumping into the campfire.

Don’t leave unwashed cooking utensils around your camp.

Don’t leave garbage unsecured.

Don’t cook food near your tent or sleeping area.

Don’t allow pets to freely roam away from your home or camp.

Don’t leave pet food or other food attractants out near your home or camp.

Don’t bury garbage, pack it out.

In the rare event that you do have an encounter with an aggressive wolf:

Don’t run, but act aggressively, stepping toward the wolf and yelling or clapping your hands if it tries to approach.

Do not turn your back toward an aggressive wolf, but continue to stare directly at it.

If you are with a companion and more than one wolf is present place yourselves back to back and slowly move away from the wolves.

Retreat slowly while facing the wolf and act aggressively.

Stand your ground if a wolf attacks and fight with any means possible (use sticks, rocks, ski poles, fishing rods or whatever you can find).

Use air horns or other noise makers.

Use bear spray or firearms if necessary.

Climb a tree if necessary, wolves cannot climb trees.

World’s oldest-known wild black bear dies at 39
From the DNR

The world’s oldest-known wild bear has died of old age in northern Minnesota at the age of 391⁄2, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Known to DNR researchers as Bear No. 56, the female American black bear was first captured and radio-collared in July 1981 by DNR scientists during the first summer of a long-term research project on bear population ecology.

The bear was 7 years old at the time and was accompanied by three female cubs.

Bear No. 56 became a significant animal in the DNR research project.

During a 32-year study period, she and her many offspring provided an almost uninterrupted record of reproduction, survival, movements and, eventually, senescence (aging), within a single matriarchal lineage.

Data from this bear and her offspring have contributed significantly to the scientific literature on black bear biology.

From 1981-1995, Bear No. 56 produced eight litters of cubs and successfully reared a remarkable 21 of the 22 cubs to 11⁄2 years of age. I

n 1997, at age 23, she uncharacteristically lost two of her three cubs before weaning.

In 1999, at age 25, she bore and raised her last cub.

In 2001, when she was next expected to give birth, researchers found her healthy in her den and producing milk but without cubs.

Bear No. 56 outlived by 19 years all of the 360 other radio-collared black bears that DNR researchers have followed since 1981.

She also outlived any radio-collared bear of any species in the world.

Only a very few individual study bears have been reported to reach age 30.

The second-oldest was a brown bear that lived to 34.

Researchers suspect Bear No. 56’s longevity probably is best attributed to a combination of factors, including the location of her home range in a forested area with few people or major roads; a more reticent nature than that of many bears, in terms of her avoidance of people; and luck.

“Getting this information about this bear has taken a lot of effort. This really attests to the value of a long-term study with a large sample of bears,” said Dave Garshelis, DNR bear project leader. “Had we not studied so many bears, we likely would not have encountered this intriguing outlier. It was not just documenting that she lived to be so old, but understanding how she was able to live to be so much older than other bears that made this incredibly interesting and useful.”

In the last few years of her life, Bear No. 56 began to visit some hunters’ baits, but hunters passed up shooting her, abiding by a DNR request that hunters not shoot collared bears.

When last handled in March 2010, Bear No. 56 was a healthy weight but her teeth showed excessive wear and her eyes were clouding.

Since then, her hearing and eyesight continued to deteriorate.

Rarely observed through most of her life, Bear No. 56 had been observed by people during the past two summers with increasing frequency, foraging along trails and traveling dirt roads, likely because of the greater ease of travel than in the woods.

Sometime in July, Bear No. 56 left her normal home range, as bears often do in late summer, to explore other areas for rich food sources on which to fatten for winter.

After locating her radio signal several miles from her typical home area, DNR bear researcher Karen Noyce found her decomposed body in a secluded wooded location.

From all indications, she died a quiet death, with no sign of struggle at the site and no evidence of broken bones or traumatic injury.

“This is the first bear in our study to die of old age, and there is something satisfying in that,” said Noyce, who, along with Ken Soring, DNR’s current enforcement director, conducted the first capture of Bear No. 56 as a rookie biologist in 1981.
“We knew she was getting feeble,” Noyce said. “It would have been sad to find her on the side of the road somewhere, hit by a car. After following her all these years, I’m glad to know she died peacefully. It was a fitting death for a fine old bear.”

Deadline is Thursday for firearm, muzzleloader deer lottery applications
From the DNR

Deer hunters who use a firearm or muzzleloader in a lottery area and want to harvest an antlerless deer must apply for an either-sex permit by the Thursday, Sept. 5, deadline established by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Deadlines for firearm and muzzleloader special hunts also are Sept. 5.

Lottery either-sex permits

Hunters can apply for lottery deer areas using both their firearm and muzzleloader licenses.

Although a hunter can be selected for both licenses, successful applicants still can only take one deer.

2013 lottery deer areas are 101, 103, 105, 108, 110, 111, 118, 119, 122, 169, 171, 172, 176, 183, 184, 197, 199, 234, 237, 238, 250, 251, 252, 253, 260, 261, 262, 263, 266, 267, 268, 269, 270, 271, 272, 274, 275, 276, 277, 278, 279, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 288, 289, 290, 291, 294, 295, 296, 297, 298 and 299.

In lottery deer areas, firearms and muzzleloader hunters may only harvest a buck if they apply for and receive an either-sex permit, which allows them to harvest an antlerless deer.

Firearm and muzzleloader special hunts

For special hunts, a person may draw both a firearm and muzzleloader permit, in which case they must adhere to the bag limits established by each special hunt.

Information on 2013 special hunts is available online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.

All lottery winners will receive permits via U.S. mail.

Hunters may apply for an either-sex permit through any DNR license agent, online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense, or by calling toll-free 888-665-4236.

Changes to deer application and registration for 2013

Hunters are advised by the DNR to review the DNR’s hunting regulations handbook for new 2013 season information.

“Regulations, and many of our management designations, are quite similar to 2012,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. “However, there are a few application and registration changes that folks will notice right away.”

This year the DNR will be asking all deer license buyers, including archery hunters, to indicate the deer area they hunt most often.

“While hunters are not obligated to stay in the indicated area, the information helps the DNR assess hunter success,” McInenly said. “Our data indicate that most hunters kill a deer in the area they hunt most often.”

Hunters also should be aware that deer must be registered within 48 hours after harvest and before processing.

Telephone and internet registration has been expanded to include series 300 permit areas.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Minnesota has a number of Scientific and Natural Areas (SNAs).

What exactly is an SNA and how does it differ from other publicly owned lands?

A: Scientific and Natural Areas are special places where anyone can go to see examples of Minnesota’s native plant communities and rare species habitats.

There are nearly 160 sites scattered throughout Minnesota’s prairie, coniferous and deciduous forest biomes.

The program’s mission is to protect and perpetuate, in an undisturbed natural state, those lands and waters embracing natural features of exceptional scientific and educational value.

SNAs are open to the public for hiking, nature photography, bird watching, snowshoeing and other activities that don’t disturb the natural conditions.

Some SNAs are open to hunting.

SNAs are intended to give people the opportunity to experience undisturbed nature.

Thus, signs and parking lots may or may not exist at individual sites.

Some sites have interpretive kiosks to help visitors identify key features and processes.

These areas don’t have restrooms or other facilities and most don’t have maintained trails.