Pelicans on annual spring migration to Minnesota

April 7, 2014

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Flocks of giant white birds are catching the eyes of outdoor enthusiasts across Minnesota, as once-rare American white pelicans migrate north to their nesting grounds across the state, the Department of Natural Resources said.

American white pelicans are among the world’s largest birds and are easily recognized in flight.

Wingspans up to 9 feet, bright white plumage with black-edged wings and large, orange bills distinguish them from any other species.

“Pelicans often fly in evenly spaced lines or V formations,” said Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, regional nongame wildlife specialist.

“Unlike swans or geese which fly with necks outstretched, pelicans fly with their necks doubled back against their shoulders. They often set up a rhythmic pattern of wing beats that ripple from the lead bird back to the end.”

American white pelicans were driven to near extinction in the early 20th century from human pressures, according to the DNR.

There were no reports of nesting pelicans in Minnesota for 90 years, from 1878 until 1968.

Conservation efforts and federal regulations have helped pelican populations make a slow and steady comeback.

“The prairie pothole region of western Minnesota hosts 22 percent of the global population of this species,” Gelvin-Innvaer said.

An estimated 22,000 pairs of pelicans nest at 16 sites on seven lakes across the state.

American white pelicans leave Minnesota each fall as lakes and rivers freeze.

They winter along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Mexico and typically return to Minnesota in early spring, as lakes and rivers thaw.

They are highly social and live in large, dense colonies.

They feed exclusively on small fish and crustaceans and will work together for a meal.

“A group of pelicans will swim in a semicircle to herd their prey into shallow water,” Gelvin-Innvaer said. “Then they’ll scoop up fish and water in their beak pouch, drain out the water and swallow their food.”

Pelicans are popular among wildlife watchers. Gelvin-Innvaer advises that the birds are best enjoyed from a distance.

“Pelican colonies are vulnerable to human disturbance and contact should be minimized.”

For more information on American white Pelicans, visit http://mndnr.gov/pelican/.

Pelicans are an example of how they and many other wildlife species benefit directly from donations made to the nongame wildlife checkoff on Minnesota tax forms.

Checkoff dollars fund research, surveys, habitat restoration and education for more than 700 nongame wildlife species.

Each dollar donated also is matched by funds from the Reinvest In Minnesota account.

Prairie Archers steak/shrimp dinner Sat., April 12

Prairie Archers will have a steak/shrimp dinner at the Dodge House in Lester Prairie Saturday, April 12 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Reservations need to be called in before 6 p.m. Friday, April 11 to either Jim Richardson (320) 395-2721 or the Dodge House (320) 395-2877.

The steak and shrimp combo costs $13; steak only is $11; pork chop is $10; six shrimp is $9; or a ribeye is $15.

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

Winsted Sportsmen’s Club’s annual hog roast April 12

Winsted Sportsmen’s Club’s annual hog roast is set for Saturday, April 12 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Blue Note in Winsted.

Advance tickets are $9, or $10 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Winsted Farmers Co-op, Keg’s Bar, Blue Note, and from any member. Take-outs are available.

Winsted Sportsmen’s Club to offer firearm safety classes

The Winsted Sportsmen’s Club will be offering firearm’s safety classes starting Monday, April 7.

To sign-up, attend the first class Monday, April 7 at the Blue Note Ballroom. The class runs from 5 to 6 p.m.

You must be 12-years old by Sept. 1, 2014 to register for the class – adults are welcome.

The class runs for three weeks. If you have any questions, contact Steve Fiecke at (320) 485-2434 (after 4 p.m.).

CRDU banquet set for Mon., April 14

The annual Crow River Ducks Unlimited banquet will take place Monday, April 14 at 5 p.m. at the Blue Note Ballroom in Winsted.

LPSC to offer firearm’s safety training this spring

The Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club will be offering firearms’ safety training this spring, every Tuesday and Thursday in April.

The first class and registration night is Tuesday, April 8 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club.

Classes, which are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, will be April 10, 15, 17, 22, 24, and 28.

The test will be Tuesday, May 6. The test for the online course is Saturday, May 3.

All classes begin at 6:30 p.m.

For additional information, contact Doug Minnick at (320) 395-2143.

Carver County DU chapter recognized nationally
From Ducks Unlimited

The Top 100 is one of the most highly sought-after titles of recognition Ducks Unlimited offers to its local chapters.

Each year, the list is comprised of the top 100 fundraising chapters in the United States that raise up to $100,000 through fundraising activities in their communities.

Through the efforts of these volunteer committees DU is able to pursue its mission of conserving, enhancing and restoring North America’s wetlands.

In 2013 the Carver County chapter made the Top 100 list as one of the organization’s best fundraising chapters.

“These fundraising events are the backbone of DU’s habitat conservation efforts, and the volunteers who make up these chapters are the force driving DU and helping make a difference for North American waterfowl populations,” said DU President George Dunklin. “It takes a great deal of effort to break into the Top 100, and these chapters deserve to be congratulated by every person who enjoys the outdoors.”

The Carver County chapter earned a spot on the Top 100 list out of the more than 2,600 DU chapters nationwide.

DU’s event fundraising system has become a model for other conservation organizations around the world and has funded a significant portion of the more than 13 million acres of wetlands and associated habitat DU has conserved since 1937.

The 2013 Top 100 chapters also have the distinction of being honored during DU’s 77th National Convention in St. Louis at the end of May, with many chapter representatives in attendance.

“DU chapters across the country are showing that the future of waterfowl populations and the wetlands that filter our drinking water and protect us from flooding are important to them and to their communities,” Dunklin said. “The more money we raise, the more habitat we can conserve and the closer we are to preserving our waterfowl hunting heritage. I would like to personally thank all our Top 100 chapters for their achievement and look forward to seeing them among our distinguished chapters next year.”

Visit www.ducks.org to see the full Top 100 list for this year.

MN state parks offer first-time camping experiences for families
From the DNR

People who have never pitched a tent or cooked over a fire—or who have forgotten how—can practice these and other outdoor skills when they sign up for one of the 24 “I Can Camp!” programs offered this summer at state parks and recreation areas.

The first programs take place Saturday, June 7, at Nerstrand Big Woods and Wild River state parks, both within an hour of the Twin Cities.

“Camping is fun, and it’s a longstanding Minnesota tradition,” said Eric Pelto, who coordinates the “I Can Camp!” programs for the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division.

All camping equipment is provided (including tents, air mattresses and cook stoves) at these beginner-level programs.

Participants need only bring their own food and bedding (sleeping bags or blankets and pillows).

“Our ‘I Can Camp!’ instructors will be on hand to help families with everything from tent set-up to meal preparation,” Pelto said. “They’ll also try to make sure everyone has fun by providing opportunities to try geocaching, digital photography and other activities.”

One-night workshops ($40 for up to six people in a tent) are scheduled on most Saturdays in June, July and August.

Eight two-night workshops ($60 for up to six people in a tent) are also available for families who want a more complete weekend camping experience.

Reservations are required and can be made online or by phone – www.mndnr.gov/reservations, or 866-857-2757, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. daily, excluding holidays.

These programs are made possible with support from the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008.

The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

For more information, including dates and locations, visit www.mndnr.gov/icancamp or contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us, (651) 296-6157, or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Aquatic invasive species violation rate drops; still 1 in 5 boaters breaking the law
From the DNR

With another boating season just around the corner, Minnesota boaters and anglers need to continue to take steps to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).

While the rate of AIS violations dropped in 2013, one in five boaters is still breaking the law, according to a newly published annual report from the Department of Natural Resources.

“The decrease is good news, but we have a long way to go,” said Lt. Col. Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement Division assistant director. “We need to think zero.”

The invasive species violation rate dropped to 20 percent last year from 31 percent in 2012.

The rate is the proportion of people who were issued citations at roadside check stations set up by DNR conservation officers.

“Far too many people are still not following the law,” Smith said. “Boaters and anglers are legally required to clean boats and equipment and drain all water to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.”

This year, the DNR will increase efforts to ensure boaters follow the AIS laws.

Activities highlighted in the 2013 invasive species of Minnesota report:

• DNR watercraft inspectors, who inspect boats and equipment at water accesses, conducted 123,000 inspections – an increase of nearly 62 percent since 2011.

• More than 1,000 lake service providers have received AIS training and permits.

• During the first full year of its operation, the AIS Advisory Committee began conversations with boat manufacturers on design modifications to ensure boats drain water more effectively.

• Initiated risk assessments on the potential for transporting veligers in residual water of recreational watercraft.

• Collaborated with the Iowa DNR to install an electric barrier on Lower Gar Lake in Iowa to help prevent the migration of Asian carp into southwestern Minnesota.

Also last year, nearly 8,000 boats arrived at Minnesota water accesses with drain plugs in; more than 1,200 had vegetation attached and 134 had zebra mussels attached.

These were all violations of AIS laws. Fortunately, DNR-trained watercraft inspectors were onsite to stop the owners and remove the invasive species before launching.

“The public is our first line of defense against AIS,” said Ann Pierce, DNR section manager. “It only takes a few minutes to make sure your boat and equipment are cleaned, all water is drained and drain plugs are removed before leaving the water access. This truly is an example of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure.”

Enforcement and watercraft inspection together represent the largest segment (43 percent) of the program’s annual 2013 budget of about $8.5 million.

The budget also covers management and control of invasive aquatic plant species such as Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed and education.

For more information, and a PDF file of the 2013 annual report, visit www.mndnr.gov/AIS.

DNR proposes reintroduction bison to Minneopa State Park
From the DNR

The Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division is proposing to reintroduce bison to Minneopa State Park, near Mankato, and is seeking public comments on a draft management plan amendment for the park.

The amendment describes the impacts and opportunities created by the reintroduction of bison for resource management, interpretive services, recreation and visitor services at the park.

Citizens can ask questions or submit comments until Monday, May 5.

As part of the public review, DNR staff will hold an open house at the Blue Earth County Public Library, 100 E. Main St., Mankato, on Tuesday, April 22, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., for anyone interested in providing comments about the draft management plan amendment.

The draft management plan amendment is available for review at www.dnr.state.mn.us/input/mgmtplans/parks/minneopa.html.

Copies of the plan will also be available to review at the DNR regional headquarters in New Ulm (at 261 Hwy. 15 S.), and at the office at Minneopa State Park, 5 miles west of Mankato off U.S. Highway 169 in Blue Earth County (at 54497 Gadwall Road.).

Minneopa State Park, established in 1905, contains southern Minnesota’s largest waterfall and the remains of the historic Seppmann Mill.

The park encompasses 2,691 acres of which 1,653 are owned and managed by the DNR.

Park facilities include a campground, group camps, picnic areas, a visitor center, and trails for hiking and cross-country skiing.

Those unable to review and comment on the draft amendment at the open house can submit comments via phone or email to Jade Templin at (651) 259-5598 or jade.templin@state.mn.us.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: National Volunteer Week is April 6–12. What sort of volunteer opportunities does the DNR have to offer?

A: Volunteer opportunities vary across the state from assisting with wildlife research to cleaning rivers to playing Smokey Bear at the State Fair, to name a few.

Right now the DNR is looking for volunteers to help count loons and frogs, plant trees, bait hooks at fishing clinics, build portable field desks, and search for rare wildflowers.

Volunteer positions are listed on the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/volunteering/opps/index.html or by calling toll free 888-646-6367.

CO weekly report
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers.
CO Mies also attended a meeting for wetlands with the area contractors.
CO Mies checked ATVs along with giving a law talk at a firearms class in Maple Lake.

• CO Richard Reller (Buffalo) checked anglers in the Wright County area and found a slow pan fish bite on most lakes this week.
Numerous calls came in on wildlife complaints such as coyotes and fox seen out during the day within city neighborhoods.
Several injured or dead trumpeter swans calls from power line collisions.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) checked ice anglers all week having good success.
He responded to a trespass complaint of anglers crossing private property to access the lake.
Several nuisance animal calls were responded to including coyotes, turkeys and hawks.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) investigated a complaint of a person selling packages of fish on a local radio station swap shop program.
She continued doing commercial inspections in the area.
Mueller also spoke at a kids fishing clinic in Buffalo Lake.
Topics included aquatic invasive species, fish habit, laws and regulations.
She attended the Tri-State meeting along with other officers from Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) spent time working the DNR information booth at the Northwest Sports Show.
Oberg also spoke to a group of Cub Scouts that were very interested in the job duties of a conservation officer.
Time was also spent armoring division shotguns and attending a border warden meeting with Iowa and South Dakota officers.