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DNR seeks designs for MN’s 2015 pheasant stamp

August 25, 2014

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Wildlife artists can submit entries for the 2015 Minnesota Pheasant Stamp from Monday, Sept. 8, to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19.

The pheasant stamp is sold along with hunting and fishing licenses or as a collectable.

Revenue from stamp sales is dedicated to pheasant management-related activities.

“We appreciate the talent and commitment of the artists who submit entries to the contest,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife populations and regulations manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Their work is part of our hunting heritage, and valued by collectors.”

The contest offers no prizes and is open to Minnesota residents only.

Artists are not allowed to use any photographic product as part of their finished entries.

Winning artists usually issue limited edition prints of the artwork and retain proceeds.

Judging will take place at 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25, at DNR headquarters in St. Paul.

Artists who want to submit entries should closely read contest criteria and guidelines for submitting work, available from the DNR Information Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155, and online at www.mndnr.gov/contests.

DNR drops most proposals to allow more recreational activities at state’s scientific and natural areas
From the DNR

The Department of Natural Resources has decided to not implement most of its proposals to expand recreational activities such as hunting, trapping, and dog walking at 10 of Minnesota’s 159 scientific and natural areas (SNAs).

The decisions were based on the results of a legislatively prescribed process for obtaining and considering public input prior to modifying allowed uses on existing SNAs.

The DNR had proposed loosening restrictions at 10 of these specially designated wild areas, consistent with sound resource management, in hopes of boosting public support and funding for more land acquisitions.

In recent years, funding for the SNA program has declined.

Instead, based on the feedback, the DNR decided to make no changes to existing uses, with two exceptions:

At Lake Alexander Woods in Morrison County, the DNR will allow deer hunting during the regular season without a special permit on portions of the SNA (two areas will be open to all deer hunting, one area will be open to archery hunting only).

Currently deer hunting is allowed only with a special permit.

At Minnesota Point Pine Forest in Duluth, dogs on leashes will be allowed, which is consistent with city ordinance and well-established public use of the mixed ownership area.

Other proposals to allow boat access, swimming and berry picking, will be dropped due to lack of support.

The agency manages scientific and natural areas to protect rare native plant communities, habitat for fish and wildlife, undisturbed natural shoreline and unique geological features.

Activities such as hunting, trapping and dog walking are often restricted in these areas; however, many SNAs are open to these activities as well.

For example, hunting is allowed on 68 SNAs, not just for recreation, but also to prevent damage to plants from deer browsing.

This past spring, the DNR held public hearings on proposed activities at the 10 SNAs.

The DNR received 123 written comments, mostly opposed to the proposed changes.

“The process worked as intended,” said Peggy Booth, the DNR’s SNA program supervisor. “We thought the proposed changes could provide public benefits while still protecting the natural resources, but we asked for input and most people told us they didn’t want changes in these areas.”

The public can still provide input on the DNR’s decision.

The agency will take comments on the changes for the next two weeks.

Individuals should submit comments to sna.dnr@state.mn.us by 4:30 p.m., Sept. 2.

Youth can get three free months of Outdoor News
From the DNR

Youth ages 11-17 who successfully complete their firearms safety certification can get a complimentary three-month subscription to Minnesota Outdoor News.

The offer ends Sunday, Nov. 30 and firearms safety classes have been filling up.

To be eligible for this offer, a youth must have completed their firearms safety certification in 2014.

Those of any age who have completed advanced hunter education this year can also get a complimentary subscription.

Forms can be found at www.mndnr.gov/outdoornews.

More information on firearms safety certification and available classes can be found at www.mndnr.gov/safety/firearms.

Learn basics of hunting birds like pheasant, grouse at DNR clinic
From the DNR

Anyone who wants to learn the basics of hunting birds like pheasants or grouse is invited to attend a program for those who have limited or no experience hunting upland birds, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Upland Bird Day is 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13, at the Dakota County Gun Club, 17501 Station Trail near Rosemount, and is hosted by the DNR, Dakota County Gun Club and Pheasants Forever.

“Upland Bird Day is an opportunity for those interested in hunting upland birds to take the next step and be part of a wonderful fall hunting tradition,” said Linda Bylander, an outreach program coordinator for the DNR.

Upland bird hunting typically involves walking through prairie grasses, young aspen forests, marsh edges and other habitat, often using a dog to point or flush the birds.

Following a large group presentation on upland birds and their habitat, participants will spend the afternoon in a series of hands-on upland bird hunting stations.

“Participants will learn how to hunt a field, and about shotgun patterning and shooting technique,” Bylander said. “We’ll see a demo of bird hunting with dogs, and learn about field dressing and game care, and how to locate public hunting lands.”

To register, contact Bylander at 218-833-8628 or linda.bylander@state.mn.us.

Registration is limited and costs $10 per family or $5 per person.

Learn more at www.mndnr.gov/education/bow.

For information on hunting a variety of species including upland birds, see www.mndnr.gov/hunting.

Zebra mussels confirmed in Hennepin County’s Christmas Lake
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has confirmed that zebra mussels were found in Christmas Lake in Shorewood, just south of Lake Minnetonka.

On Saturday, Aug. 16, staff with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) found four zebra mussels attached to the district’s zebra mussel sampler.

The sampler was suspended in the water below the public access dock as part of the district’s early detection monitoring program. MCWD staff found additional zebra mussels under water on rocks and along the shoreline at the public access launch site.

DNR staff visited the site and confirmed the presence of zebra mussels.

MCWD and DNR staff examined the lake further and only found zebra mussels in the area around the public water access.

Because this infestation appears to have been detected early, MCWD is working with the DNR and the city of Shorewood on a rapid response plan which may help to prevent a lake-wide infestation.

“This infestation demonstrates the need for early detection and monitoring of our lakes and rivers,” said Keegan Lund, DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division invasive species specialist. “Local partners, such as the MCWD, play a key role in detecting and responding to new AIS infestations.”

Zebra mussels are nonnative species that can crowd out native mussels and compete with other aquatic animals for food.

They attach to boat hulls and other water-related equipment and their sharp shells can create a hazard for swimmers.

Preventing the spread of invasive species takes personal responsibility.

Before leaving any water access or shoreland, boaters must remove all aquatic vegetation, dispose of unwanted bait in the trash, drain all water by removing drain plugs and keep drain plugs out while transporting watercraft.

Failure to comply with aquatic invasive species laws can result in fines.

The DNR will designate Christmas Lake as infested and update the invasive species signage at the public access.

More information about zebra mussels, how to inspect boats and other water-related equipment, and a current list of designated infested waters is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/ais.

Applicationso open for $8 million in Conservation Partners grants
From the DNR

Groups that want to restore, protect or enhance public land can apply for Conservation Partners Legacy (CPL) grants that help pay for work on Minnesota prairies, forests, wetlands, or on habitat for fish and wildlife.

Nonprofit organizations and government entities are eligible to submit applications now until 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website at www.mndnr.gov/cpl.

Projects must be on public land or land permanently protected by conservation easements.

Applicants may request up to $400,000 with a total project cost not exceeding $575,000.

Projects must also have 10 percent of the funding come from a source outside a state agency.

Three types of CPL grants

In its first five years of funding, more than $21 million has been granted through the CPL program for habitat projects throughout Minnesota.

Three types of CPL grants available are under this year’s allocation of $8 million.

Nearly $3.3 million is available for the traditional grant cycle and $1 million is available for the expedited conservation projects (ECP) grant cycle.

ECP is open through May or until all funds are awarded.

New this year is the metro grant cycle, in which $3.75 million is available for projects located in the seven-county metro area or within the city limits of Duluth, St. Cloud and Rochester.

Information about the three grants can be found at www.mndnr.gov/cpl.

Potential applicants are encouraged to review the request for proposals and the how to apply tab at the website, which guides users through the application process.

Questions can be directed to: Jessica Lee, DNR CPL grant program coordinator, jessica.lee@state.mn.us or 651-259-5233, or Kelly Pharis, DNR natural resource grants specialist, kelly.pharis@state.mn.us or 651-259-5174.

In search of nature’s undertakers
By Harland Hiemstra, DNR information officier

Chris Smith is on a hunt for buried treasure.

A short hike off a road in the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, near Zimmerman, he drops to his knees next to a hole in the ground that’s been covered with chicken wire, plywood, and a concrete weight. As he removes the makeshift cover, a sickeningly sweet stench wafts out. Smith, a nongame wildlife biologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, wrinkles his nose as he reaches into a buried five-gallon plastic bucket and pulls out the deflated carcasses of two very dead, very rotten rats.

Secured from a local reptile food vendor and aged several days in the back of his work truck, the pungent rodents are bait for the objects of Smith’s search: the American burying beetle, a federally listed endangered species that used to be found across the eastern half of the country. Now it’s known to survive in only five states. Black and orange and sometimes nearly 2 inches long, it hasn’t been seen in Minnesota since the late 1960s.

The ripe carrion Smith buried the day before in what’s known as a “pitfall trap” attracts a variety of burying beetles from anywhere within about a half-mile radius. He sifts through a shallow layer of sand at the bottom of the bucket, removing beetles one by one, calling off their scientific names so that his colleague, Erica Hoaglund, can enter the information into an electronic tablet. “Nicrophorus tomentosus, Nicrophorus orbicollis, marginatus, another tomentosus...”

The burying beetles often are found in even numbers – an adult male and an adult female -- due to a type of hands-on parenting that’s rare in the insect world. The parents work together to bury the dead animal to get it away from competing scavengers. They chew up a portion of the carcass and form it into a large ball to make a nest for the larvae, which they feed by regurgitating chewed-up, liquefied flesh – much as bird parents feed their chicks.

Why, one might ask, spend time and money studying a critter seemingly made to tickle a person’s gag reflex? Because, as disgusting as they may seem, detritivores such as burying beetles –- nature’s undertakers – play an important role in an ecosystem, breaking down dead animals to recycle nutrients and energy. And it’s that ecosystem and its health that’s really the main point of concern.

“The biggest reason to study the entire ecosystem as opposed to just charismatic mega-fauna is to understand how ecosystems function, and how all the parts work together,” Hoaglund says. “What we want to preserve and protect is these ecosystems, not just a particular species.”

If an organism goes extinct, more may be lost than just that particular species. One theory regarding the American burying beetle, for instance, surmises that its decline is at least partially tied to the extinction of the passenger pigeon, which may have been just the right size to serve as a host, and it existed in large numbers, making it a readily available food source. In another example of ecological interdependence close to home for Minnesotans, the red parasol moss last year was added to the state’s list of endangered species because it grows only in old moose dung, and moose populations are declining.

Hoaglund explains ecosystem diversity by referring to a ladder: lose one or two rungs, and the ladder still might be serviceable. Lose a few more, and the ladder will fall apart. The biological equivalent is the extinction of too many species and ecological collapse.

“Even if you don’t value the creepy crawly things, something you do value may depend on them,” Hoaglund says. “Flowers need insects for pollination; songbirds rely on bugs for food.”

So far Smith and Hoaglund haven’t turned up any American burying beetles at any of the pitfall traps they’ve buried around the Sherburne refuge and the adjacent Sand Dunes State Forest. They may, however, have found a species of burying beetle never before reported in Minnesota at another central Minnesota survey site at Camp Ripley, near Little Falls; the discovery is pending positive identification. Their work also is providing information on what other types of burying beetles are present in the area, baseline information that would be needed should it be decided to try re-introducing the rare bugs into Minnesota, as has been done in a few other states.

Both Hoaglund and Smith work for the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program, which aims to protect, maintain, enhance, and restore native nongame wildlife resources, helping more than 700 species of Minnesota wildlife thrive. It is funded largely by donations, especially those made when Minnesotans file their state income taxes and voluntarily contribute to the program by checking a special donation box, a feature often referred to as the “chickadee check-off.” More information about the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program can be found at www.mndnr.gov/nongame.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: What are the characteristics of old-growth forests, and where in Minnesota can you find them?

A: While the characteristics can vary depending on the type of forest, old-growth forests are generally at least 120 years old, having never been significantly disturbed by logging, fire or storms during that time.

These forests have a mix of young, old and middle aged trees, and many include very large trees that can measure 2 to 3 feet across.

Old-growth forests typically contain large dead standing trees, small gaps in the overhead canopy and lots of woody debris on the forest floor.

Today, less than 4 percent of Minnesota’s old-growth forests remain, but there are some great examples protected in our state parks and scientific and natural areas (SNA’s).

For example, Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods SNA, Tettegouche State Park and Itasca State Park all contain stands of old-growth forest.

More information and places to visit are available on DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/forests_types/oldgrowth.

CO weekly reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers last week.
CO Mies gave law talks at the Annandale and Eden valley firearms classes.
CO Mies also worked on tip calls.

• CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) worked fishermen on the Mississippi River between Elk River and St. Cloud where fishing has been slow.
He checked goose hunters in the area.
He assisted with a number of nuisance beaver issues.
He worked at the St Croix River bridge detail.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) completed step one of the field training process with a COC.
CO Reller checked early goose hunters and found most were having a hard time locating the birds or the timing was off for the field or waters they were hunting.
The COC gave a FAS presentation to approximately 40 students in Rockford.
Enforcement action was taken for hunting waterfowl with a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells, possession of a small amount of marijuana, making false application for license, angling without a license and no PFD in watercraft.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) responded to injured great blue heron, sand hill crane and deer calls.
AIS violations were investigated.
A TIP call of goose hunters shooting at non-game birds was handled.
Goose hunters were having better luck with some wheat fields being harvested.
A possible waters violation on Lake Waconia was investigated.

• CO Brent Grewe (Minnetonka) spent the week checking anglers and monitoring boating activity.
CO Grewe followed up with complaints.
Violations included license issues.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) continued completing roadside surveys during the week.
A few Hungarian partridge and pheasants were seen.
She took a report of late after sunset shooting during the August goose season.
Mueller also answered questions on Emerald Ash Bore.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) responded to a TIP call of taking waterfowl out of season.
The suspects were located and dealt with.
Oberg also had a busy week of ATV enforcement.
Violations observed included no registration, operating on roads, youth passengers, and safety equipment.
A firearms safety talk was given in Silver Lake and August roadside counts were completed.