DNR intensifies CWD response efforts in southeastern Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is taking additional steps to help limit the spread of chronic wasting disease in wild deer in southeastern Minnesota.
Eleven new cases of wild deer infected with the neurological disease were discovered this fall in or around the CWD disease management zone in Fillmore County.
In response, the DNR will open two special hunts in December; provide shooting permits to landowners; conduct deer culling efforts in January; and hold a public meeting in Preston on Dec. 18.
Lou Cornicelli, the DNR’s wildlife research manager, said the CWD-positive cases indicate that the disease is persisting in this area, and the DNR needs to act quickly to contain the disease while it is relatively concentrated in a geographic area.
“The last thing people want is an established disease in their backyards,” said Cornicelli. “States that have CWD established in their wild deer populations have seen declines in both deer populations and deer hunter numbers. We’ll continue to do what we can to avoid that situation here.”
The disease management zone was established by the DNR after CWD was discovered in wild deer near Preston in 2016. The zone is an approximately 10-mile radius around Preston.
To date, there have been 28 detected cases of the neurological disease within the CWD disease management zone, 11 of which were detected this fall. While the majority of positives remain within the disease management zone, discoveries of the disease just outside of the boundary are consistent with expected movement of bucks, which tend to travel alongside rivers during the breeding season.

New DNR actions
Here are additional details about actions the DNR is taking to continue combating CWD in southeastern Minnesota.
The DNR will:
* Open two separate three-day deer hunts in December in and around the disease management zone. Details of these late-season hunts and boundary will be available Tuesday, Dec. 4, on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/cwd.
* Provide shooting permits to landowners interested in removing deer from their property. DNR staff will reach out directly to landowners within the CWD management zone with information about that program.
* Conduct targeted culling starting in mid-January. The DNR will be working with local landowners and coordinating with the United States Department of Agriculture to remove deer from areas where CWD-positive deer were found.
Final CWD test results and preliminary findings from the DNR’s ongoing research on deer movement in southeastern Minnesota will affect how the DNR manages the disease going forward.

Survey to be conducted
DNR researchers will also be surveying hunters and landowners throughout southeastern Minnesota. The study’s goal is to measure attitudes toward the disease and DNR management, and to measure support for potential management actions, including providing incentives to hunters and landowners to help curb disease spread.
The DNR will also have a public meeting in Preston to provide information about CWD and the DNR’s management response to its discovery. The meeting will be 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, in the Fillmore Central School Auditorium at 702 Chatfield St.
DNR staff will explain the CWD efforts to date and how the current response is designed to limit its spread. They will also discuss response measures including the disease management zone, special late-season deer hunts, landowner shooting permits, targeted culling and snow-dependent aerial deer survey.

CWD transmission
CWD is an always-fatal neurological disease that affects the cervid family, which includes deer, elk and moose. It is spread through direct contact with an infected deer’s saliva, urine, blood, feces, antler velvet or carcass. There is no vaccine or treatment for this disease.
Cornicelli said managing CWD is challenging because of how it spreads and persists in the deer population. For example, males are much more likely to have CWD than females; male deer also move the disease farther on the landscape because they typically travel longer distances, especially in the fall. So far this year, all 11 new detections are adult males.

Learn about test results
Hunters can find CWD test results of deer tested through mandatory surveillance, as well as locations of positive test results and statistics, at mndnr.gov/cwdcheck. More information about CWD can be found on the DNR’s CWD page at mndnr.gov/cwd.
While there is no evidence that humans can contract CWD, the Centers for Disease Control recommends testing your deer for CWD. CDC recommends not eating meat from a known positive animal. For more information, please visit the CDC website at cdc.gov/prions/cwd.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DNR seeks input on master plan for Red Lake Wildlife Management Area

The public can provide input on a master plan update to the Red Lake Wildlife Management Area.
The master plan guides the overall management goals for the unit’s brushlands, peatlands, wetlands and forests, which provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species. The plan was last updated in 1980.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeking input at bit.ly/RedLakeWMAInput through Wednesday, Dec. 19. The purpose of the online questionnaire is to help generate ideas and identify potential planning issues and areas of concern specific to the WMA.
The DNR will offer a second opportunity for public input next spring after a draft master plan is ready for review.
Red Lake WMA, located in Beltrami and Lake of the Woods counties, includes 324,000 acres of state WMA and contains headwaters of three different river systems and a pristine area of peatlands. Red Lake WMA is one of eight WMAs currently classified as a major unit.
For more information on Red Lake WMA, visit mndnr.gov/wmas.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DNR seeks designs for Minnesota 2020 turkey stamp

Wildlife artists can submit entries for the 2020 Minnesota Wild Turkey Stamp from Monday, Dec. 3, through 4 p.m., Friday, Dec. 21.
The cost of a turkey stamp is included in a turkey license, but anyone can buy pictorial stamps as collectables.
In the contest, the eastern wild turkey must be the primary focus of the design.
Artists are prohibited from using any photographic or other electronic product as part of their finished entries. Winning artists may issue limited edition prints of the artwork and retain proceeds.
Final judging is open to the public and is at 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, at DNR headquarters, 500 Lafayette Road, in St. Paul. The public is welcome to come and view the winning design 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, Dec. 21.
The DNR dedicates revenue from stamp sales to wild turkey habitat management. Extirpated from Minnesota around 1900, wild turkeys now thrive throughout nearly all of Minnesota, but the extreme northern forested portions of the state.
For more information on stamp contests, guidelines for submitting work, and to sign up to receive regular email updates on stamp contests, visit mndnr.gov/stamps. Contest guidelines also are available from the DNR Information Center by calling 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.                                                                                  

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DNR seeks applicants for $100,000 in shooting range grants

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced that $100,000 in matching shooting range grants is available to improve existing five-stand, pistol, rifle, skeet or trap ranges.
The application period opens today, Nov. 30, through Dec. 28.
Grants, which require a 1:1 match, are available to shooting clubs that allow members of the public to shoot at reasonable times and for reasonable fees. Small grants up to $25,000 are available and applicants must provide current female participation data and show an intent to improve future diversity opportunities.
“We continue to see strong interest in shooting sports in Minnesota and beyond,” said Chuck Niska, DNR shooting range program coordinator. “We’ve been working to provide people with more and better places to shoot and these grants are an integral part of that.”
The $100,000 that’s available is from a $2 million appropriation the state Legislature made in 2015 to help recreational shooting clubs develop or improve shooting sports facilities for public use, with an emphasis on enhancing participation opportunities for youth. Facilities that received a prior grant, have been paid, and whose contract is closed are eligible to apply for another grant. Facilities whose recent grant application is still open are not eligible to apply for another grant.
The DNR will accept applications past Dec. 28, but projects that meet the deadline will be considered first.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DNR invites public input on Roseau County off-highway vehicle camping options

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources invites anyone with an interest in off-highway vehicle (OHV) camping facilities in Beltrami Island State Forest or Hayes Lake State Park area to two open houses in December.
The first open house is from 6 p.m.-8 p.m., on Dec. 10, at the Warroad Forestry Office, 803 Cherne Drive NW, Warroad.
The second open house is from 6 p.m.-8 p.m., on Dec. 13, at the DNR Central Office building, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul. Both open houses will cover the same information.
The DNR invites open house participants to review maps of existing and potentially new camping areas, discuss the needs and desires of OHV campers, and submit comments. The DNR will also accept written comments through 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 27.
Hayes Lake State Park was established in 1967 to provide recreational opportunities in a wilderness setting. Beltrami Island State Forest is a 703,000-acre working forest surrounding Hayes Lake State Park with more than 238 miles of OHV trails designated. The DNR understands there is demand for additional facilities for OHV camping in the Hayes Lake/Beltrami Island area. This effort will help the DNR better understand what OHV campers desire and how the DNR can accommodate these desires.
Comments received at the meetings and during the public comment period will be used to develop a recommendation that will be used to improve camping facilities for OHV users in this part of the state. If, through this public review process, it is determined that permitting OHV use within Hayes Lake State Park is the most viable option to provide OHV camping, a master plan amendment would be required for the park, as well as some legislation to amend the designation status. The master plan amendment process would need to be completed before any designation change to the park allowing OHV access.
Written comments may be submitted by:
Email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Use the online questionnaire found on the DNR website.
Fax to: 651-297-1157.
Mail to: Joe Unger, Parks and Trails Division, DNR, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4039.
For more information, call:
The DNR’s Parks and Trails Division Central Office in St. Paul, 651-259-5279.
Hayes Lake State Park, 218-425-7504.
Information is also available online at mndnr.gov.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Number of wildlife watchers increases 20 percent nationally

MADISON - The number of wildlife watchers increased 20 percent nationally from 2011 to 2016, with birds being their overwhelming favorite and most often observed at backyard feeders, according to a recently released federal outdoor recreation survey.
With winter weather setting in, now is the time for Wisconsin bird watchers to put out feeders and consider reporting the birds they observe, state bird experts say.
"Winter is a great time to watch birds and to contribute to bird science and management by reporting the birds you see at your feeder," says Ryan Brady, a Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist and monitoring coordinator for the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative.
Audubon's 119th Christmas Bird Count, conducted locally on one day between Dec. 14, through Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, is an easy and fun way to get started while Project Feederwatch spans the entire winter.
Brady says that higher energy demands and fewer natural foods available to birds make winter feeding an opportunity to help birds and attract some species for closer viewing. He offers 10 top tips to help Wisconsin's fine- feathered friends this winter:
* The single best seed to provide is black oil sunflower, which has high fat content and attracts the most species.
* Also offer nyjer (thistle) for finches, white millet for sparrows, doves and other ground-feeding species.
* Offer both suet and peanut chunks for woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches.
* Avoid generic seed mixes as these tend to have more waste and attract less desired bird and mammal species.
* Deter squirrels with cone- or dome-shaped baffles above hanging feeders or below pole-mounted feeders.
* Place feeders closer than 3 feet or farther than 30 feet from your home to avoid the deadliest window collision zone.
* Minimize disease by cleaning your feeders at least once every two weeks using soapy water and a 10% bleach solution.
* Provide cover such as brush piles or dense shrubs for roosting and escape from predators.
* Offer water to attract a wider variety of species, using a heating element when temperatures dip below freezing.
* "Birdscape" your property with native plants such as fruit-bearing shrubs and evergreen trees. Check out these birdscaping resources on the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative website.
Nationally, 86 million adults reported wildlife watching in 2016 and spent $75.9 billion doing so, a 29 percent increase since 2011. That compares to 35.8 million adults who reported fishing in 2016 and 11.5 million who reported hunting, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
More than 80 percent of wildlife watchers said they watched wildlife around home while 24 percent watched away from home. Birds were by far the most commonly watched wildlife, whether around home or away.
The 2016 survey doesn't provide state level results, but Wisconsin ranked second in the 2011 survey with the highest proportion of residents reporting watching birds.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Snowmobile trails still need more snow, cold temperatures

Early cold temperatures and several inches of snow in parts of Minnesota have many snowmobile enthusiasts excited to take their first ride of the season, but most trails need more snow before grooming can begin.
Most of the state’s snowmobile trails are not yet ready for riding, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Minnesota’s snowmobile trails officially open Dec. 1, each year. However, several conditions must be met before trails are open, groomed and ready for travel:
* The ground must be frozen. Where trails cross wetlands, 15 inches of ice is needed to support the weight of the trail groomers.
* Adequate snow cover, about 12 inches, must be on the ground to allow for trail packing and grooming.
* Trails must be cleared of fallen trees, signs put in place and gates opened. Snowmobile club volunteers and DNR staff are currently working on these tasks.
“While the cold air is helping the ground freeze, we still need more snow and thicker ice to access trail segments that cross wet areas for brush clearing and other maintenance,” said Grand Rapids area supervisor Guy Lunz. “Crews are out now removing brush from trails where they can, and the pace will pick up as continued cold freezes the low-lying areas.”
Even after a chilly start to November, ice on most lakes is not safe for travel. The DNR recommends a minimum of 5-7 inches of new clear ice for snowmobiles.
When the trails open, the DNR urges riders to use caution. Early season trails may have trees or debris across them, unfrozen swamps and flowages, rocks or ruts, or standing crops and closed gates. Also, road ditches can have obstacles such as culverts, signposts and rocks.
While snowmobilers wait for the arrival of cold temperatures, now is a good time to make sure registrations are current, snowmobiles are in good operating order, review safety training, and check local trail maps for route changes or new trails.
Registrations for new snowmobiles must be purchased in person at any deputy registrar of motor vehicles or at the DNR License Bureau in St. Paul. Renewals of registrations and out-of-state trail stickers may be done in person, or online at licenses.dnr.state.mn.us/.
Minnesota has over 22,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails; more than 21,000 miles of them are maintained by local snowmobile club volunteers. Snowmobile trail maintenance costs are partially funded through the combined snowmobile registrations and trail sticker sales, and state gas tax attributed to snowmobile use. Donations and volunteer work by trail clubs make up the remainder of the costs and efforts to operate these trails.
Trail users are always encouraged to call in advance or research online to get local conditions for the area they plan to ride. State trail conditions are posted each Thursday on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/snow_depth/index.html.
Links to snowmobile trail information, state trail maps, regulations, safety training and more is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/snowmobiling.
Local trail conditions are often posted online by local tourism associations, chambers of commerce and volunteer snowmobile clubs. To find the nearest club, visit the Minnesota United Snowmobiler’s Association website at mnsnowmobiler.org.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR