FROM THE DNR: Some river closures, Leech Lake walleye regs and more.


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MINNESOTA DNR NEWS #36                                                                                May 9, 2013

Blue Mounds State Park welcomes baby bison
At opener, some river reaches closed to 
  fishing in northwestern Minnesota 
DNR initiates public input process on Leech Lake special walleye regulation
National trails group selects DNR employee for advocacy award
Roadsides for Wildlife poster contest winners announced
DNR conservation officers recognized 
DNR asks for volunteers to help Minnesota’s loon population
Keep birds healthy, avoid moldy birdseed

Blue Mounds State Park welcomes baby bison

While the late spring has delayed many things, it has not postponed the arrival of baby bison at Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne in the southwestern corner of Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.

“Calves are being born almost every day, in spite of the weather,” said Park Manager Craig Beckman. “This is an exciting time to visit the park.” Up to 25 new bison calves are expected to be born at the park by early June, growing the herd to about 100 animals.”

Testing has confirmed that the bison herd at Blue Mounds State Park is nearly genetically identical to bison that existed prior to European settlement. The DNR has a working agreement with the Minnesota Zoo to cooperatively manage the bison herd at the park and at a zoo exhibition. Less than 1 percent of the world’s American bison are estimated to be free of cattle genes.

Bison are built for extreme weather and are very hardy, Beckman said. Newborn calves weigh 40 to 50 pounds and are able to stand alongside their mother and to nurse moments after birth. Within hours, the cow and calf move with the herd.

The American bison, also known as buffalo, is the largest land mammal in North America. At maturity, bison bulls may stand 5 to 6 feet high at the shoulder, measure nearly 10 feet in length and weigh more than 2,000 pounds. Female cows are smaller and weigh about 1,200 pounds.

At one time an estimated 30 million to 60 million animals roamed North America, but bison were hunted to near extinction in the 1800s, when less than 600 bison remained. Today, bison are considered near-threatened and conservation-dependent, with about 430,000 animals in the country. About 30,000 of those bison are managed through governments and environmental groups.

Bison first came to park in 1961, when three animals were brought from Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge near Valentine, Neb. The herd now consists of about 75 adult animals that roam 530 acres of prairie.

Because the herd grazes parts of the prairie that are far from the viewing platform, visitors are encouraged to bring binoculars to see them. A viewing scope is also available at the park. A vehicle permit ($5/one-day or $25/year-round) is required to enter the park.

For more information, visit To learn more about bison,

Blue Mounds State Park is four miles north of Luverne on U.S. Highway 75. Turn east on County Road 20 and go one mile to the park entrance.


DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                         May 9, 2013

At opener, some river reaches closed to 
fishing in northwestern Minnesota

A number of river reaches in northwestern Minnesota will be closed to fishing when the fishing opener arrives May 11. Most closures will extend through midnight May 17 and are necessary to protect concentrations of walleye, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.

The closures, due to late ice cover, include the following portions of the Mississippi, Tamarac, Clearwater, Turtle and other rivers:

Closed through May 17

  • Blackduck River – Beltrami County – County Road 32 north to Red Lake Reservation boundary.
  • Clearwater River – Clearwater County – below Clearwater Lake Dam for 900 feet.
  • Long Lake – Hubbard County – below the inlet culvert south of State Highway 34.
  • Mississippi River – Beltrami County – below Otter Tail Power Dam to Big Wolf Lake.
  • Otter Tail River – Becker County – below Highway 10 culvert near Frazee.
  • Pelican River – Becker County – below Bucks Mill Dam to Buck Lake.
  • Shotley Brook – Beltrami County – State Highway 72 to Upper Red Lake.
  • Tamarac River – Beltrami County – from Upper Red Lake upstream to Beltrami-Koochiching county line.
  • Turtle River – Beltrami County – below Three Island Dam to Turtle River Lake.

Closed May 9 until further notice

  • Toad River – Otter Tail County – inlet to Big Pine Lake upstream to County Road 13.

Closed through May 24

  • Unnamed water – Hubbard County – connection between Lake Emma and Big Sand Lake.

No fishing will be allowed during these periods in the specified areas. Signs will be posted at access points within the closed areas.

“The closures are necessary to protect adult walleye that have concentrated around historic spawning sites,” said Henry Drewes, DNR Northwest Region fisheries manager. “It’s always a difficult decision to close the areas and restrict recreation. Our first responsibility is to the long-term health of the fishery.”

This is the first time since 2008 that so many locations have been closed on the opener, Drewes said. Prior to that, extensive closures occurred in 1996 and 1997. There are likely to be concentrations of spawning fish in other areas and anglers are encouraged to practice catch-and-release.

Although closed to fishing, there are no restrictions on boat travel through these areas.

For more information, contact the Northwest Region fisheries office in Bemidji, 218-308-2623.

A list of seasonal closures:

DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                         May 9, 2013

DNR initiates public input process 
on Leech Lake special walleye regulation

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is initiating the public input process on potential walleye regulation changes on Leech Lake.

The DNR is considering relaxing harvest regulations for the 2014 fishing season. The current
18- to 26-inch protected slot limit was put in place March 1, 2005 and extended on March 1, 2011. Modification to a 20- to 26-inch protected slot limit would become effective March 1, 2014.

Walleye abundance, including spawning stock, has increased on Leech Lake. Data indicate natural reproduction continues at rates similar to other large walleye lakes throughout the region. Public input during the 2010 regulation review process supported continuation of the 18-to 26-inch protected slot limit provided there was flexibility to adjust to a 20- to 26-inch protected slot limit if thresholds established during the regulation review process were met. The Walker area fisheries office is following through on this commitment.

Anglers can expect to see informational signs on all public water accesses on Leech Lake beginning on the statewide fishing opener May 11. In addition to the signs, the DNR will host public input meetings this fall.

Comments may be sent to Doug Schultz, DNR area fisheries supervisor, 07316 State Highway 371 NW, Walker, MN 56484 or emailed to


DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                      May 9, 2013
Roadsides for Wildlife poster contest winners announced

Seventh and eighth grade students from Holdingford, Proctor, and Cold Spring were the top winners in the 29th annual Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) ‘Roadsides Are for the Birds’ poster contest.

Bernadette Ruegemer of St. Robert Bellarmine Academy, Zach Coughlin of Proctor Middle School, and Hannah Voight of Rocori Middle School were selected as first prize winners. Students from 14 schools entered works in this year’s contest.

“The purpose of the contest,” said Carmelita Nelson, DNR prairie grassland coordinator at St. Paul, “is to help increase awareness of the growing importance of roadsides for wildlife, particularly for ground nesting birds. As wildlife habitat continues to disappear, roadsides nesting habitat is becoming more critical.”

Roadsides can provide bird-nesting habitat if mowing and other roadside disturbances are delayed until after the nesting season, usually around Aug. 1.

Special recognition awards in the contest went to:

  • Bernadette Ruegemer of St Robert Bellarmine Academy in St Cloud for biological accuracy.
  • Katarina Wilke of Rocori Middle School in Cold Spring for expression of theme.
  • Emma Craig of Caledonia Middle School in Caledonia for best pen/pencil.
  • Zach Coughlin of Proctor Middle School in Proctor for creative use of material.
  • Jayden Strand of Lynd Public School in Lynd for humor.

The Staff’s Choice Award went to Rhiannon Markegard of Lynd Public School.

Prizes and contributions for the contest were donated by Wildlife Heritage Association; Minnesota Pheasants, Inc.-Steele County; Pheasants Forever; Minnesota Waterfowl Association; National Camera Exchange, Golden Valley; and the DNR Roadsides Program. Ross Frame Shop and Universal Framing, both of Minneapolis, and The Frame Gallery of New Ulm, donated framing of the posters.

The three first prize winners will also have their work displayed during the Minnesota State Fair in the DNR building. Works of the top 40 prize winners will be displayed at the Minnesota Deer Classic and Sports Show at the new location in the National Sports Center in Blaine, March 7-9, 2014.

DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                              May 9, 2013

DNR conservation officers recognized

Six conservation officers (CO) with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) were recognized recently during annual in-service training at Camp Ripley in Little Falls.

Paul Kuske of Pierz was named the 2013 Minnesota Conservation Officer of the Year. The
23-year veteran has been involved in many investigations, arrests, projects, assignments and extra duties.

“He is recognized immediately in the area where he works as a consummate professional who represents the best of our officers and instills in the public the ideal of a conservation officer,” said Col. Jim Konrad, DNR Enforcement director. “This prestigious award is not given out, but earned through dedication, perseverance and hard work.”

Other honors:

Nikki Shoutz of the Crosslake field station received the DNR’s Education Achievement Award. This award recognizes an officer based on overall career performance with emphasis on involvement in the division’s education programs; support and involvement with volunteer instructors; and educational efforts through the media and special presentations.

Keith Backer of the Black Duck field station received the DNR’s Waterfowl Enforcement Achievement Award. This annual award is presented to a conservation officer dedicated to protecting Minnesota’s natural resources, serving the public and preserving waterfowl heritage.

Water Resource Enforcement Officer Joe Stattelman received the DNR’s Willard Munger Wetland Achievement Award, named after the long-time legislator and environmental activist who died in 1999.

Jeff Denz of the Willmar field station received the DNR’s Boat and Water Safety Achievement Award. This honor is based on demonstrated leadership ability and outstanding achievement in boating safety education, Boating While Intoxicated enforcement, and service to other law enforcement agencies.

Tim Gray of the Bagley field station received the DNR’s Award of Honor for his actions in a lifesaving incident.



DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                May 9, 2013

National trails group selects DNR employee for advocacy award

The nonprofit group American Trails recently awarded Mary Straka, the off-highway vehicle (OHV) program consultant for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the 2013 State Trail Advocacy Award for Minnesota.

Announced at an international trails symposium in April, Straka’s award recognizes an individual who has successfully influenced public policy related to trail planning, protection, development or maintenance.

Straka has made significant contributions to Minnesota’s trail systems, which have included revising the OHV Grant-in-Aid manual, serving as chair for the trails committee with the International Off-Highway Vehicle Administrators Association and coordinating the educational ATV simulator with clubs and organizations across the state.

“Mary is always willing to share her wealth of information on Minnesota’s OHV policies, processes and projects,” said David Halsey, president of Woodtick Wheelers ATV/OHM Club. “Whether in one-on-one conversations or large group meetings, she always leads by example, providing factual, useful information and answering questions calmly and courteously.”

During her 20-year career with the DNR, Straka has served as an assistant park manager in southwest Minnesota, a park manager in northwestern Minnesota and area supervisor in Thief River Falls.

American Trails is a national, nonprofit organization working on behalf of all trail interests. The group works to advance the development of high quality trails and greenways.


DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            May 9, 2013

DNR asks for volunteers to help Minnesota’s loon population

Volunteers can help Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologists discover the major cause of death of the common loon by collecting dead loon specimens for testing. This statewide study to find answers about loon mortality is being conducted by the DNR’s nongame wildlife program.

“Small studies have been conducted in the past, but they were limited to looking for high mercury concentrations,” said Kevin Woizschke, DNR nongame wildlife specialist and loon watcher coordinator. “This new statewide effort will help answer the big question of what kills our loons. Minnesota’s loon population is about 12,000 birds and the numbers appear stable, but there are still questions about loon mortality.”

The nongame program is asking for help in collecting loons that recently died with no signs of decomposition or obvious predator trauma. Visibly rotten loons should not be collected.  To collect a specimen for testing, use disposable gloves to put the dead loon in a plastic bag. To reduce disease risk, try to avoid bare-handed contact when handling dead animals. If gloves are not available, turn a plastic shopping bag inside out and scoop up the specimen with the bag.  Place the specimen in a freezer as soon as possible. If a freezer is not available place the specimen in a cooler, surrounded by ice.

It is important to deliver the specimen as soon as possible to a local DNR office.  All loons need to be labeled with the name of the county, lake, nearest town where it was found and along with person’s name, address and telephone number.

For more information or to locate the nearest DNR officer, call DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free at888-646-6367 or Kevin Woizeschke, 218-833-8729.



DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                   May 9, 2013

Keep birds healthy, avoid moldy birdseed

Moldy birdseed and unclean bird feeders can make birds sick, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

In spring and in hot, humid weather it is common for mold to form on wet birdseed. The mold can cause a fatal avian disease called aspergillosis, which affects the birds’ respiratory systems.

Carrol Henderson, supervisor of the DNR nongame wildlife program, urges people to rake or sweep up any fallen seeds and seed hulls under their feeder to prevent moldy conditions from occurring on the ground. “These seeds can also attract meadow voles, house mice or other rodents, and the growth inhibitor in sunflower hulls can cause problems with grass or flowers near the feeder,” he said.

Salmonella is another disease that affects birds and is associated with unclean feeders.  It is extremely important, Henderson said, to keep a bird feeder clean to minimize the threat of disease.

To clean a feeder, he suggests using a solution of two ounces of bleach with one gallon of water and scrub the entire surface, or 10 parts water to one part bleach. Always allow the cleaned feeder to dry out in the sun, as the sunlight will help kill bacteria on the feeder. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned about every week to 10 days during the summer to keep the sugar water from producing mold.

Keep the feed dry by using a hopper-type feeder or a fly-through feeder and always scrape out old seed that accumulates in the corners. Tray feeders with a screen bottom will allow seeds to dry out from above and below after a rain shower. “Remember not to put out too many seeds at once because if the seeds are several inches thick, they can still become moldy in the center of a feeder with a screen bottom,” Henderson said.

More information on attracting and feeding birds is available in “Wild about Birds: The DNR Bird Feeding Guide” and “Landscaping for Wildlife.” Both books are for sale at Minnesota’s Bookstore in St. Paul. These books were made possible by the donations to the nongame wildlife fund.

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