Statewide Category Archive: Outdoors
"At last the Presque Isle is quiet, but it has left memories that will ripple for years."
So writes Jim Rada in his Upper Midwest kayaking guidebook Northwoods Whitewater, and so reads the trophy awarded to the winner of the extreme whitewater kayaking race held in his honor on Upper Michigan's Presque Isle River this past weekend.
For a handful of weeks every spring when the snow melts, the creeks and rivers that plummet down steep hillsides into Lake Superior become powerful, cascading class V whitewater kayaking destinations that draw paddlers from around the country. Rada, an astronomy professor and expert kayaker, introduced many paddlers to the little-explored rivers. His guidebook, for many years unpublished, became like "kayaking gospel," according to his friend and fellow paddler John Kiffmeyer.
Rada died 10 years ago of a heart attack while paddling the Presque Isle River, which drops in a series of waterfalls through Upper Michigan's Porcupine Mountains State Park to Lake Superior. Ever since, his friends have held a race on the river in his honor.
Racers jockey for position at the start of the 2013 Jim Rada Memorial Presque Isle River Race on May 18. At the start of the race, John Kiffmeyer sprinkled some of Rada's ashes into the river, "so he would make the journey with them," his widow Karen Jensen said.
Rada's widow, Karen Jensen, who he met kayaking, says over 20 paddlers came to paddle the river in honor of her late husband. She says many of the kayakers were young, in their 20s -- people she had never met.
They had all used my husband's book to find rivers," she said. "It was so joyful for me to see more people getting out to experience the rivers."
The participants in the Jim Rada Memorial Presque Isle River Race on May 18. They started en masse, paddling over a series of falls to Lake superior. John Kiffmeyer, of Asheville, NC, with the beard in the back row, organized the race, and won it.
Earlier that day she had looked back through Rada's book, Northwoods Whitewater, and had found this quote. "Rivers really need friends." The reason he wrote the book, she said, was "because he wanted to help people be friends with the rivers."
And here, 10 years after his death, on a glorious spring day when the water ran high and warm -- perfect kayaking conditions -- was proof that he had.(0 Comments)
The 66th annual Governor's Fishing Opener set for this weekend in Park Rapids may be one for the record books.
As of today, many lakes in the area still have lots of ice, enough so that even a couple of days of warm temperatures are unlikely to make it disappear in time for Saturday's walleye opener.
Dennis Mackedanz of Park Rapids is in charge of this year's event. He figures the ice on most lakes will shrink enough so that anglers will be able to find at least some open water.
"I've been watching it every day this past week," Mackedanz said. "We've made significant progress in the last few days. Several of the lakes look like they're going to have open water by Saturday morning. The question is, is it the whole lake? Probably not."
Fortunately, the people of Park Rapids have a "Plan B." Gov. Mark Dayton will likely spend a lot of time fishing the Fish Hook River, which enters Fish Hook Lake from the south.
Jason Durham, a Nevis kindergarten teacher, will guide the governor for the day. Durham, who's been an area fishing guide for 22 years, said visitors to the Park Rapids area won't have too much trouble finding open water for fishing.
Public access landings, however, may not have docks installed yet, as the state Department of Natural Resources and local counties couldn't get that work done while there was still ice along the shores.
"The fortunate thing for our community is that we have so many lakes situated close by, and a lot of those are smaller bodies of water, most of them under 2,000 acres," Durham said. "So we're going to have other areas to fish, because those lakes have opened up, so anglers are going to go lots of different directions and fish a lot of different lakes."
Here's what a lot of northern Minnesota lakes look like this week.
This City of Bemidji work crew is busy with spring clean-up on the shore of Lake Bemidji. But most of the lake is still covered in ice. Open water began appearing this week following several days of warm weather, but there will still likely be ice on the lake on Saturday.
That's probably going to be true for most larger lakes in northern Minnesota.
Here's a Department of Natural Resources map that pinpoints which lakes are free of ice. The DNR relies on data from the public, so it's certainly not accurate. But it does show that the state has a long way to go before all if its waters are ice free.
At least 50 loons have been rescued from farmers' fields, parking lots and roadsides since Saturday in northern Wisconsin. What's happening?
An ice storm in central Wisconsin last Thursday and Friday "encased loons in ice as they were migrating," explained Marge Gibson, who runs the Raptor Education Group in Antigo, Wisc. "They fell like rocks from the sky."
Gibson has rescued and released 51 stranded loons since Saturday, and said she has six more in rehabilitation. Here's a video of a loon recovering in a bathtub.
Loons also tried to make emergency landings in areas that looked like open water, but in fact were hard surfaces that looked like water, like parking lots or fields with some standing puddles.
"They're really desperate," said Erica LeMoine, LoonWatch Program Coordinator at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute in Ashland, Wisc. "They're trying to get to a place where they can rest until they can get to the lake they want to get to."
The problem, explains LeMoine, is that loons can't take off from hard surfaces. Even in lakes and rivers, they need up to a quarter mile of open water to gain enough speed to fly. LeMoine says that leaves them prone to starvation and predation.
It doesn't appear to be a problem in Minnesota. Phil Jenni, Executive Director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota, said his organization has only taken in two loons this spring, and both have been released. He said most loons had already migrated through southern Minnesota before last week's record snowfall reached Rochester, Red Wing and surrounding areas.
The late ice-out of many lakes across northern Wisconsin is also wreaking havoc with migrating loons. "Loons are crowding on to lakes in southern Wisconsin, on rivers around here, and little pieces of lakes that are open," said Erica LeMoine, as the birds wait out the ice on their home lakes in Wisconsin, Canada and elsewhere. "It's created a loon bottleneck," she said.
With nearly two months of wolf hunting now in the books in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, it's interesting to take a closer look at the number of wolves killed in both states, compared to their target harvests and total population.
Wisconsin hunters killed 105 wolves as of December 10th, very near the state's total quota of 116 wolves. That's out of a total estimated wolf population in the state of about 850. Which means hunters, in just over a month and a half, have killed about 12 percent of Wisconsin's wolves.
Wolves roam in the wilderness on Thursday, February 11, 2010 near the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. (MPR Photo/Derek Montgomery)
Minnesota hunters have killed more than twice as many wolves as their neighbors, 243 as of December 10th, well over halfway to the state's quota of 400 wolves. But that's out of a total estimated population of around 3,000, meaning Minnesota hunters have killed about 8 percent of the state's wolves.
As MPR's Stephanie Hemphill reported shortly after Minnesota's wolf hunt began, the numbers reflect different approaches to management of the iconic predator. "Minnesota has not set a goal for a maximum wolf population, while Wisconsin has. It wants to reduce the number of wolves to 350 and keep it there," Stephanie writes.
Of course others besides hunters have killed wolves in both states over the past year. This year in Minnesota, state and federal trappers have killed at least 214 wolves that preyed on livestock. And ranchers and pet owners have killed at least 15 wolves that threatened their animals, something they could not have legally done when the wolf was listed as a federal endangered species.
We'll know a lot more about Minnesota's wolf population after the DNR completes its first wolf survey in five years this winter. Many people have speculated that the higher than expected success rate of wolf hunters suggests that the state's wolf population is higher than the estimated 3,000.
In any case, both Minnesota and Wisconsin wildlife managers are likely to tweak their hunting seasons after they assess the numbers from this year's hunt.
Minnesota's late season runs through the end of January; Wisconsin's through the end of February, if it doesn't reach its quota first.
Too bad radio can't convey aromas because when you step into the Christmas wreath workshop of Jenny and Sam McFadden, well, it's an olfactory rush.
(Yes, as the former farm reporter for MPR years ago, I'm quite aware there are instances where it's a very good thing radio can't convey smells. But I digress.)
The McFadden's old barn is stacked nearly to the rafters with balsam fir boughs and this is when their wreath-making production is in its highest gear.
Here's my snapshot of Jenny and Sam in the barn of their Deer River farm in northern Minnesota.
You can hear my radio story about accompanying them on a balsam bough harvesting trek into the forest and then a tour of their wreath making enterprise Friday afternoon as part of All Things Considered on the network news stations of Minnesota Public Radio.
I captured images of the busy headquarters of Jen's Wreaths and there is also visual evidence of one of their employee's preferred methods of bandaging wreath-making wounds there as well. (Note: first aid tape doesn't always have to be white.)
Nearly everyone knows what the balsam fir looks like. Its pleasing cone shape and scent make it a favorite among Christmas tree consumers, and the boughs are favored by wreath makers because they stay fresh for a relatively long time.
Minnesota has lots of balsam fir which puts the state among the top suppliers of Christmas wreaths and other green holiday decorations. Jenny and Sam say they'll make as many as 8,000 wreaths in their 2 to 3 month long season.
Some of the state's bigger wreath making companies make and sell hundreds of thousands of wreaths, garlands and other products creating an important source of seasonal income for temporary workers.
The combine of choice for harvesting native prairie seed is a 30-year-old Allis Chalmers Gleaner. It's simple and easy to repair.
So, the folks who own and operate the Princeton, Minnesota-based Prairie Restorations Inc. have pretty much cornered the market on them. They own about a dozen including some they keep around for scavenging spare parts because, after all, they don't make 'em anymore.
You can hear the hum of the Allis as it churns through a field of little blue stem this afternoon in my latest Minnesota Sounds & Voices story on All Things Considered.
The fun fact about the combine is part of what I learned on a visit to the company's 400-acre farm one hour north of the Twin Cities. It's close to the peak of harvest season now and the old combine is chugging through fields of native prairie plants.
However, as the photo above taken by MPR's Jeff Thompson shows, there's still lots of hand work involved in harvesting native prairie plant seeds. Trista Backlund and other Prairie Restorations, Inc. employees are harvesting Hoary Vervain on Sept. 12, 2012.
The 35-year-old Prairie Restorations company started by Ron Bowen designs, restores and manages native plant communities.
They do about 300 projects a year, planting and restoring about 1500 acres of prairie.
In the bigger scheme of things that's a significant addition in part because so much of Minnesota's native prairie, about 99 percent, is gone. It's been plowed up for fields, houses, you name it.
A visit to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources web page shows where the state's prairie remnants are located. The DNR along with The Nature Conservancy are part of a 25-year-long, $3.6 billion state program to protect and expand native plant habitat.
Posted at 11:04 AM on July 16, 2012
by Michael Olson
Filed under: Outdoors
With all the attention placed on destructive invasive species like Asian carp and zebra mussels, non-natives that are still completely uncontrolled - it's easy to forget about the one exotic species in the Great Lakes that scientists have largely outsmarted.
On All Things Considered Friday I reported on the sea lamprey control program, a $20 million dollar effort of the U.S. and Canadian governments. A few decades ago lake trout were nearly extinct from the Great Lakes. Now, thanks in large measure to the program that's cut 90 percent of the sea lamprey population, there's a small commercial lake trout fishery along the North Shore.
Lamprey use their many teeth to latch onto the side of lake trout and suck their body fluids until the trout die. It's estimated that each lamprey kill between 10 and 40 pounds of lake trout during their lifespan, which is estimated at 18 months. (Derek Montgomery for MPR)
The main component of the sea lamprey control program is a chemical called TFM that's applied to streams where sea lamprey swim to spawn. The chemical binds to a lamprey's oxygen uptake and suffocates the larval lamprey before they mature and go out into the Great Lakes and prey on fish. Barriers and traps in the streams also help control their population.
But scientists are also researching alternative ways to control the lamprey, in part because, as Don Schreiner, Area Fisheries Manager with the Minnesota DNR put it, "nobody likes to use pesticides" in the streams. Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, which oversees the lamprey control program, said biologists are on the cusp of putting lamprey pheromones and repellants into the field to basically trick lamprey into changing their behavior during spawning season.
Pheromones are natural attractants that male lamprey emit to to lure females to spawn. Scientists are experimenting with using pheromones to lure lamprey into traps or into streams that don't have suitable spawning habitat.
Similarly, last year researchers at Michigan State University observed that lamprey are repelled by the scent of their own dead. Gaden said "the scent of death," as researchers have dubbed it, could be used to keep lamprey away from good spawning habitat, like the Brule River and other streams in northern Wisconsin.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere are exploring using pheromones to try to control invasive carp, which are steadily migrating up the Mississippi River. The hope is to soon add more critters to the very short list of invasive species success stories.
The moderate winter of 2011-12 likely is one reason more honeybees survived.
Nationwide, beekeepers have been losing about 30 percent of their bees each year, with some losing half of their bees each year. But U.S. Department of Agriculture officials say their latest survey of bee populations found that about 22 percent of bees died this winter. Beekeepers say a loss of about 13 percent is sustainable, so that is still a bigger hit than they would like to see.
"A warm winter means less stress on bee colonies and may help them be more resistant to pathogens, parasites and other problems," said Jeff Pettis, co-leader of the USDA research on honeybees.
Widespread bee deaths are a perplexing problem for beekeepers and researchers.
The so called Colony Collapse has been happening for a number of years and is the subject of a lot of research. Some think pesticides are the cause, others believe the culprit is parasites or natural pathogens. Many scientists believe it's a complicated mix of factors.
Researchers continue to look for a solution, but it sounds like many beekeepers caught a bit of a break over the past winter.
Minnesota is home to the largest American White Pelican colony in North America.
In 1968 the pelican was nearly extinct in Minnesota, down to one known breeding pair, state Department of Natural Resources researchers say.
Now there are an estimated 50,000 white pelicans in the state. Most of the birds winter in the Gulf of Mexico and return in the spring to raise young.
About 34,000 nest on Marsh Lake, in western Minnesota. On just one island nearly a half mile long and a few hundred feet wide, about 10,000 pelicans nest along with thousands of gulls and cormorants.
It's a bill-to-tail mass of birds and eggs and chicks. You can't take your eyes off the ground while walking because you'll step on a nest.
Researcher Jeff DiMatteo has been to the spot for about 25 years to band young pelicans He worries that the pelican colony is gaining notoriety, and attracting more birding enthusiasts and amateur photographers.
The islands on Marsh Lake are a protected sanctuary.
Trespassing on the islands can lead to citations and fines, according to Minnesota DNR Non-Game Wildlife Program Supervisor Carrol Henderson.
"Pelican colonies are at a critical stage of nesting right now, with many newly hatched chicks. Only researchers with appropriate permits may visit the island to conduct their studies," Henderson said. "Otherwise, pelicans at this stage of nesting will not tolerate trespassing by photographers or curious members of the public because it can result in the death of young."
Researcher Jeff DiMatteo says that's exactly what happened last year at the Marsh Lake Colony. An unidentified photographer paddled out to one of the islands and set up a blind. The parents left their nests and refused to return until the photographer left. Several hundred chicks died as a result. Dimatteo worries growing interest in pelicans will lead people to "love em to death."
To minimize the impact of his research trips to the colony, Dimatteo doesn't spend much time in any one area. He moves slowly to avoid alarming the pelicans.
I also worried about how to record the birds without unnecessary disturbance. Pelicans don't make a lot of noise. To obtain the sound of adults on the nest, I stashed a small recorder among the nests, collecting it when researchers returned to the area an hour later.
There have been cases of pelican colonies abandoned after too much disturbance. A few years ago thousands of pelicans abandoned chicks and eggs at the Chase Lake Refuge in North Dakota. The reason remains unclear. No one knows the limits of the pelicans tolerance for disturbance.
The DNR's Carrol Henderson says people who want to see pelicans should check out a colony on Pigeon Lake near Hutchinson. There is a Highway Scenic Overlook that was provided specifically for birdwatchers to view the colony from a safe distance.
Posted at 10:58 AM on May 12, 2012
by Michael Olson
Filed under: Outdoors
Bemidji area fishing guide Paul Nelson says walleyes, northern pike and perch have begun their spawning runs in many northern lakes.
Fish spawning activity is heavily dependent on weather. In a recent outdoors column in the Bemidji Pioneer, Nelson said cool temperatures following ice-out on area lakes this year put most of the fish in a holding pattern. But the subsequent warm-up now has fish actively spawning in lakes and rivers.
Now is the time of year that DNR fisheries workers are out stripping eggs from walleye so the fish fry can later be stocked in area lakes.
Nelson reports that crews have begun that process on the northeastern corner of Lake Winnibigoshish. Apparently most of the walleye were not "ripe" when they were captured in the nets. Warmer temperatures will quickly change that.
MPR News Dan Kraker: "Superior National Forest District Rangers and Ron Stoffel, the Wildfire Suppression Supervisor for the DNR, say they have not heard any reports of smoldering or burning in the Pagami Creek fire area. Superior National Forest District Ranger Mark Van Every says there hasn't been any smoke reported since January. But with the remaining snow cover melting fast, he says they could potentially see some smoldering activity soon."
That contradicts a report lacking attribution from the Northland News Center that was featured on Minnesota Today's morning update.
Minnesota Today: Boundary Waters News
Bemidji Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper
A Bemidji man pulled up the catch of a lifetime on Wednesday while ice fishing on Lake Bemidji.
After setting the hook on a bite, veteran angler Burnie Trepanier pulled from the ice hole a 28-inch walleye, an eelpout and a winter fishing rod and reel -- all at once.
Trepanier told The Bemidji Pioneer that as he was pulling the catch up, he initially thought he might have hooked a giant northern pike or a big muskie.
But after a long battle, the first thing he pulled out of the hole was a rod and reel tangled in his line. Next came the walleye and a tangle of braided line.
"And then up came about a 6-pound eelpout. I couldn't believe my eyes," Trepanier told the newspaper.
What's unclear are the chronicle of events that led to the strange catch. Trepanier theorizes that someone lost the rod and reel after a walleye bit on the line. He thinks the eelpout bit on his sucker minnow and then got tangled in the line and the fishing pole.
Trepanier says there's no way to know how long the walleye had been dragging the pole on the lake bottom. The hook was rusted and the jig was faded, but the fishing pole and reel were in good shape.
Trepanier says he plans to have the rod, reel and the two fish mounted.(1 Comments)
A couple of weeks ago, John Dickelman who runs a guide service on the Red Rive, was fishing with Dave Longtine (pictured above) when they pulled a small sturgeon through the ice.
They released the fish after snapping a photo, but Dickelman said it was very exciting to actually see a sturgeon.
The aquatic giant from the past is making a comeback on the Red River thanks to a series of dam modification projects that I reported on today for MPR's Morning Edition.
The Red River was full of massive sturgeon in the 1800s, but construction of dams and overfishing mostly eliminated the population by the mid 1900s.
Restoring sturgeon is a long term process. The fish grow slowly and typically don't spawn until they are 25 years old. They can live more than 100 years and reach 200 pounds or more.
The state Department of Natural Resources is stocking thousands of small sturgeon, and the White Earth Nation is also stocking sturgeon in lakes which feed into the Red River.
The ultimate goal is to remove barriers so sturgeon can migrate the entire length of the Red River and up the Otter Tail River.
Anglers who catch sturgeon must release them, but perhaps some day, 200-pounders will once again be pulled from the Red River.
"The Grey" is the new thriller starring Liam Neeson, who leads a stranded group of oil-rig roughnecks to safety in the remote Alaskan wilderness while being stalked by a vicious pack of rogue wolves.
The film is doing quite well in theaters, taking in nearly $20 million through this past weekend.
But the International Wolf Center in Ely isn't thrilled with the action flick. In the Center's blog Wild Bytes, Jo Tubbs, the International Wolf Center's board chair, calls the movie "dark, depressing, and as accurate a portrayal of wolf behavior as King Kong was about gorillas."
The Center is nominating The Grey for its first ever Scat Award, in the Scare Tactics and Silly Information categories. The educational center's main complaint, according to Tubbs, is that wolves in the movie are portrayed as killers, "when the incidence of wolves killing humans in North America is so rare as to garner huge headlines."
She says only two cases have been documented--a 2005 killing by wolves in Saskatchewan, and a 2010 death near Chignik Lake, Alaska.
There are now about 3,000 wolves in Minnesota. The state's Department of Natural Resources took over management of the wolves last Friday after wolves in the Great Lakes region were removed from Endangered Species list.(11 Comments)
A no-good solar-stealing thief is undermining a conservation project in Northern Minnesota that is attempting to establish a grove of Northern White Cedar trees.
Conservationists have had a difficult time establishing a grove of the trees. It seems the critters would rather eat the seedlings today than have a snack while enjoying shelter among the more mature trees. So a group of conservationists erected an electric fence to keep deer away as the trees matured. Along with the fence, the thief stole solar panels and a battery that were used to power the fence.
DNR: "The seedlings are not a size where they will survive without continued protection, said Larry Petersen, International Falls area wildlife manager. "This is the second equipment theft at the location, and with a remote site, relatively easy access, and limited security options, it could continue. It's too bad one individual has to ruin a project that involved the hard work of so many people - including the MDHA volunteers whose fundraising efforts provided $7,500 for the initial project costs."
The state Department of Natural Resources reports the items stolen in the recent incident are worth $1,000. The future of the project appears to be in jeopardy.
Jewel, a black bear in Ely, is about to give birth. Jewel is the sister of Lily, the bear thousands watched give birth via her den cam two years ago. You can check in on Lily and her cub, Faith, over here on the North American Bear Center.
One of Lily's cubs, Jason, died from an undetermined cause. Another of her cubs, Hope, was shot by a hunter during last year's bear season. Lily's cub Faith, at nearly one year old, seems to be doing well.
By Elizabeth Dunbar
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Friday it will propose a new wolf hunting season for as early as this fall.
The state expects management of the population to fall back into its hands after the gray wolf in the Great Lakes region is officially removed from federal protection later this month.
The DNR is seeking authority from the Legislature to create a new wolf license that would be available through a lottery system. The hunting season, which would include trapping, would likely take place between late November and early January, said Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist.
DNR officials said it has not yet set the number of licenses it will distribute or a target harvest rate. The first hunting season will be conservative so that the DNR can begin to collect data on how successful hunters are and how the wolf population responds, officials said.
There are approximately 3,000 wolves in Minnesota, and Stark said the population needs to stay above 1,600 to remain sustainable. But he said success rates among wolf hunters in other states have been very low.
"It's kind of an opportunistic thing," he said. "Trappers targeting wolves are probably going to be more effective."
It will be the third time the federal government removes Great Lakes region wolves from the Endangered Species Act. The other two times, the wolf was put back under protection following legal action by some animal rights and conservation groups.
A legal challenge is still possible this time, and DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr acknowledged that hunting wolves will be a sensitive issue.
"The wolf is really an iconic species in Minnesota," he said. "We need to proceed with care."
Landwehr said the state has a history of managing game species responsibly.
"We take this conditional opportunity seriously, and we're going to demonstrate that we can do it right," he said.
Ed Boggess, director of the DNR Fish and Wildlife Division, said many of the specifics of the proposed hunt still have to be worked out. He expects that will happen during the upcoming legislative session.
Boggess said DNR officials will propose starting with a small number of licenses to be cautious.
"We don't want to do anything that would get the wolf put back on the list," he said.
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, oversees DNR matters at the Legislature and said he supports a wolf hunting season. Ingebrigtsen said he wants to see the DNR's specific proposal but will do what he can to expedite legislation to allow the hunt.
A snowy owl clings to a powerline, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 near Lake Andes, S.D. The Arctic creatures have been seen from coast to coast more frequently this winter and have reached further south than in past years. (AP Photo/Dirk Lammers)
By DIRK LAMMERS, Associated Press
LAKE ANDES, S.D. (AP) - A species of majestic, mostly white owls popularized by Harry Potter is being sighted in abundant numbers this winter far from both Hogwarts and its native Arctic habitat.
Snowy owls typically arrive in the U.S. every three or four winters. This year's irruption is widespread, with birders from the Pacific Northwest to New England reporting frequent sightings of the yellow-eyed birds.
Lemmings are snowy owls' main food source, and a plentiful population of the Arctic rodents this summer led to a strong owl breeding season.
Owl researcher Denver Holt says the baby boom is sending many of the youngsters across the border to scrounge for voles, field mice, rats, rabbits and shore birds.
Snowy owls can top 2 feet in height with a wingspan of nearly 5 feet.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)(1 Comments)
Lakes can sound like a symphony this time of year when winter ice begins to thicken.
If you've never heard the sound before, check out this video. It was posted on YouTube a few days ago by videographer Tracey Hays, a resident of Two Inlets Lake, near Park Rapids, Minn..
Hays shot the footage in front of Bear Paw Resort, which she and her husband purchased six years ago after moving from Ohio.
"Photography is my hobby and I love sharing these kinds of unusual things," Hays said. "The sound coming off the lake that day was just awesome. I think it's because we have no snow cover, and the sound really carried and was just perfect."
Researchers with the state Department of Natural Resources monitor about 35 radio-collared black bears in northern Minnesota, and they're asking people heading out for the bear hunting opener Sept. 1 to be careful not to shoot them.
Most of the radio-collared bears are in northwest Minnesota, especially near Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area and the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge. But researchers are also keeping track of bears in the Chippewa National Forest, Voyageurs National Park, Camp Ripley, the Cloquet Forestry Station and near the Eagles Nest chain of lakes in northern St. Louis County.
The bears are marked with large colorful ear tags or colorful streamers.
DNR bear research biologist Dave Garshelis said he hopes hunters will be especially vigilant, because the state has a lot of money invested in the collared bears.
"These animals provide long-term data on reproduction and habitat use that is invaluable for bear management across the state," Garshelis said. "Researchers have invested an enormous amount of time and expense in these individuals."
Many of the collars have global positioning units that collect and store data, which is downloaded by researchers when they visit the bears in their dens.
Shooting a collared bear isn't necessarily illegal. DNR officials say they recognize that hunters might not see a tag or collar in some situations.
Hunters who accidentally shoot a collared bear should call the DNR's Wildlife Research office in Grand Rapids at 218-327-4146.
The final budget that came out of the state government shutdown compromise includes some good news for Bemidji. It provides the city $1.8 million to build a pedestrian, bike and snowmobile trail bridge over state Highway 197 at the south end of town.
The bridge has been on the wish list of both the city and the Department of Natural Resources for a long time. It represents the last segment of trail that will officially complete the 110-mile Paul Bunyan Trail from Brainerd to Lake Bemidji State Park. The bridges allows users to safely cross a six-lane section of roadway.
The funding comes from the $500 million bonding bill negotiated by Gov. Mark Dayton. The bonding package provides $5 million for DNR trails, including the bridge.
The bridge will span 140 feet and will include a 12-foot-wide concrete deck.
The project also nicely compliments a development area along the south shore of Lake Bemidji that includes the Sanford Center hockey arena and events facility, as well as other planned commercial and residential development.
Construction of the bridge could be completed as early as this fall.
Here's another example of mixed signals being sent by the state Department of Natural Resources on the status of fishing license laws during the state government shutdown: Voyageurs National Park officials apparently had an arrangement with their local DNR conservation officers to allow fishing to continue in the park for people who didn't have a license.
Voyageurs National Park Superintendent Mike Ward told The Journal newspaper of International Falls that a lot of people visiting the park were concerned about how to get a license during their visit. License sales have been halted since the state government shutdown began July 1.
Ward told the paper he was informed by local DNR officers that they would allow people fishing without a license to get one later, without penalty.
"We queried the DNR, and we assume these people would be following the rules if the state was open," Ward told the paper. "So they're gathering the information so when the state reopens, they will have a time period when they can get a license, and won't be fined or cited."
Crow Wing County leaders last week talked publicly about similar messages coming from their local conservation officers. That prompted DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr to issue a statement saying there would be no free pass for unlicensed anglers during the shutdown.
It appears local DNR officers are trying to be sensitive to resorts and other tourism related businesses worried the unavailability of fishing licenses will chase away out-of-state visitors. It's likely those conservation officers are as anxious as anyone for the shutdown to come to an end.
MPR File Photo
As news broke in St. Paul today around a potential end to the government shutdown stalemate, anglers enjoyed a day on Lake Bemidji, and some were fishing without a license.
The state Department of Natural Resources made clear Wednesday that its officers would not cut anglers any slack for not having a valid fishing license, even though the shutdown made it impossible to buy one.
But out-of-state visitors I spoke with at a public boat landing on Lake Bemidji are determined to fish -- with or without a license.
"I'd hoped that the shutdown would have been over so I could have purchased my license online before I came here for vacation," said one man, from Madison, Wis.
The man didn't want to give his name because he knew he was breaking the law by fishing without a license.
"I guess I'll take my chances," he said. "I came 500 miles to get here, so I'll get the license as soon as they're able to sell me one. For now, I'll go ahead and fish."
I talked to other groups of anglers -- from Iowa and Indiana -- who said they had their licenses, but would have fished without one if they had to.
It's still unclear just how hard local DNR officers are working to check for valid fishing licenses. With the department's statewide staffing levels down to just over 200 because of the shutdown, the officers are likely stretched pretty thin.
None of the folks I talked with had run into DNR conservation officers on Lake Bemidji or any of the other lakes they'd visited this week.
One Ely-based outfitter told MPR News this morning that he hadn't run across anyone who'd been tagged for fishing without a license. Earlier this week, the Crow Wing county attorney said his office had not seen any license violation citations referred by the conservation officers since the shutdown began July 1.
Perhaps the conservation officers have their hands full without worrying about whether a family from Iowa purchases a fishing license. They've been charged with keeping an eye on Minnesota's shuttered state parks and are doing their best to make sure boaters are checking their boats for invasive species.
One Bemidji area conservation officer told me he's been running ragged since the start of the shutdown. Like everyone else, he is anxious for leaders in St. Paul to solve the two-week old budget impasse.
The weather outside is having a chilling effect on success for anglers in search of the state's prized catch.
A scroll through DNR officer reports adds to the disappointment.
CO Brad Schultz (Cook) reports fishing remains slow; however, a few area lakes had a good pan fish bite going on. Nuisance beaver complaints continue. People are reminded to leave the young of the year animals alone.
While nuisance beavers are keeping things interesting in Cook, fishing still was slow in Grand Rapids.
Water Resource Enforcement Officer Tony Arhart (Grand Rapids) Angler success was sporadic again, with some walleyes in the live wells. Mosquitoes are thick.
No fish and mosquitoes? Maybe the state should just shutdown the parks. But wait, there are signs of hope in Grand Marais.
CO Darin Fagerman (Grand Marais) reports that fishing started to pick up toward the end of the week. Nice catches of walleye were seen in the live wells. The water temps on inland lakes are still cold for this time of the year. The CO and his daughter were out fishing during the week when a moose cow came out along the shore with a new born calf. The moose spent a lot of time along the shore and in the water. The calf was still a little clumsy, but it made for a few nice pictures.(2 Comments)