Field reports: Minnesota DNR deer meetings set over next two weeks

Minnesota DNR wildlife managers across the state are hosting open house meetings for the public to ask their deer questions and learn more about deer management and local deer populations and goals.

The meetings are set for this week and next across the state, including the following in the Northland:

March 26 at the Tower Area DNR office, 650 Highway 169., 5-7 p.m.

March 26 at the Aitkin DNR Office, 1200 Minnesota Ave., 5-6:30 p.m.

March 28 at the Cloquet DNR Office, 1604 Highway 33 South, 6-8 p.m.

March 28 at the International Falls DNR office, 392 E. Highway 11, 5-6:30 p.m.

April 2 at the Grand Rapids regional DNR office, 1201 E. Highway 2, from 5-6:30.

April 3 at the Two Harbors DNR office, 1568 Highway 2, 4-6 p.m.

Last year, the first time such public input sessions were held, they were very sparsely attended. But it’s expected more people will show up this year now that there is more word out about the effort, after a winter of deep snow and some deer mortality, and after a winter of increased chronic wasting disease in the state.

The meetings do not include formal presentations; people can arrive at any time. Other locations and more information are available on the DNR deer plan webpage at mndnr.gov/deerplan.

DNR: Despite deep snow, don’t feed deer

As Minnesotans continue to dig out from the snowiest February on record, deer enthusiasts may be concerned about the condition of the white-tailed deer herd and wonder if supplemental feeding is needed to prevent population declines.

Although deer feeding can be well-intentioned, the DNR recommends against it. That’s because the risks of these feedings easily outweigh the potential benefits:

• It can spread CWD. The congregation of animals at concentrated sources of feed is known to increase the risk of disease transmission. Because Minnesota has a growing problem of chronic wasting disease and bovine tuberculosis in its deer populations, feeding would help spread the disease. Feeding is discouraged statewide and illegal in some areas.

• Other health risks. The bacteria, protozoa and fungi that inhabit the stomach of deer comprise a unique and fragile micro-ecosystem. Feeding corn or other high-quality grains to a deer that has been subsisting on very low quality forage for most of winter can lead to a cascade of bad health effects, including death. Some bagged corn feed has also been found to be infected with a poisonous and deadly substance called aflatoxin.

• Human safety. Human feeding of any wild animal can lead to habituation. As deer lose their fear of humans, problems associated with deer-vehicle collisions, deer damage to properties and aggressive interactions can arise.

• Ineffective. Past experience with emergency feeding practices in Minnesota found the cost is very high while only a small percentage of the deer herd gets any feed. In much of the state, road access is not adequate for volunteers to effectively canvas deer populations with supplemental feed.

Paddling Film Festival Friday at Clyde

The Northland Paddlers Alliance presents the 14th annual Paddling Film Festival at 6 p.m. March 22 at Clyde Iron Works, 2920 W. Michigan St.

The Paddling Film Festival is an international adventure film tour presenting the world’s best paddling films of the year — whitewater, sea kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboard.

It’s showing in more than 120 cities and towns across Canada, the United States and around the world.

Doors open at 6 p.m. with a social and brown bag auction for great paddling gear, trips, and instruction. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. For tickets and information call Ski Hut at 218-724-8525 or purchase online at northlandpaddlers.org.

Minnesota moose numbers stable, but still low

As reported last week in the News Tribune, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says the state’s moose population is hanging on in 2019, the eighth straight year of low but relatively stable numbers for the big forest animal.

That lower but stable period comes after the state’s moose numbers crashed rapidly, from a modern high of 8,840 moose estimated in 2006 to just 2,700 in 2013.

This year’s aerial survey of several sections of the state’s prime moose range — namely across Cook, Lake and northern St. Louis counties — accounted for an estimated 4,180 moose total. That’s up considerably from last year’s estimate of 3,030. But because there’s such a large range of variability in the survey, the increase is considered statistically insignificant.

The DNR said there’s a 90 percent certainty that the population lies somewhere between 3,250 and 5,580 animals. This year’s midpoint estimate is still less than half the moose counted in 2006.

With Minnesota moose already at the southern edge of their habitat, scientists aren’t encouraged about the animal’s future here in a warming world.

Moose in Minnesota have been hard-hit by a number of factors, including a long-term increase in deer across moose range. Deer carry a parasitic brain worm that, while harmless to whitetails, is fatal to moose.

Moose also have been plagued by an increase in parasites, such as ticks that thrive in a warmer climate. Even an increase in warm summer weather — when moose stop eating because of heat stress — impacts the big animals’ ability to survive the cold winter.

Moose also have seen dwindling habitat, often due to fire suppression, aging forests and past forest management. Scientists have noted that some of the few areas with increasing moose numbers in recent years are where big fires have occured, clearing the way for a younger forest that has the type of food moose thrive on.

The smaller moose herd, especially newborn calves, also becomes more vulnerable to predators, especially wolves but also black bears.

Mille Lacs walleye keepers in May

As promised earlier this year the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has set a season for anglers to keep some walleyes on Lake Mille Lacs for the first time since 2015.

Anglers will be able to keep one walleye 21-23 inches long from the fishing opener May 11-31. After that walleye fishing on the big central Minnesota lake will revert back to catch-and-release only, which it has been all open water seasons since 2016.

The DNR says the lake’s once-depleted walleye population has recovered enough to allow some harvest, especially thanks to a good 2013 year class of young walleyes into the system.

Similar to recent years, no night fishing will be allowed, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. beginning May 13. The night walleye closure will remain in effect throughout the entire open-water season, which ends Nov. 30.

Zebra mussels confirmed in Upper Red Lake

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources last week confirmed the presence of zebra mussel larvae in Upper Red Lake after studying water samples gathered last summer by biologists from the Red Lake Nation.

No adult zebra mussels have been found yet, but eight larvae, called veligers, were found in a sample taken in the middle of Upper Red Lake. DNR research scientist Gary Montz said it is almost certain the veligers came from adult zebra mussels already in the lake.

DNR and Red Lake Nation officials are working together to determine next steps. Actions will likely include a combination of continued monitoring, increased watercraft inspections in the area and additional public information efforts.

Zebra mussels already have been found in other popular fishing, such as Mille Lacs and Winnibigoshish. They infest new waterways mostly by being moved by people. Anglers and other boaters are asked to make sure they don’t transport any water between waterways, to clean, drain and dry their boats between uses.

Zebra mussels can disrupt food chains in waterways, displace native mussels, foul water intakes and their shells can foul beaches.