A research project to fit 20 elk in northwest Minnesota with GPS collars will begin sometime this winter after the Department of Natural Resources completes its aerial survey of moose in the northeast part of the state, officials say.
John Williams, regional wildlife supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji, said the project, which aims to learn more about the home ranges and habitat preferences of northwest Minnesota’s elk herd, will focus on cow elk in the Kittson Central and Caribou-Vita herds in Kittson County along with a few cow elk from the herd near Grygla, Minn.
The DNR generally conducts an aerial survey of northwest Minnesota’s elk in February after the moose survey is complete, and the project to collar the elk would begin shortly after that, Williams said. The DNR has contracted with a professional helicopter crew to capture and collar the elk.
Northwest Minnesota has about 130 elk between the three herds, based on results from last winter’s aerial survey.
The Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources earlier this year approved a $200,000 grant for the study. The 17-member LCCMR includes 10 legislators and seven citizens who make funding recommendations to the Legislature on various outdoors-related projects from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.
The upcoming research project coincides with a new five-year plan scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 for managing northwest Minnesota’s three elk herds. The DNR is taking comments on a draft of the plan through Dec. 27 and has scheduled public meetings for 6:30 to 9 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Lancaster (Minn.) Community Center, 95 Second St. N.W.; and 6:30 to 9 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Grygla Community Center, 127 S. Main Ave.
More information, including a copy of the draft elk management plan and how to comment, is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/elk.
— Brad Dokken
Hunting seasons drawing to a close
Several hunting seasons are drawing to a close in North Dakota and Minnesota in the next few weeks, the Game and Fish Department and DNR said in news releases. A closer look:
• North Dakota: Today is the last day of statewide duck and white-fronted goose seasons, but duck hunting in the High Plains Unit reopens Saturday and continues through Jan. 3; last day of Canada geese is Dec. 24, except for the Missouri River Zone, which closes Jan. 1; last day of light goose hunting is Jan. 3; last day of archery deer, fall turkey, sharp-tailed and ruffed grouse, partridge, pheasant and tree squirrel hunting seasons is Jan. 3.
• Minnesota: Muzzleloader deer is open through Dec. 13; duck season is closed, but goose season is open until Dec. 23 in the North Zone, Dec. 28 in the Central Zone and Jan. 2 in the South Zone; archery deer is open through Dec. 31; ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, Hungarian partridge and pheasant are open through Jan. 3; cottontail rabbit, snowshoe hare, gray squirrel, fox squirrel and jack rabbit season close at the end of February.
— Herald staff report
Did you know?
• The Thief River Trap Club in Thief River Falls received a $5,000 grant from the DNR as part of a $371,000 package for 22 shooting range projects across the state. The grants program follows a significant increase in youth trap shooting, especially among participants in the burgeoning Minnesota State High School Clay Target League. The North Beltrami Sportsman’s Club in Kelliher, Minn., received a $75,335 grant. The grants require a 50 percent match of nonstate funds.
• Pheasants Forever has been designated as an “exceptional” charity for fiscal year 2015 by Charity Navigator, the country’s largest charity evaluator. Pheasants Forever received the designation, in part, by delivering on its mission of wildlife habitat conservation—spending $69.2 million to complete 15,190 wildlife habitat projects—improving more than 1.4 million acres for wildlife nationwide. In a news release, Pheasants Forever said the designation puts it among only 9 percent of U.S. charities considered “exceptional” through Charity Navigator’s rating system.
• The Scheels Boundary Battle Catfish Tournament is set for June 25-26 on the Red River in Grand Forks. Entry fee is $220 per two-person team, and the prize for the winning team is $2,000 based on a full field of 50 teams. There also will be daily prizes of $1,000 for the top team each day and $500 for the big fish each day of the tournament, based on a full field. Registration begins Monday. Info: Brad Durick, tournament director, (701) 539-5808; firstname.lastname@example.org; or on the Web at www.boundarybattle.com.
• Minnesota hunters registered 128,175 deer through the third weekend of the firearms deer season, up from 112,715 during the same period in 2014.
• The National Park Service is marking its 100th anniversary in 2016 by offering 16 entrance-free days: Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day; April 16-24, National Park Week; Aug. 25-28, National Park Service Birthday (and following weekend); Sept. 24, National Public Lands Day; and Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
• In related news, the Park Service said visitation to the country’s 409 national parks is on pace to set a new record this year. Through the first 10 months of the year, an estimated 272.5 million people visited national parks, up 3.7 percent from 262.7 million during the same period in 2014.
• David Barnick, who farms near Jamestown, N.D., is among eight landowners across the U.S. who have been honored with the Legacy Award from Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Conservation Reserve Program. “The motto ‘farm the best, conserve the rest’ is a motto Barnick takes to heart,” Pheasants Forever said in a news release. Curt Anderson of Dassel, Minn., and Johannsen Farms of Tolstoy, S.D., also were among the eight Legacy Award recipients.
— Compiled by Brad Dokken