Stories tagged Minnesota DNR

Invasive species in Minnesota lakes is an ongoing problem. But this story – an alligator shot by Minnesota game officials in a Scandia-area lake – may just take the cake. Oh, and they think there might be one or two more gators still in the lake.


Are you aiming at us?: This fall a limited wolf hunting season will be open in Minnesota. What do you think of that?
Are you aiming at us?: This fall a limited wolf hunting season will be open in Minnesota. What do you think of that?Courtesy Stefan
With their numbers now above endangered levels, this fall wolves will be among the species Minnesota hunters can legally take. The wolf hunting season will run concurrent with deer season in sections of northern Minnesota. A wolf trapping season will follow, starting on Jan. 1, 2013. The new season will limit the take of wolves to 400 out of a state population estimated at about 3,000 wolves.

Visitors at the Science Museum of Minnesota can weigh in on their thoughts about a wolf hunting season at the Science Buzz poll kiosk on Level 5. Currently, a strong majority of opinion is against the idea of hunting wolves.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conducted a similar online survey to gauge public opinion on a wolf hunting season...with 80 percent of respondents saying they were against the idea. But proponents of the hunting season say that survey was rigged with a huge anti hunt contingent of opinion coming in from outside of the state. You can read more about that survey here.

Also, some Native American tribes in Minnesota aren't thrilled with the idea of a wolf hunting season. You can learn more about their thoughts on this issue here.

What are your thoughts about a wolf hunting season restarting in Minnesota? Share your opinion here with Science Buzz readers.


A Zebra Mussel
A Zebra MusselCourtesy USGS
Invasive species are getting to be more and more in the news lately, both nationally. Emerald ash borers, Eurasian watermilfoil, Asian lady beetles, zebra mussels, buckthorn and silver carp, just to name a very few, pose significant environmental and economic risks. But, they are a fact of life now, sadly, and its up to all of us to make sure we slow their inevitable spread as much as possible.

Zebra mussels have been recently discovered in four more Minnesota lakes – Lake Prior (Scott County), Pike Lake (near Duluth), Le Homme Dieu (Alexandria) and Rebecca (near Hastings) bringing the total number of lakes confirmed with zebra mussels in Minnesota up to 10. Eurasian watermilfoil is gaining ground too, recently discovered in Lake Florida, near Spicer.

As a result of the spread of these invasive species, the Minnesota DNR is stepping up its enforcement efforts. And while the DNR is doing its best, the message they want to get out is that its really up to everyone who spends time on a lake to stop their spread.

On a side note, the Cambridge Field Research Laboratory for the New York State Museum is researching a way to kill zebra mussels with natural bacteria. The bacteria treatment has to date not been tested in a lake, but has been successfully tested in water intakes at power plants. Once the treatment gets EPA approval, it will be tested in lakes, probably in a year or so.

We've documented many human vs. wildlife conflicts here on the Buzz. But here's one I've never heard of before that ended in a sad manner. What do you think of its outcome? Want a little more man v. beast news? Read about a chain saw/mountain lion encounter in Wyoming. But jumbo squid off the coast of San Diego scored a victory for the animal kingdom this week.


Gone fishing?: Where have the walleye's gone on Minnesota's Lake Mille Lacs? Fall surveys this year show about half the number of fish in the state's "walleye factory" than typically are found. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Gone fishing?: Where have the walleye's gone on Minnesota's Lake Mille Lacs? Fall surveys this year show about half the number of fish in the state's "walleye factory" than typically are found. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
The walleye is Minnesota’s state fish. And the No. 1 lake to catch walleyes in the state is generally considered to be Lake Mille Lacs. But fish population censuses conducted this summer on Minnesota’s walleye factory have fisheries managers scratching their heads.

You may have read or heard some of the headlines about this in recent days. Some of those reports sensationalized the situation. While the walleye numbers are down on the lake, they’re by no means at critical conditions, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports.

Routine testing done on the lake this summer corralled only about half the usual number of walleyes as the average number collected between 193 and 2006, the DNR says. The tests, conducted near shorelines are done annually to monitor fish populations and size.

“We expected some decline in walleye numbers based on a number of factors, including a weak 2004-year class of walleye,” said DNR Fisheries Chief Ron Payer. But the magnitude of this year’s decline was unanticipated.”

This year’s net catches averaged 7.2 walleyes per net compared to the 15.4 average from the previous 14-year average of 15.4 walleyes per net. Similar sampling done last year collected 20.4 walleyes per net.

So why the big drop?

Payer said that warm lake water, particularly in June, may have played a significant role in the drop. Warmer water temps stress fish and hooking mortality rate goes up as water temperatures go up, as well.

Is the situation critical?

Not yet, Payer said. But the reason the DNR does the annual walleye population survey is to gather data on setting limits for the coming fishing season. And there’s no doubt, he said, that those regulations will likely be tightened in 2008.

But he added that Mille Lacs still has a strong number of spawning-sized fish.

Payer said anglers should know Mille Lacs continues to hold good numbers of spawning-sized fish. Still, the new data means the DNR will need to revisit regulations to ensure the lake’s walleye harvest stays within the safe harvest level and the state’s allocation. No walleye harvest overage will be allowed in 2008 due to the lower than anticipated number of walleye in recent population assessments.

Because of several factors, Mille Lacs’ walleye population is regulated differently than other Minnesota lakes. Through a treaty with the Chippewa Indian bands negotiated in 1837, those bands have significant fishing rights on the lake. Those rights are taken into account with sport fishing limits each year in managing Mille Lacs’ walleye population.

This past year, sport anglers could only take four walleyes a day. They had to be between 14 and 16 inches in length, with the exception made for one walleye longer than 28 inches long. Earlier in the season, the limits were actually less restrictive, but heavy fishing success in the early part of the summer required tightening the Mille Lacs limits.

Regulations for the 2008 open water season will be established in February 2008 and go into effect with the walleye opener on May 12.

So do you have a theory on what's happened to the walleyes? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Minnesota DNR press release on Mille Lacs walleye numbers