DNR News

Minnesota DNR News
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Feb. 21, 2023 For more information:
Contact the DNR Information Center
by email or call 888-646-6367.

In This Issue DNR Fish and Wildlife Almanac DNR announces 2022 deer season preliminary harvest results, CWD management findings New gar possession limit takes effect March 1 on all state waters DNR Fish and Wildlife Almanac A weekly list of news briefs about fish, wildlife, and habitat management.

DNR invites conversation about wildlife, habitat and hunting

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources invites the public to talk about deer and other wildlife, hunting and habitat topics with wildlife managers throughout the state on Thursday, March 2. Wildlife managers will be available in local area offices or by phone from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. that day. People who would like to participate should visit the DNR’s talk about wildlife page (mndnr.gov/wildlife/talk-about-wildlife.html) to find the list of area offices and telephone numbers for their area wildlife manager. Area managers always welcome calls from the public, so people who can’t call during the dedicated time are encouraged to do so at their convenience. Individuals unable to call or stop by their area office on March 2 may also share their thoughts through an online questionnaire available March 2 on the DNR’s talk about wildlife page (mndnr.gov/wildlife/talk-about-wildlife.html). Written comments may be submitted to Barb Keller, Fish and Wildlife Division, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155. Individuals are welcome to talk with DNR staff about deer, other wildlife, hunting and habitat, discuss specific topics that the DNR’s deer advisory committee should be aware of, or provide thoughts and feedback about deer population management.

Time to buy new hunting, fishing licenses

It’s the time of year when anglers and hunters need to buy new fishing and hunting licenses. Minnesota fishing, hunting and trapping licenses for 2022 expire Tuesday, Feb. 28. Licenses for 2023 are now available wherever fishing and hunting licenses are sold, online (mndnr.gov/buy license) and by telephone at 888-665-4236. Mobile buyers receive a text or email that serves as proof of a valid fish or game license to state conservation officers. All 2023 fishing licenses become effective Wednesday, March 1. New licenses are required for 2023 hunting and fishing seasons that continue past Feb. 28.

DNR webinars cover fire starting, turkey reintroduction

The DNR invites people interested in fishing, wildlife and outdoor skills to tune in to upcoming webinars that will feature discussions about how to start a fire and the turkey reintroduction success story. The first webinar is at noon Wednesday, Feb. 22. Pam Welisevich, a naturalist with Dodge Nature Center, will discuss how to start a fire without using a lighter and how this activity connects to human history. Learn some important techniques that apply to building, starting, maintaining and safely extinguishing all types of fires. The second webinar is at noon Wednesday, March 1. DNR staff will be talking about the 50th anniversary of the reintroduction of wild turkeys in Minnesota and how people can get involved in mentored turkey hunts that happen across the state. Additionally, people can now register for a spring lineup of webinars that continues through May and will cover prairie chickens, bison, loons, backyard bird feeding, turkey calling, trout fishing opportunities, peregrine falcons, cold-water hatcheries, freshwater drum, walleye fishing, baby wildlife, monarch butterfly conservation and muskellunge diets. The webinars are part of the DNR’s Minnesota Outdoor Skills and Stewardship Series. The webinars are free, but registration is required. More information is available on the outdoor skills and stewardship page of the DNR website (mndnr.gov/discover).

DNR announces 2022 deer season preliminary harvest results

CWD management findings Hunters harvested about 170,000 deer during the 2022 deer hunting season, a lower total harvest than in recent years. Total harvest was down 7% compared to the 2021 season and 10% less than the five-year average deer harvest for Minnesota. “Lower deer numbers in northern Minnesota and poor weather during opening weekend in some parts of the state likely contributed to lower firearms A season harvest,” said Barb Keller, DNR big game program leader. “Hunters struggled with rain and wind in some parts of the state during early November, but weather was better during later seasons including firearms B and muzzleloader seasons.” The number of deer harvested during muzzleloader season was the highest reported since 2007 and was 10% higher than the 2021 season harvest. Archery season harvest was about 1% lower than the 2021 season. Most archery season harvest occurred prior to the firearms season and peaked in late October and early November. Analysis of the 2022 deer harvest are still underway. A final deer harvest report will be available in March — past season harvest reports are available on the DNR website (mndnr.gov/mammals/deer/management/statistics.html). The release of the final 2022 season harvest results will coincide with opportunities for public input. The DNR will offer walk-in office hours at area wildlife offices across the state, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, March 2. Local wildlife managers will be available to talk one-on-one with anyone about deer and other wildlife, hunting and habitat topics, specific topics that the DNR’s deer advisory committee should be aware of, or thoughts and feedback about deer population management. Those unable to attend office hours in-person will also be able to share their thoughts through an online questionnaire (mndnr.gov/wildlife/talk-about-wildlife.html) available March 2.

Written comments may be submitted to Barb Keller, Fish and Wildlife Division, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155. Comments will help inform season-setting decisions this spring for the 2023 fall deer hunting season.

CWD management Chronic wasting disease remains a serious and persistent threat to Minnesota’s deer herd health, but sampling efforts revealed some good news – three consecutive years of disease surveillance in deer permit areas 157, 159, 213, 225 and 273 yielded no detections of the disease in wild deer. Consistent with the DNR’s CWD management plan, these zones were established due to the detection of CWD in captive deer facilities. Following these three consecutive years of no detections in wild deer, successful hunters in these DPAs will no longer need to submit samples for testing. “This is great news for deer and deer hunters,” said Erik Hildebrand, wildlife health program supervisor. “We greatly appreciate hunters’ help monitoring these areas over the past few years.” CWD was detected in 26 hunter-harvested deer through the 2022 fall seasons. Of these, 73% were from the southeast, a region that continues to see persistent CWD infections in wild deer. CWD was detected in two hunter-harvested bucks in DPA 184 in the Bemidji area. DPA 184 is part of a CWD surveillance zone established due to the detection of CWD in a captive deer facility and illegal dumping of infected captive deer carcasses on public land. After the discovery of this fall’s CWD detections in wild deer, the DNR held a late disease management hunt to learn more about the presence of CWD in the area. An additional 102 deer were harvested by hunters, with no additional CWD detected. These results, along with the fact the two deer in which CWD was detected were both bucks, led to the DNR’s decision to not conduct targeted agency culling in DPA 184 this winter. “We use targeted culling in areas within two miles of a known CWD detection in deer, particularly does,” Hildebrand said. “We know an adult doe has a smaller home range and a tight social group. If a doe has CWD, the likelihood that her social group also has it is high. When we find a doe with CWD, that serves as anchor point for our culling efforts — we can apply it to very small, specific areas to fight the disease.” Conversely, bucks have larger home ranges and detecting CWD in two bucks does not allow the DNR to establish an effective anchor point for a culling effort. Culling efforts in the southeast started Jan. 23 and will continue through late March. Targeted culling will take place in the city of Grand Rapids (part of DPA 679) and the south metro (DPA 605) from Feb. 27 to March 10, focusing on locations where CWD has been detected in the past. All deer culled are processed and the venison is frozen until test results are received. Venison from deer with a not-detected result is distributed to cooperating landowners and those signed up through DNR’s Share the Harvest program (mndnr.gov/cwd/share-harvest.html). Hunters and conservation partners are critical in helping control CWD and maintaining the health of Minnesota’s deer herd. The DNR would like to thank deer hunters, taxidermists, processors, tribal nations (Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth), and deer conservation partners (Minnesota Conservation Federation, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Bluffland Whitetails and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers) that helped collect or submit samples for testing. For more information about deer hunting in Minnesota, visit the DNR deer hunting page (mndnr.gov/hunting/deer). CWD information, test results and more can be found at the DNR CWD page (mndnr.gov/cwd).

New gar possession limit takes effect March 1

on all state waters Anglers will find this and other changes in the 2023 fishing regulations booklet Spearers, anglers and bowfishers will be allowed to keep up to 10 gar — the toothy, prehistoric fish native to Minnesota waters — starting March 1, when a new gar possession limit is in effect on all Minnesota inland and border waters. The limit applies to longnose and shortnose gar, which previously could be kept in unlimited numbers, and is among other new regulations in the 2023 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet. The gar regulation change is part of a larger effort to sustainably manage gar and other native fish including buffalo, sucker, freshwater drum, bowfin, goldeye and bullhead, because they are critical contributors to aquatic ecosystems. The gar limit was established after 2021 legislation requiring the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources determine and set a limit for that species. “It’s a first step toward a more proactive and conservative approach to managing these native ‘rough fish’ species,” said Shannon Fisher, fisheries monitoring and regulations manager. “We value these native fish. They are important elements of health rivers and lakes, and yet we don’t know a ton about them.” While the DNR has less information about gar compared to fish species like walleye, pike or bass, DNR research is underway to track their populations, with initial results expected in the latter part of 2024. Additionally, the DNR will form a new work group with members of conservation organizations, members of the bowfishing community and interested stakeholders to identify conservation strategies for other native rough fish. “Historically there have been a lot of misconceptions about fish like gar. People thought that having gar around as predator fish created competition for fish like walleye. We know that’s not the case,” Fisher said. “The more we learn, the more we find out that these fish have important roles and value in the ecosystem.”

Other new regulations

Other fishing regulation changes for 2023 include opening the Vermillion River in Dakota County to a catch-and-release season that mirrors the season in place for southeastern Minnesota, which allows catch and release trout fishing from Jan. 1 each year to the mid-April stream trout season opener. Additionally, the brown trout catch-and-release only regulation applies to the entire Vermillion River starting March 1. New and modified regulations will also be in effect for a variety of other waters. Anglers are advised to check the regulations book for regulation details for these waters, listed here alphabetized by county: Big Sandy Lake and connected waters, Aitkin County A portion of the upper Turtle River chain of lakes, Beltrami County Three Island and Turtle River lakes, Beltrami County Fox Lake, Beltrami County Caribou Lake, Itasca County Round Lake, Itasca County Otter Tail Lake, Otter Tail County West Battle Lake, Otter Tail County Cloquet and Otter rivers of Island Lake Reservoir, St. Louis County. The 2023 Minnesota fishing regulations are available online (mndnr.gov/fishing) and anywhere Minnesota fishing licenses are sold.