NR, NWTF mentored youth turkey applications due Feb. 13

DEER HARVEST DECLINES 7 PERCENT

First-time youth turkey hunters, ages 12 to 17, have the chance to go afield this spring and learn from an experienced National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) volunteer, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Applications, maps and general information for the wild turkey hunt are available online at www.mndnr.gov/youthturkey. The application deadline is midnight on Monday, Feb. 13. Participants will be selected through a random lottery.

“Rookie turkey hunters and their guardian will learn life-long outdoor skills and how to be a responsible hunter,” said Mike Kurre, DNR mentoring program coordinator. “The outdoor coaches of the NWTF are helping create the next generation of hunters.”

This is the 10th consecutive year DNR and NWTF have cooperated to provide opportunities for first-time youth turkey hunters. More than 1,500 youth have been introduced to this unique hunting experience since spring youth turkey hunts began in 2002.

Most hunts will occur Saturday, April 21, and Sunday, April 22, which is the first weekend of the regular wild turkey season. Nearly all youth will hunt on private land thanks to the generosity of private landowners and the NWTF volunteers who obtained permission.

To be eligible, a youth hunter must be age 12 to 17 on or before Saturday, April 21; have a valid firearms safety certificate; and be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The program is for first-time turkey hunters only. Any youth who has ever purchased or been selected by lottery for a Minnesota turkey license of any type is not eligible.

Hunters and their mentors will be assigned a NWTF volunteer coach, who must accompany both the youth and parent or guardian throughout the entire hunt.

Participation in the hunts is only restricted by the number volunteers and private lands that are available. People who have an interest in providing quality turkey hunting land for the mentored youth hunts should contact a NWTF chapter online at www.nwtf-mn.org/Home/ChapterListings.

Minnesota deer harvest declines 7 percent in 2011

Lower deer populations and a windy first weekend of the firearms season resulted in Minnesota’s deer harvest dropping 7 percent in 2011, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Minnesota hunters harvested 192,300 deer during the 2011 season, a drop of 15,000 from the 207,000 deer harvested in 2010.

In 2011, firearms hunters harvested 164,800 deer, while archery and muzzleloader hunters harvested 20,200 and 7,300 deer, respectively. Overall, the statewide archery and firearm harvest was down 6 percent for both seasons and the muzzleloader harvest declined 19 percent from last year.

“Upwards of 50 percent of the annual deer harvest occurs during opening weekend,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “The high winds hunters experienced opening weekend hindered deer activity and the associated harvest.”

Deer densities were lower in many areas because of hunting regulations designed to bring populations to goal levels, and because of a harsh winter in 2010.

Now that many areas are at the established goal levels, there is a general dissatisfaction among hunters with the current deer population. As a result, the DNR will develop a process in the near future to reassess deer population goals. Although that process may not be complete for several months, DNR staff will examine population densities and trends in all permit areas and begin making adjustments in time for the 2012 season.

Cornicelli said hunters should pay close attention to the hunting synopsis, which comes out in mid-July, to see if they need to apply for a lottery either-sex permit.

For the 2012 season, the deadline for the either-sex permit application is Thursday, Sept. 6. Archery deer hunting will begin Saturday, Sept. 15. The statewide firearms deer hunting season will open on Saturday, Nov. 3. The muzzleloader season will open Saturday, Nov. 24.

The final deer harvest number is calculated using information provided by hunters when they register their deer. A final report, which includes more detailed harvest information, will be available online at www.mndnr.gov/deer in the coming weeks.

Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan to take effect Jan. 27

Minnesota’s population of wolves will transition from federal protection to state management by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Jan. 27, bringing with that transition a number of law changes.

Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan will protect wolves and monitor their population, but also give owners of livestock and domestic pets more protection from wolf depredation. The plans splits the state into two management zones, with more protective regulations in the northern third, considered the wolf’s core range.

“The DNR is well-prepared to manage gray wolves and ensure the long-term survival of the species,” said Ed Boggess, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “The state’s Wolf Management Plan will allow Minnesotans more flexibility to address the real conflicts that occur between wolves and humans.”

The major change with state management is the ability of individual people to directly protect their animals from wolf depredation, subject to certain restrictions. In addition, the state-certified gray wolf predator control program will be available to individuals as another option to deal with livestock depredation.

The Wolf Management Plan has provisions for taking wolves that are posing risks to livestock and domestic pets. Owners of livestock, guard animal or domestic animals may shoot or destroy wolves that pose an immediate threat to their animals on property they own or lease, in accordance with local statutes. “Immediate threat” means observing a gray wolf in the act of stalking, attacking or killing livestock, a guard animal or a domestic pet under the supervision of the owner.

In addition, the owner of a domestic pet may shoot or destroy a gray wolf posing an immediate threat on any property, as long as the owner is supervising the pet.

In all cases, a person shooting or destroying a gray wolf under these provisions must protect all evidence and report the taking to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours. The wolf carcass must be surrendered to the conservation officer.

In the southern two-thirds of Minnesota (Zone B), a person may shoot a gray wolf at any time to protect livestock, domestic animals or pets on land they own, lease or manage. The circumstance of “immediate threat” does not apply. A DNR conservation officer must be notified within 48 hours and the wolf carcass must be surrendered to the conservation officer. Also in Zone B, a person may employ a state-certified gray wolf predator controller to trap wolves on or within one mile of land they own, lease or manage.

Unlike federal regulations, state regulations allow harassment of wolves that are within 500 yards of people, buildings, livestock or domestic pets to discourage wolves from contacting people and domestic animals. Wolves cannot be attracted or searched out for purposes of harassment and cannot be physically harmed.

Similar to federal regulations, Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan allows anyone to take a wolf to defend human life. Any wolves taken must be reported to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours, and evidence must be protected.

Although some level of agency wolf depredation control may be in place under a cooperative agreement between DNR and the Wildlife Services Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, funding for this program has been eliminated as a result of federal budget cuts. The DNR is working with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and state livestock associations to identify funding that could support this program in the future.

The DNR already has staff in place to fully implement the state management plan, and to ensure that wolves continue to thrive in Minnesota while minimizing the inevitable conflicts that arise between wolves, humans and livestock. Dr. John Erb, DNR wolf research biologist, will continue to address wolf research and population monitoring needs. Stark will coordinate all wolf management activities in Minnesota.

The DNR has designated three conservation officers in the wolf range as lead officers to ensure enforcement of provisions of the Wolf Management Plan. These officers are Lt. Pat Znajda in Thief River Falls, Dave Olsen in Grand Rapids and Greg Payton in Virginia.

Mary Ortiz, executive director of the International Wolf Center based in Ely, said Minnesota is taking a thorough approach to wolf management through further wolf research and monitoring. She urged Minnesotans to learn more about the DNR’s plan as a new era of state management unfolds. “This is a comprehensive and conservative plan with a very specific and highly controlled approach to wolf management,” Ortiz said.

The state’s wolf population, estimated at fewer than 750 animals in the 1950s, has grown to its current estimate of 3,000. The endangered species act requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor wolves in Minnesota for five years after delisting to ensure that recovery continues. Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves to ensure their long-term survival in the state.

Federal rules removing the Great Lakes population of wolves from the endangered species list also take effect Jan 27 in Wisconsin and Michigan.

The complete Minnesota Wolf Management Plan, zone maps, population survey information as well as a question and answer fact is available online at www.mndnr.gov/wolves.

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