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OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: MDHA launches mountain lion website, DNR expands burning restrictions etc.

MDHA launches website for

mountain lion sightings

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. -- In response to increased reports of mountain lion sightings across the state, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association has launched a new website for reporting possible sightings.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says there is no evidence of a self-sustaining breeding population in the state, but confirmed mountain lion sightings have increased in recent years. Minnesota in 2010 had five confirmed and more than 30 unconfirmed mountain lion sightings.

MDHA officials say they hope the new website not only provides a forum for reporting potential sightings, but also assists wildlife officials in quantifying and verifying cougar sightings.

"This effort may generate controversy," MDHA said of the website. "Undoubtedly, we will get many undocumented sightings, but we hope to also receive useful data in the form of photographs, eyewitness accounts, location information and maybe even proof of cougar reproduction. Most importantly, we hope this effort will create dialogue and raise useful questions about this magnificent predator that may be living in our back yard."

To check out the site, go to and click the "Just for Fun" link on the left side of the page.

-- Herald staff report

Outdoors groups headed for Capitol

DULUTH -- A broad coalition of outdoor and conservation groups will gather at the State Capitol in St. Paul from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday to help educate Minnesota's legislators about the importance of hunting and the outdoors sports.

Called "Outdoor Heritage Day at the Capitol," the event will be spearheaded by Hunting Works for Minnesota, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Pheasants Forever, the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance and other groups.

-- Duluth News Tribune

DNR expands spring burning restrictions

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota DNR on Friday placed 16 more counties under burning restrictions. Added to the list were Aitkin, Becker, Beltrami, Carlton, Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Mahnomen, Marshall, Otter Tail, Pennington and Roseau counties, along with Polk County east of county Highway 6 and south of state Highway 92, and part of St. Louis County.

The DNR the previous week placed 19 counties in the central part of the state under burning restrictions. With the warmer weather, extremely fast snow melt continues throughout much of central and northern Minnesota. The five remaining northernmost counties likely will go under restrictions before the end of April.

Restrictions will remain in effect until the threat of wildfires decreases.

Campfires are still allowed and never require a burning permit.

-- Minnesota DNR

Red Lake walleye length change set for June 15

BEMIDJI -- Regulations allowing anglers on Upper Red Lake to keep larger walleyes after June 15 again will be in effect this year.

From May 14 through June 14, anglers must release all walleyes from 17 to 26 inches long. Beginning June 15, anglers may keep walleyes up to 20 inches and must immediately release all walleyes from 20 inches to 26 inches. During both time periods, anglers can possess no more than four walleyes, and only one can be longer than 26 inches.

The walleye size limit will revert to the 17- to 26-inch protected range Dec. 1 for the winter angling season. The possession limit will remain at four.

This will be the third year of the midseason slot-limit adjustment.

"This regulation package, which has been very popular with anglers and local businesses, has been effective in managing walleye harvest within established safe harvest levels," said Gary Barnard, area fisheries manager for the DNR in Bemidji.

-- Minnesota DNR

Did you know?

- The Red Lake Band of Chippewa is planning to set nets and fish in state-controlled waters of Upper Red Lake on May 13, the day before Minnesota's statewide walleye opener, the Red Lake Nation News reports. Members of the Leech Lake and White Earth bands of Chippewa conducted a similar exercise the day before opener last year on Lake Bemidji to protest an 1855 land rights treaty. All of Lower Red Lake's 152,000 acres and 60,000 acres of Upper Red Lake lie within the boundaries of the Red Lake Indian Reservation. The state manages 48,000 acres on the east side of Upper Red, which is where the band plans to net next month.

- North Dakota's paddlefish snagging season opens May 1 and is scheduled to continue through the end of the month. Depending on the overall harvest, the Game and Fish Department could close the season early with a 36-hour notice. High water levels near the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers are likely to create tough snagging conditions this year. Info/regulations:

- Bismarck made the Top 10 in Outdoor Life magazine's fourth annual "Top 200 Towns for Sportsmen," with Bend, Ore., finishing first for its access to millions of acres of public land and its fishing, upland and big game hunting opportunities. Other North Dakota and Minnesota communities making the list were Williston, N.D., No. 17; Roseau, Minn., 22; Devils Lake, 26; Bemidji, 27; Rochester, Minn., 30; Red Wing, Minn., 109; Alexandria, Minn., 113; Dickinson, N.D., 118; Jamestown, N.D., 126; Duluth, 164; Virginia, Minn., 169; and Marshall, Minn., 200.

- Tourism officials in Baudette, Minn., are launching a campaign to become the "Ultimate Fishing Town USA." The World Fishing Network is sponsoring the competition, and the winning town will land $25,000 for fishing-related causes. To vote for Baudette, go to Voters can vote as often as four times a day.

- Lee Widdel, Minot, won the spring light rifle match, held April 16 at the Forks Rifle Club indoor range, for the second year in a row. Wayne Oakland, Bottineau, N.D., was first in the master class. Dave Bruner, Grand Forks, was first in the expert class. Joe Martin, Emerado, N.D., placed first, and Marcus Moeglein, Reynolds, N.D., was second in the combined sharpshooter-marksman class.

- It's not for certain, but for the second consecutive year, there likely won't be a pronghorn antelope season in North Dakota this year, officials from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said this week during the agency's annual round of spring advisory board meetings. Game and Fish didn't offer a season in 2010 after severe winter conditions reduced the population. This year's severe winter likely had the same impact, but department officials said they won't know for sure until they fly aerial population surveys in July. The department conducts the meetings every spring and fall in each of the state's eight advisory board districts.

- The North Dakota Game and Fish Department continues to explore a limited fisher season in the northeastern part of the state. Randy Kreil, wildlife division chief for Game and Fish, said a tentative trapping season likely would begin Nov. 21 and continue through March 11, or when a quota of 10 fishers is taken.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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