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Outdoors Notebook: Bighorn sheep thrive ... Cougar cattle killing unlikely ... Kittson County elk hunt ... Devils Lake walleye charges ... Minnesota deer lottery

Sheep herd thrives: The bighorn sheep population in North Dakota's Badlands is thriving, Game and Fish Department officials say. According to Brett Wiedmann, big game biologist for Game and Fish in Dickinson, N.D., an August-September survey in w...

Sheep herd thrives: The bighorn sheep population in North Dakota's Badlands is thriving, Game and Fish Department officials say.

According to Brett Wiedmann, big game biologist for Game and Fish in Dickinson, N.D., an August-September survey in western North Dakota tallied 316 sheep.

Including bighorns in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the herd numbers 350, he said.

Survey results revealed 93 rams, 162 ewes and 61 lambs, for a total increase of 9 percent from 2007.

Wiedmann said survey crews counted 232 sheep in the northern Badlands and 84 in the southern Badlands.


"We have more work to do in the south to get to where we were before the die-off in the late 1990s, which was 130 sheep," he said.

The goal for the southern Badlands is 125 sheep. The 84 counted this summer is 11 percent higher than last year, which means the sheep population is moving in the right direction.

"We can't compare the numbers from the two areas because the 11 herds in the northern Badlands have a lot more habitat and better conditions than the five herds that occupy the southern Badlands," Wiedmann said.

The 61 lambs was a record, surpassing the mark of 60 in 2005.

While all the sheep look healthy, Wiedmann was especially impressed with the herd transplanted from Montana.

"They are big, robust critters," he said. "We were confident they would do well, and they continue to surpass our expectations."

The herd is the largest in the state, Wiedmann said, and the 70 percent to 80 percent lamb recruitment success is phenomenal.

"We might have to pull some out this winter and distribute them to the southern Badlands," he said.


North Dakota's bighorn sheep hunting season opened Friday and continues through Oct. 26. Six licenses were issued.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

Cougar unlikely: A North Dakota Game and Fish Department official says it doesn't appear a cougar was responsible for killing two head of cattle north of Devils Lake near Sweetwater Lake.

Paul Freeman, eastern district enforcement supervisor for Game and Fish in Devils Lake, said the first cow had been dead about a week when he checked it Oct. 3 and had decayed to the point where he couldn't conclude what killed it.

The second, more recent kill had occurred a couple of days after the first. Freeman said animals had been eating off the hind quarters of the carcass, and all of the tracks nearby were consistent with canines such as coyotes, fox and dogs.

All of the tracks showed claws, which is consistent with a canine, Freeman said. Mountain lions, by comparison, have retractable claws that wouldn't show up in footprints, he said.

Freeman said he couldn't find any sign a mountain lion had killed the animal, either on the carcass or from the surrounding tracks.

"The throat wasn't held down or choked to death like canines, and the neck wasn't broke and scratched and bit like a mountain lion would do," Freeman said.


As a result, Freeman said he couldn't say what killed the cattle.

Mountain lion numbers are growing in North Dakota, and the Game and Fish Department again is offering a season on the cats. Hunters have taken two cats, near Grassy Butte and Williston, N.D., since this year's season opened Aug. 29. There's a quota of eight mountain lions in the western part of the state, and the season will stay open through March 31 or until the quota is reached. There's no quota in the rest of the state, and season is open through March 31.

-- Brad Dokken

Kittson County elk hunt: Three hunters -- and three elk.

That was the outcome of the first elk hunt in more than 100 years to be offered in Kittson County. The hunt, which began Sept. 13 and closed Sept. 21, opened the first of three nine-day elk seasons.

The other two seasons in Kittson County are set for Nov. 22-30 and Dec. 6-14, each with four antlerless licenses.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the three recipients of the once-in-a-lifetime elk permits filled their tags in the first three days of the elk season. The holder of the single either-sex tag shot an impressive 5x5 bull within minutes of the season opening, the DNR said.

According to Donovan Pietruszewski, area wildlife supervisor for the DNR in Karlstad, Minn., the hunters were pleased with the cooperation they received from private landowners.


"Cooperation is pivotal to a hunt like this," Pietruszewski said. "Most animals are dispersed on private land at this time of year."

There are about 145 elk in northeastern Kittson County and southeastern Manitoba. It's only speculation, but the elk may have wandered into the area from Manitoba's Interlake region north of Winnipeg or from the Pembina Hills of North Dakota. Some of the elk also may have come from the herd near Grygla, Minn., which are descendents of a 1935 elk reintroduction in northern Beltrami County.

Minnesota's elk population has grown significantly in recent years, which prompted the DNR to offer the limited hunts in Kittson County.

Info: mndnr.gov/hunting/elk.

-- Minnesota DNR

Too many walleyes: Two Grand Forks-area men have been charged for keeping too many walleyes on Devils Lake.

Mark Lusian, East Grand Forks, was charged with exceeding the limit and releasing fish that had been reduced to possession and replacing them with larger fish. "Upgrading," as the practice is called, is illegal in North Dakota.

Robert Delle, Grand Forks, was charged with exceeding the limit.


Chris Knutson, district game warden for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Devils Lake, said he cited the anglers Sept. 28 after receiving a tip that they had been releasing walleyes from a cooler and replacing them with larger fish while fishing from shore on Six-Mile Bay.

When he checked, Knutson said, the men had 13 walleyes in their cooler and two other fish underneath the cooler. That put them five walleyes over the limit.

The charges are Class B misdemeanors.

-- Brad Dokken

Minnesota deer lottery: The DNR has notified successful applicants for lottery deer areas and special hunts.

Hunters can check the results at mndnr.gov/hunting/deer. Hunters who weren't successful in drawing either-sex permits in the lottery areas will receive a preference point for next year.

Beginning Monday, leftover either-sex permits will be available on a first-come, first-served basis through all of the state's 1,800 Electronic License System Outlets.

Hunters first must have a valid firearm or muzzleloader license and can take only one deer in the lottery areas.


Remaining permits:

n Area 215: 1,859.

n Area 219: 52.

n Area 232: 201.

n Area 234: 199.

n Area 247: 38.

n Area 254: 963.

n Area 255: 233.

n Area 273: 1,136.

Hunters younger than 18 do not need a permit because they can shoot a deer of either sex without applying. In lottery areas, it is illegal for adults to take antlerless deer for youth hunters.

-- Minnesota DNR

Did you know?

n The Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit has announced the 2009 schedule for its new West Division. Tournament stops in the West Division are set for Mobridge, S.D., on May 2-3; Devils Lake on July 25-26; and Waubay Lake near Webster, S.D., on Sept. 12. Info: www.masterswalleyecircuit.com .

n Rose Hanson of Grand Forks recently attended a three-day event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the National Wild Turkey Federation's Women in the Outdoors program. Hanson was among more than 300 from across the U.S. and Canada to attend the event at the Wild Turkey Center in Edgefield, S.C.

n The DNR has hired Susan Olin as assistant park manager of Zippel Bay State Park on Lake of the Woods north of Williams, Minn. Olin started her new job Aug. 25. Previously, Olin has worked seasonally at Isle Royale National Park on Lake Superior and Glacier National Park in Montana. She also worked for the Bureau of Land Management as an interpreter in a multi-agency visitor center in New Mexico. "I love being on Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River and am delighted to be back in northern Minnesota and close to family again," Olin said in a news release.

n Jim Wolters is the new area fisheries manager for the DNR in Detroit Lakes, Minn. He replaces Dave Friedl, who took the position of DNR Clear Water Legacy regional specialist in Fergus Falls, Minn.

n Hunters in North Dakota and Minnesota are reminded to be on the lookout for rare whooping cranes. Less than 500 of the cranes remain in the U.S., the DNR said, and some of the birds migrate through the two states this time of year. Whooping cranes weigh between 14 pounds and 17 pounds and have a wingspan of 7 to 8 feet. With the exception of black wing tips and a black "mustache," the body plumage is pure white. The bird's crown is covered with black, hair-like feathers. The long, pointed bill is yellowish.

-- compiled by Brad Dokken

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