OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: North Dakota gets more Wyoming stage grouse, Game and Fish officials assess winter impact, More competition for N.D. moose licenses etc.

NDGF gets more Wyoming sage grouse Wildlife staff from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department were in Wyoming last week to pick up 20 male sage grouse that will be released near Rhame, N.D., in the southwest part of the state. The trap-and-tra...

Conservation groups say Friday's decision by the Bureau of Land Management puts sage grouse in further peril by weakening protections against energy development on crucial sage grouse habitat. (N.D. Game and Fish Department photo)
Again this spring, 20 male sage grouse from Wyoming are being released in southwest North Dakota as part of a partnership between the Game and Fish Department and Wyoming conservation officials. (Photo/ North Dakota Game and Fish Department)

NDGF gets more Wyoming sage grouse

Wildlife staff from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department were in Wyoming last week to pick up 20 male sage grouse that will be released near Rhame, N.D., in the southwest part of the state.

The trap-and-transplant agreement with Wyoming is part of an effort to boost numbers of sage grouse, which have been in decline in western North Dakota in recent years, said Jeb Williams, wildlife chief for Game and Fish in Bismarck.

Later this spring, Game and Fish will return to Wyoming to collect hen sage grouse and their chicks for release in southwest North Dakota, Williams said.

"We're trying to do things a bit differently," he said. "They definitely have more site fidelity to a particular spot if those chicks are with them. And that's the goal, of course, is to try to keep them within that area.


"We've got a good partnership going with Wyoming," Williams said. "We're going to keep doing it here the next couple of years."

In other department news, Game and Fish staff have gotten anecdotal reports of people finding dead deer this spring, but that happens during average North Dakota winters, as well, Williams said.

"We do find dead deer, and this is kind of a hard winter" to figure out, he said. "I don't know if I would summarize it as a horrible winter, but we had a horrible period of about a month and a half. Up until about early to mid-January, we were doing OK, but boy, after mid-January set in and the spigot really got turned on as far as snowfall and then obviously the temperature drops we had-and not just dropped but stayed low for a period of time-it definitely can have its impact.

"The fortunate thing is it was kind of a condensed period of time, to where those critters went into that stretch in pretty decent shape."

The effects of winter might not be seen until later this spring, when does have their fawns, Williams said. Fawning success often suffers on the heels of tough winters.

"We saw that during some of our white-tailed deer research," he said. "During that fawning period, it's not uncommon to lose some critters because they are so exhausted from, say, a winter period or winter weather period."

-- Brad Dokken

Demand for N.D. moose tags on the rise


The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is offering a record 479 moose licenses this year-an increase of 145 from last year-but the competition for those licenses continues to go up, as well.

Casey Anderson, assistant wildlife chief for Game and Fish in Bismarck, discussed moose license trends Tuesday night during the spring advisory board meeting for District 4 in Minto, N.D. Game and Fish is mandated to hold the meetings twice a year in each of the state's eight advisory board districts.

"We gave out one more moose license than elk licenses this year," Anderson said, referring to the 478 elk licenses available in North Dakota. "Alaska is maybe the only other state to do that. Moose in northwest North Dakota are doing really well, but we're also hearing from landowners that it's too many.

"We do have a lot of moose, and they are starting to cause some angst, especially among landowners."

Despite the increase, the odds of drawing a moose tag remain slim. Game and Fish received 22,175 applications for moose tags this year, Anderson said, up from 20,757 in 2018 and 18,288 applications in 2017.

"We're not going to be able to sustain this kind of moose licenses, but the applicants keep going up," Anderson said.

Lottery applications for the "Big Three" licenses-moose, elk and bighorn sheep-were due March 27, and the lottery for moose and elk will be held in the next week or so. Game and Fish will conduct a sheep lottery-if there is one-closer to fall after summer population surveys have been completed.

"We call them once-in-a-lifetime tags, but that's not a guarantee you're going to get one once in your lifetime," Anderson said. "Most people will never get one."


-- Brad Dokken

DNR identifies $30M in hatchery repair needs

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has identified $30 million in specific repairs and improvements needed at several of the state's 15 fish hatcheries. Those improvements include:

• Remedying biosecurity issues that jeopardize fish health.

• Infrastructure and maintenance improvements.

• Energy efficiency upgrades.

• Equipment replacement and upgrades.

• Pond, raceway and road repairs and maintenance.


Each year, cold-water hatcheries in Altura, Lanesboro, Peterson and Remer, Minn., provide 1.7 million trout for stocking into 200 lakes and 100 streams throughout Minnesota. Cool- and warm-water hatcheries in Walker Lake, Bemidji, Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, Glenwood, Grand Rapids, New London, Park Rapids, St. Paul, Tower and Waterville provide walleye, northern pike, muskellunge and channel catfish for stocking in 1,100 lakes and some rivers.

"Habitat protection and enhancement are the backbone for natural reproduction of all our fisheries but fish produced by our state-owned hatcheries are a critical part of DNR's efforts to maintain and enhance fishing opportunities in Minnesota's lakes, streams and rivers," Brad Parsons, DNR fisheries chief, said. "Stocking these hatchery-raised fish in a scientifically sound manner significantly enhances fishing in Minnesota and provides angling opportunities that wouldn't be there without stocking."

For more information about state fish hatcheries, visit the DNR website at

-- Herald staff report

Did you know?

• Last year more than 20,000 Minnesotans volunteered their services to assist the DNR in accomplishing its conservation mission. According to the new 2018 Annual DNR Volunteer Report released Thursday, these volunteer services in 2018 were valued at $7.8 million. In hours, that equates to 136 full-time staff. The report precedes National Volunteer Week, which is April 7-14. More info: .

• Several lakes and reservoirs in northeast North Dakota likely will sustain significant to partial winterkill because of low dissolved oxygen levels. Randy Hiltner, northeast district fisheries supervisor for Game and Fish in Devils Lake, said 16 lakes and reservoirs in the district, including Kolding Dam, Niagara Dam and Matejcek Dam, had low dissolved oxygen levels, while Whitman and Fordville dams appeared to be doing OK. Game and Fish will be checking for winterkill on district lakes in May after the ice goes out, Hiltner said.

• Results aren't yet available, but the North Dakota Game and Fish Department was able to conduct aerial deer surveys almost everywhere in the state this past winter. That's a good news/bad news scenario, because enough snow on the landscape to spot deer from the air also means enough snow to cause mortality in some areas, according to Casey Anderson, the Game and Fish Department's assistant wildlife chief. That could impact license availability this fall, he said. Preliminary results suggest deer numbers in northeast North Dakota were about the same as 2017, Anderson said.


• The Bismarck chapter of Ducks Unlimited recently was honored as a President's Elite Chapter for its fundraising efforts. Chapters must raise between $100,000 and $249,999 to receive President's Elite recognition. Other designations are Chairman's Roll of Honor, for chapters raising between $250,000 and $999,999; and President's Roll of Honor, for chapters raising between $65,000 and $99,999.

-- compiled by Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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