DNR to fly elk surveys in northwest Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will begin conducting aerial elk surveys starting the first week of February, weather permitting, in the Kittson County and Grygla elk ranges in northwest Minnesota. The flights are conducted annually during winter.

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"We will begin surveys once we receive several inches of new snow to help improve our ability to see elk," said Doug Franke, area wildlife manager for the DNR in Thief River Falls. "Our goal would be to conduct the surveys during the first two weeks of February."

DNR pilots will use airplanes that fly low-level surveys during daylight hours at an altitude of approximately 200 to 300 feet.

The DNR this year might forgo surveying the so-called "border herd" near Caribou Township in northeast Kittson County unless Manitoba decides to fly at the same time, Franke said. Unless both jurisdictions fly, the results aren't reliable because the herd routinely travels between Minnesota and Manitoba.

Last year, for example, the DNR tallied only seven elk on the U.S. side of the border while Canadian officials flying the same day counted 126 elk. In 2017, the DNR counted only one border herd elk on the Minnesota side of the border.

"It's just too unreliable" if the Canadians don't fly, Franke said. "The elk in Minnesota have been at such a low number during the day the last couple of years. They've been hanging out in Canada just across the border."

The DNR again is asking for help from anyone with recent elk sightings in their area. Report sightings to the following local DNR offices:

• Karlstad area wildlife office, (218) 436-2427.

• Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area, (218) 222-3747.

• Thief River Falls area wildlife office, (218) 681-0946.

Last year's survey tallied 97 elk in Minnesota elk range, up from 79 in 2017 and 83 in 2016. That's not a particularly meaningful number because northwest Minnesota has three distinct elk herds: The Grygla herd, the Kittson Central herd near Lancaster, Minn., and the border herd.

Questions about survey flights should be directed to the northwest regional wildlife office in Bemidji at (218) 308-2680 or Thief River Falls area wildlife office at (218) 681-0946.

-- Herald staff reports

N.D. sets spring turkey season

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is offering 6,025 wild turkey licenses for the 2019 spring hunting season, 370 more than last year.

The spring turkey season opens April 13 and continues through May 19.

Eleven of the 22 hunting units have more spring licenses than in 2018, seven have fewer and three remain the same. Unit 21 (Hettinger and Adams counties) again is closed in 2019 due to lack of turkeys in the unit.

Spring turkey applicants can apply online through the Game and Fish Department website, www.gf.nd.gov. Applications also can be submitted by calling (800) 406-6409. Paper applications are not available.

The deadline for applying is Feb. 13.

Successful spring turkey applicants must purchase a 2019-20 hunting license, as last year's 2018-19 licenses expire March 31. In addition to the spring turkey license, hunters must have a Fishing, Hunting and Furbearer Certificate, and a General Game and Habitat License. Also, hunters age 16 and older must possess a small game license or combination license. Successful applicants must buy these licenses before they can receive their turkey license.

First-time spring turkey hunters age 15 or younger are eligible to receive one spring license valid for any open unit. To qualify, youth hunters must be 15 or younger on opening day of spring turkey season, and never previously received a spring turkey license in North Dakota.

Spring turkey licenses are available only to North Dakota residents. Per legislation, an additional four spring wild turkey licenses are available to the Outdoor Adventure Foundation and three to the National Wild Turkey Federation.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

Huener receives waterfowl enforcement award

DNR conservation officer Ben Huener of the Roseau, Minn., station received the Waterfowl Enforcement Achievement Award during the Enforcement Division's recent annual awards ceremony and training conference at Camp Ripley near Little Falls, Minn.

A lifelong duck hunter and the son of a waterfowl biologist, Huener patrols a work area that includes three major wildlife management areas that attract waterfowl and hunters alike.

Rodmen Smith, Enforcement Division director, presented the award.

"CO Huener's passion for waterfowl - and his understanding of the importance of protecting the wetland habitats upon which they rely - are evident in his waterfowl-related work," Smith said.

-- Minnesota DNR

Grant program accepting applications

Minnesota's Conservation Partners Legacy grant program is now accepting applications for the Expedited Conservation Projects grant cycle.

The third round of Expedited Conservation Projects grants recently closed. Nearly $1 million remains for the fourth round of ECP funds, which is open until March 18.

The ECP grant cycle funds eligible activities that restore or enhance forests, wetlands, prairies or habitat for fish, game and wildlife on public lands and waters in Minnesota. Grant requests may range from $5,000 to $50,000, with a maximum total project cost of $575,000. Nonprofit organizations and government entities are eligible to apply, and a 10 percent match of nonstate funds is required.

The application deadline is 4 p.m. March 18. Funding for the CPL program comes from the Outdoor Heritage Fund. For more information, email lscplgrants.dnr@state.mn.us.

-- Minnesota DNR