DNR to expand west Nile virus grouse testing

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resource is expanding its efforts to test ruffed grouse for west Nile virus this fall by making the sampling kits available to hunters across the state’s ruffed grouse range.

The DNR last fall collected 273 grouse samples from hunters, which was short of the agency’s 400-bird goal. Studies in Pennsylvania have shown the mosquito-borne illness can have a negative impact on ruffed grouse populations in areas with marginal habitat.

Last year, sampling efforts largely were limited to areas within 60 miles of Bemidji and Grand Rapids, Minn.

Wisconsin and Michigan also collaborated on last fall’s testing campaign in an effort to learn more about the impact of west Nile virus on ruffed grouse and the extent of the infection in the Great Lakes states. Results from the sampling are expected soon; Minnesota in the early 2000s confirmed one positive case of the disease in ruffed grouse. Michigan in 2017 confirmed the disease in 12 ruffed grouse, and the disease was detected last year in Wisconsin birds.

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In a letter to agency staffers, Charlotte Roy, the DNR’s grouse project leader, said sampling kits will be available after Sunday, Sept. 1, at area DNR wildlife offices across ruffed grouse range on a first-come, first-served basis.

Participating hunters will submit grouse hearts, along with a few feathers for sexing and aging and blood collected on filter strips, the DNR said. The location of the harvest will be requested -- GPS coordinates preferred -- but will not be made public.

There will be a limit of two kits per hunter, and mailing envelopes and instructions will be included with the kits. As an incentive, the Ruffed Grouse Society and Pineridge Grouse Camp in Remer, Minn., will offer prizes -- an over-under shotgun and a guided hunt -- in a drawing that will be open to all hunters who correctly submit completed west Nile virus kits with complete data, Roy said in her letter.

For more information, contact Ted Dick, forest game bird coordinator, at (218) 395-0577 or by email at ted.dick@state.mn.us. Information on the sampling effort also is available on Page 42 of the DNR’s 2019 Hunting Regulations booklet and on the DNR grouse hunting page at mndnr.gov/hunting/grouse. Minnesota’s ruffed grouse season opens Saturday, Sept. 14 and continues through Wednesday, Jan. 1.

-- Brad Dokken

Spruce grouse numbers hold steady

Minnesota spruce grouse populations were stable from 2018 to 2019, based on results from a survey aimed at learning more about the woodland grouse species, the DNR said.

Minnesota researchers are into their second year of monitoring spruce grouse – a bird species that’s notoriously difficult to count – through an annual survey that involves counting “pellets,” or droppings from the birds. Dozens of cooperators and citizen volunteers are participating in the survey.

Spruce grouse depend on conifer forest habitat and are expected to have a smaller range in the future because of climate change-induced habitat loss. In this year’s survey report, the estimated rate of population change from 2018 to 2019 indicated a stable population. As part of the survey, participants sampled 67 routes to look for spruce grouse pellets.

To supplement the study, the DNR is asking hunters this fall to submit feather samples from spruce grouse they shoot. To contribute, send three to five feathers from each spruce grouse harvested to Grouse Research, 1201 U.S. Highway 2 E., Grand Rapids, Minn. 55744. Hunters should include their name, contact information, harvest date and harvest location -- GPS coordinates preferred and won’t be made public -- for each spruce grouse.

More information on grouse, including survey reports, is available on the DNR grouse survey report page; go to mnr.gov and type “grouse survey report page” in the search window. For more information, contact Charlotte Roy at charlotte.roy@state.mn.us.

-- Herald staff report

Hunting migratory birds? Get HIP

With North Dakota’s early goose season now underway, the Game and Fish Department reminds migratory bird hunters to register with the federal Harvest Information Program before going afield. HIP registration is required before hunting ducks, geese, swans, mergansers, coots, cranes, snipe, doves and woodcock.

Hunters must register in each state for which they are licensed to hunt.

Hunters can register for HIP when buying a license -- or by clicking the HIP Registration link -- on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website at gf.nd.gov. In addition, hunters can call (888) 634-4798 and record the HIP number on their printed license.

Hunters who registered to hunt the spring light goose season in North Dakota do not have to register with HIP again, as it is required only once per year.

HIP is a cooperative program designed to determine a sample of hunters from which to measure the harvest of migratory birds for management purposes.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

DNR sets surplus equipment auctions

The Department of Natural Resources will hold a public auction of surplus equipment beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, at the DNR northeast regional office, 1201 U.S. Highway 2 E, in Grand Rapids, Minn.

The DNR will sell more than 100 items, including automobiles, trucks, ATVs, snowmobiles, a tractor, a skid-steer, boat packages, outboard motors, boats, trailers, mowers, power tools, tractor implements and, potentially, dump trucks and other heavy equipment from other agencies.

Photos and a listing of available items will be posted 10 days before the sale at minnbid.org. On-site inspection of items will be available from 8 to 9:30 a.m. on the day of the auction.

To avoid standing in line the day of the sale, bidders are encouraged to preregister for the auction online at minnbid.org. Online registration provides access to information on other auctions conducted by the state of Minnesota.

Another DNR surplus auction is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 5 in Bemidji at the Beltrami County Fairgrounds.

The sale is being conducted by the state of Minnesota, Department of Administration, Fleet and Surplus Services Division and may include additional items from local municipalities. Benoit Auction Service of Dassel, Minn., will be the auctioneer.

-- Minnesota DNR

Did you know?

  • The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Private Land Open To Sportsmen (PLOTS) Guide for 2019 now is available on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov. The free printed PLOTS guides also will be available at most license vendors and other locations throughout the state. This year’s guide features about 791,000 PLOTS acres, though some of that land may have been removed from the program since the publication was printed. Game and Fish will update PLOTS map sheets weekly on its website.

  • The North Dakota Game and Fish Department, local wildlife clubs and other sponsors are putting on the annual Youth Outdoor Festival from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29, in Minot on the grounds of the North Dakota State Fair. Young outdoor enthusiasts will experience a number of outdoor activities that relate to archery, fishing, waterfowl and upland game. Prizes will be awarded, and food is provided. More info: Greg Gullickson, Game and Fish outreach biologist, (701) 720-1640.

  • Archery hunters in Minnesota observed nearly 48,000 deer over a collective 15,000 days in 2018, the DNR said in reporting the results of its annual bowhunter survey. As part of the survey, designed to give the DNR a better look at deer populations in Minnesota, bowhunters watch for white-tailed deer and note the ages and sex of the animals. The DNR received 1,359 mail and 332 email responses in the 2018 survey.

-- compiled by Brad Dokken