Outdoor Notes Extra - April 12
International Wolf Center's interpretive center in Ely passes 1 million visitor mark
ELY—The International Wolf Center achieved an important milestone on March 25 when the one-millionth visitor passed through its doors during the weekly "What's For Dinner?" program.
"We've been incredibly excited for this day," executive director Rob Schultz said in a news release. "For the past several weeks our staff have been anxiously watching the attendance records as we anticipate our one-millionth visitor."
To celebrate reaching the one-millionth visitor mark, the Center will hold a special Earth Day celebration on Saturday, April 22, with half-price admission, refreshments, family activities and special programs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The International Wolf Center has been welcoming visitors to its Ely Interpretive Center since opening in July, 1993. During its first few years, attendance numbers were very high as people came to see the new facility. But by the late 1990's, attendance began to decline.
Recent efforts to increase promotion and offer new exhibits each year have had a positive effect on bringing more people to Ely and through the Center's doors, with last year's attendance increasing by 27 percent to 44,381 guests—making 2016 the largest attendance at the International Wolf Center since 2004.
For information about the Earth Day celebration at the Center, visit wolf.org
Bear hunt applications available; deadline is May 5
Applications for bear hunting licenses are being accepted now through Friday, May 5, wherever Minnesota hunting and fishing license are sold, online at mndnr.gov/buyalicense and by telephone at 888-665-4236.
A total of 3,350 licenses are available in 13 permit areas. Bear licenses cost $44 for residents and $230 for nonresidents, and there is a $5 application fee. The season is open from Friday, Sept. 1, through Sunday, Oct. 15, according to a Minnesota DNR news release. Notification to lottery winners will be made by June 2. The deadline to purchase licenses awarded by lottery will be Tuesday, Aug. 1. Any remaining unpurchased licenses will be available over the counter starting at noon on Friday, Aug. 4.
An unlimited number of bear licenses will be sold over-the-counter for the no-quota area that includes east-central and far northwestern Minnesota. No-quota licenses are valid only in the no-quota area. Hunters with a no-quota license can harvest one bear.
Bear license numbers in the quota area have been reduced from 3,850 last year to 3,350 this year. The reduction in bear permit numbers for quota areas is to allow bear population numbers to gradually increase. The 2016 bear season harvest was higher than expected as a result of poor natural food availability for bears last fall. Hunters in the quota area had a record high (50 percent) success rate in 2016, while a record number of hunters in the no-quota area resulted in a record harvest for that area.
Bear hunting information is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/hunting/bear.
Elk population survey completed in northwestern Minnesota
Minnesota's elk range in northwestern Minnesota has three herds with a total of 79 elk, according to the annual aerial elk population survey completed by the Department of Natural Resources in Kittson, Marshall and Roseau counties. Past surveys recorded 83 elk in 2016 and 131 in 2015, according to a Minnesota DNR news release.
"The variability we're seeing in these numbers year to year is due mainly to the movement of the Caribou-Vita herd that travels back and forth across the Minnesota-Manitoba border," said John Williams, DNR northwest region wildlife manager.
"However, we are concerned about declining numbers of elk in the Grygla herd in Marshall County," Williams said. "This herd hasn't been hunted since 2012, yet the population continues to trend downward."
In Marshall County, observers counted 17 elk in the Grygla herd, down from the 21 counted last year and 18 in 2015. The current population goal for the Grygla herd is 30 to 38 elk.
Aerial surveys are a snapshot in time, meaning they are only an estimate of the population, not an exact number. The DNR counts elk only on the Minnesota side during its aerial surveys.
This year, the DNR conducted a joint aerial elk survey with Manitoba, which was completed on Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 for the areas close to the border. Manitoba wildlife staff counted 108 elk near the border and 55 slightly north of Vita, Manitoba, totaling 163 animals on the Canadian side of the border. The Caribou-Vita herd is Minnesota's largest herd, with a current population goal of 150 to 200 elk inhabiting both sides of the border.
Depending on the year and day of the survey, elk numbers on the Minnesota side can greatly vary. Observers counted only one elk this year in Minnesota in the Caribou-Vita herd. Ten animals were counted in 2016 and 79 in 2015.
"Our observers saw many elk tracks near the border during the survey on Feb. 21, and although they saw only one elk, we suspected the majority of the herd was in Manitoba," Williams said. "This was confirmed by the results of the Manitoba aerial elk survey conducted on Feb. 22."
Another herd, the Kittson-Central herd, is located near Lancaster in Kittson County. Observers counted 61 elk compared to 52 in 2016 and 34 in 2015. This year's count is just above the current population goal of 50 to 60 animals.
In 2016, the DNR radio-collared 20 cow elk in Minnesota's three herds to begin research into elk movements and habitat use that should help managers improve the effectiveness of elk population surveys, the knowledge of Minnesota elk biology and movements and elk depredation management. The study is being conducted by researchers from the DNR and Minnesota State University-Mankato. It will run through June 2018.
This research project is the first of its kind in Minnesota. The goal is to improve understanding of the species and ultimately develop management programs that benefit elk and their habitat, while also minimizing conflicts with landowners.
Funding for the project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources and approved by the state Legislature. The DNR and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation are also providing funding.
For more information on Minnesota's elk management, visit mndnr.gov/elk.
State archery competitors on track with a lifelong skill
Each year, at schools around Minnesota, nearly a quarter-million students aim and release arrows at targets through an Archery in the Schools program, a figure that appears to be growing, according a news release from the Department of Natural Resources.
"We have some great momentum going in Minnesota as more and more schools are figuring out what a positive experience archery can be for students and teachers," said Kraig Kiger, who oversees the Archery in the Schools program for the DNR. "Archery is truly a lifelong skill and students can continue on in a variety of ways whether it be target shooting, competition or hunting."
Nearly 1,600 students from 83 schools, competed in the 2017 State High School Archery Tournament, March 31 to April 1, in Duluth. Participants included elementary through high school students.
The tournament was sanctioned by the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) and run by the North Country Bow Hunters Chapter of Safari Club International. To see results, visit www.nasptournaments.org.
In the schools, NASP aims to train teachers and provide students with the best equipment, training and curriculum available for the lowest price. Most schools with archery programs hold activities during the school day, but about 20 percent have an additional after-school archery program that develops into a competitive team.
"If schools are at all interested in learning more, they shouldn't hesitate to call, because we have ways to help them start a program, whether through information or grant funding," Kiger said.
Through the DNR, schools can receive grant money for archery programs. The DNR can help match a school's contribution toward starting an archery program, with the school's minimum financial contribution set at $1,800.
For more on the DNR archery grants, visit www.mndnr.gov/grants/epr/archery.