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Minnesota's wolf population last winter was down some from the previous winter but statistically unchanged, the state Department of Natural Resources announced Monday, Sept 24. The DNR's winter population estimate came in at 2,655 wolves spread among 465 packs. Because the margin of error in the estimate is so big, plus or minus 700, that number is pretty close to the 2,856 wolves in 500 packs reported in 2017.
SQUAW LAKE, Minn. — At the end of a winding, two-rut driveway under a canopy of maples just turning orange and red, past the black lab running in the yard and before you get to the lake where teal, wood ducks and mallards are flying over miles of wild rice, you'll fund Plushville. Officially known as the Squaw Lake Bird Watchers Society, it's the kind of place that should be in the photograph next to "duck camp" in Wikipedia, or maybe on the cover of Ducks Unlimited magazine.
ON NATURE'S LAKE — For an early opening morning, just a day into fall, the start of Minnesota waterfowl season Saturday, Sept. 22, turned out to be pretty ducky. A low deck of clouds hung overhead allowing an incredible orange and red pre-dawn glow for a few minutes before socking in to keep the sun out of our eyes. A persistent southwest wind kept the decoys moving nicely and it was just cool enough so a jacket felt good. A few raindrops even fell as we paddled back to camp. Best of all, for the crew at the Squaw Lake Bird Watchers Society, the ducks cooperated.
ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK—Officials at Isle Royale National Park on Friday, Sept. 21, announced details of their plan to bolster the park's wolf population by capturing wolves in nearby regions and releasing them on the big Lake Superior island. The Park Service will trap and transport up to six wolves in coming weeks with a goal of at least 20 and up to 30 wolves moved to the island during the next three years.
Wolf supporters moved Wednesday, Sept. 19, to force the federal government to develop a broader recovery plan for wolves across more of the U.S., even as the Trump administration and other groups are trying to remove federal protections for the big predators. The Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for violating the Endangered Species Act by never developing a comprehensive recovery plan for gray wolves nationwide. The notice is a legal heads-up that a lawsuit is coming in 60 days.
DULUTH — We mark the seasons as honking geese head south and as robins return north. Every autumn we marvel at their numbers going south, and every spring we delight that they have come back. But until now scientists have never been able to put a number on exactly how many birds migrate across North America. The bird experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology now have done that, using data from 143 weather radar stations across North America from 2013-17. Their findings were published Monday, Sept. 17, in the Journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.
DULUTH — The nearly half-century tally of birds that fly over Hawk Ridge every autumn is really a snapshot of annual migration, impacted by weather and natural cycles, and not necessarily a population survey. But the tale of two raptors that fly over Duluth on their way south each autumn are shining examples of what researchers are seeing across North America — two birds heading the same way this time of year way but going in opposite directions as a species.
DULUTH — What a difference a few mild winters and a lot more doe permits can make. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources area deer meetings, held at wildlife offices across the state in recent weeks, attracted surprisingly few hunters — some meetings went unattended and the most heavily attended attracted just 14 people. Across northeastern Minnesota, Tower and Grand Rapids attracted eight people each with only five in Two Harbors and just two in International Falls. And not a one of them brought pitchforks and torches.
DEER RIVER, Minn. — It was Fourth of July week and Minnesota Conservation Officer Mike Fairbanks had just come on shift when he heard his radio crackle with reports of a missing boy. Fairbanks radioed back that he and his partner were available to help in the search being quickly organized by Itasca County sheriff's deputies. By the time Fairbanks arrived on the scene, deputies were combing the boy's rural Bovey home, yard and outbuildings. But Fairbanks and Si, his 6-year-old partner, went in a different direction.
DULUTH, Minn.—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Steel Corp. on Wednesday announced a $75 million cleanup and restoration project at the company's former Duluth steel mill along the St. Louis River. The project will deal with nearly 700,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment, some of it on land but most of it in the Spirit Lake area of the St. Louis River estuary off Duluth's Morgan Park neighborhood.