Minnesota DNR uses warm fall to help area wildlife

 Illustration by: Will Madison

Illustration by: Will Madison

Martha Minchak, assistant area wildlife manager at Duluth’s Department of Natural Resources office, has had a more hectic fall than normal.

“It’s just so warm it feels weird,” Minchak said. “It’s been a strange fall.”

The warm fall weather has enabled her and the DNR to get a surplus of tasks and projects done before winter.

”We have our regular fall work of census and surveys, however, we are still able to prescribe controlled burning with the warmer weather,” Minchak said.

Controlled burning is a practice used in farming or forest management to spur growth among certain plants, renewing the forest or prairie.  

The wildlife in and around Duluth has also experienced a demanding fall. One of the most affected animals have been black bears.

 Caught in the act, these black bears dig for trash on Carver ave, a block from UMD’s campus  Photo: Connor Shea

Caught in the act, these black bears dig for trash on Carver ave, a block from UMD’s campus Photo: Connor Shea

Earlier this month, the DNR helped capture a 605-pound bear that was exhibiting aggressive behavior at a house in Duluth Heights.

“It’s hard to trap and destroy these bears, but when they are causing property damage and being a threat, it is the only thing to do,” Minchak said.

The DNR’s policy on trapping and destroying was introduced about five years ago when they realized that bears kept coming back to the same neighborhoods.

“We used to mark each bear before we released it,” said Minchak, “then we figured out that the same bears would come back to the same places.”

Another animal Minchak keeps track of besides black bears is the ruffled grouse, popular for area hunters looking to shoot winged game.

“We’re hearing it from everybody, grouse numbers were up nearly 25 percent in the spring,” Minchak said.

Ruffled grouse, a game bird that walks on the ground and eats nuts and berries, is prized for its flavorful meat.

“The spring and summer were colder and wetter than normal, leading to many chicks being killed due to exposure,” Minchak said.

With less chicks surviving through the summer, the opportunity for hunters like Minchak has decreased.

“I have been out hunting and had a couple birds flush on me, but even I have not seen a single brood, including the summer,” Minchak said.   

 Martha Minchak takes a break in her office at the DNR’s Rice Lake Road building     Photo:Connor Shea

Martha Minchak takes a break in her office at the DNR’s Rice Lake Road building    Photo:Connor Shea

If you are experiencing problems with local wildlife, contact the DNR to find a responsible solution.

 

 

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