December 2005

The DNR communications team works with agency experts to develop the weekly questions and provide the answers. This feature addresses current DNR issues, interesting topics, or the most frequently asked questions from around Minnesota.






We've been hearing a lot about avian flu outbreak in Southeast Asia. Could this disease spread to Minnesota through migrating ducks and geese? Should hunters be concerned when handling their quarry?

For now, there appears to be no reason for hunters to be overly concerned when handling game birds. The highly pathogenic form of avian influenza found in Southeast Asia, also known as H5N1, has not been found in birds in North America. Moreover, there are no known cases of humans contracting avian flu from contact with wild birds. The DNR always recommends hunters practice basic hygiene - hand washing - when handling any wild animals or carcasses. Game meat should also be cooked thoroughly (155°-165°F) to kill disease organisms and parasites. The DNR continues to monitor this disease and investigate reports of game bird die-offs in the wild to determine a cause of death, when possible. Migratory birds often die of common diseases such as avian botulism or avian cholera. The DNR will work in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Fish and Wildlife Service to step up monitoring of wild birds for signs of highly pathogenic avian influenza as necessary.

Mike DonCarlos, DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife


The DNR will drawdown Swan Lake in Nicollet County after carp were discovered in the lake. What is the threat of this species to fish and other wildlife?

Carp pose a major threat to the health of any lake. Considering they lay a million eggs per year, carp populations can proliferate in a short period of time, and can do serious damage to beneficial aquatic plants and water quality. This can diminish the attractiveness of a body of water for both fish and wildlife, and human use. Swan Lake is an especially popular destination for waterfowl and waterfowl hunters. Lowering the water level of the 10,000-acre lake is designed to preserve the lake's waterfowl history and habitat by eliminating carp and giving native aquatic plants and other food sources the opportunity to maintain their high quality habitat characteristics.

Ken Varland, DNR Southern Region Wildlife manager


How do pheasants and other birds survive the long, cold Minnesota winters?

For birds that do not migrate to warm climates during winter, life can be brutal. Survival depends on finding adequate food and shelter. Survival rates of ground feeders such as pheasants are high during mild winters when deep snow does not persist for more than a few weeks. This has been the case in each of the past four winters in southern Minnesota. On the other hand, 60-90 percent of pheasants die during severe winters like the one we had in 2000-2001 because persistent, deep snow buries most food and cover. Pheasant survival during severe winters can be enhanced by providing good cover and a dependable source of food, such as a corn food plot, that is adjacent to shelter. In contrast, ruffed grouse thrive during winters that are deadly to pheasants. With deep snow, ruffed grouse use snow burrows to provide shelter from the weather. Furthermore, ruffed grouse feed on tree buds, which remain available regardless of snow depth.

Kurt Haroldson, DNR wildlife biologist


Potlatch recently announced a 4,700-acre forest legacy project. What is forest legacy and what is its importance to wildlife and wildlife-related recreation?

The Forest Legacy Program protects important forested lands by purchasing conservation easements from willing landowners whose lands are threatened by development and subdivision. The Potlatch Conservation Easement adjoins the Pillsbury State Forest in Cass County and the Crow Wing State Forest in Crow Wing County, and creates a large area of protected forest that is open to public recreation in an area where large forest tracts are relatively rare. Large blocks of forestland are important to both wildlife and outdoor recreation in several ways. These non-fragmented forests provide suitable habitat for many species of wildlife including northern goshawk, pine marten, and several forest songbirds. Additionally, these areas offer protection against invasive species such as buckthorn, which is common in more fragmented forests. The outdoor-recreation benefits of a large, contiguous area, with access to both public and conservation easement lands, include hunting, hiking, birdwatching, trapping, skiing and snowmobiling.

Richard Peterson, DNR forester


DNR Question of the Week Archive