December 2007





In light of recent news about dead loons being found around some of the Great Lakes, what is the condition of Minnesota's loon population?

The news of recent loon die-offs due to botulism in the Great Lakes has indeed been troubling, but as of yet, we have seen no evidence of a decline in Minnesota's loon population. Fortunately, the DNR's Division of Ecological Resources conducts the annual Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program, which provides us with a "finger on the pulse" of our state bird's well-being.

Through this program, each year volunteers visit about 100 lakes in each of six study areas in which loons are present. After 13 years of counting loons on these 600 lakes, we have detected a very slight increase in population in several of the study areas, and see no evidence of declines.

While we hope the botulism die-off is a short-term problem, the DNR will continue to closely monitor the state's loon population to provide an early-detection system for any problems that may arise. For more information on loon monitoring, or to participate as a volunteer, go to

- Rich Baker, DNR Division of Ecological Resources


I've heard of the Take A Kid Fishing weekend in the summer. Is there anything like that in the winter?

During the last Legislative session, the Minnesota DNR was authorized to provide a free fishing weekend in the winter to promote ice fishing and getting kids outside. Take A Kid Ice Fishing weekend is during the Saturday, Sunday and Monday that coincides with President's Day. This year, the dates are Feb. 16 -18.

During this designated weekend, any Minnesota resident may fish without and angling license, as long as they are accompanied by a child.

This is a great opportunity for parents, grandparents and guardians to get those special kids in their life outdoors enjoying the fun and beauty that is a winter in Minnesota. What better way to celebrate our winter heritage than by trying the age old sport of ice fishing.

- Roland Sigurdson, aquatic education specialist, MN DNR Division of Fisheries - MinnAqua


Many areas of Minnesota faced drought conditions earlier this year. Where do we stand now in terms of moisture?

Substantial September and October rains flushed away drought concerns in most Minnesota counties. Soil moisture conditions are now considered adequate, stream flows are near historical averages, and most lakes have rebounded significantly from summer's low levels. Just four months ago, one half of Minnesota was burdened with severe to extreme drought. Presently, moderate drought conditions linger only in a small area of west central and central Minnesota, centered roughly on Wadena.

- Greg Spoden, DNR climatologist


Buckthorn has become a major problem throughout the state. Can planting native species help suppress the growth of buckthorn, especially after buckthorn is removed from an area?

Depending on the circumstances, restoring native plant species after buckthorn removal may help suppress the regrowth of buckthorn. Without follow-up control of resprouting plants and seedlings that emerge after initial control, buckthorn will come right back. Buckthorn seeds in the soil can remain viable for up to five years. As a result, it is essential to monitor and manage buckthorn stands each year to suppress its growth, and allow native plants to establish. The best time to cut and chemically treat the stumps is in late summer and throughout the fall. Control methods are available on the DNR Web site.

- Luke Skinner, DNR Invasive Species Program


I'd like to go cross-country skiing in the fresh snow we received. How do I find out about which trails are open, and the conditions?

Throughout the winter, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) personnel monitor the condition of dozens of ski and snowmobile trails maintained by the agency. Snow condition information from Minnesota's state parks, state trails, and state forests is made available on the DNR Web site at

The information is updated at least once per week on Thursdays, even more frequently when conditions warrant. Available information includes a map of current snow depth across Minnesota; and a trail-by-trail description of snow conditions, trail base, and grooming activity. Additional location-based information such as driving and parking directions, trail maps, facilities, and a landscape narrative is also provided.

The winter trail condition information is also available at and

- Greg Spoden, climatologist, DNR Waters Division


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