January 2008

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.






Cross-country skiers are required to purchase and possess a pass before skiing on state and Grant-in-Aid ski trails. What is the purpose of these passes?

Purchasing a ski trail pass is an investment in the sport of skiing. Ski pass funds support 1,800 miles of cross-country ski trails in state parks, in state forests, and in the local grant-in-aid program. The money collected goes directly into the grant-in-aid program to maintain and groom ski trails. The DNR works with local units of government and ski clubs to maintain and expand skiing opportunities. Local ski club volunteers or DNR staff do more than half of all trail work before the snow flies, such as clearing brush and preparing trail surfaces. Even during winters of little snow, skiers that buy either the daily, annual or three-year pass help assure that the trails will always be there. Additional information on cross-country ski passes and skiing opportunities in Minnesota is available on the DNR's Web site at mndnr.gov/skiing.

- Andrew Korsberg, DNR Trail Program coordinator


Winter is tough on everyone, but can be especially difficult for wildlife. How does the cold and snow affect deer, and how do they survive Minnesota’s winter weather?

Deer begin preparing for winter by shedding their summer coat and replacing it with a heavier winter coat. During a cold snap, they can make the hairs of their fur coat stand erect, which traps air near the skin and increases the insulation value of their winter coat. This is similar to birds fluffing their feathers. Deer store most of their fat reserves during the summer months because the twigs they eat in the winter lack the nutritional value of green vegetation. They tend to migrate to areas with conifer trees such as white cedar, balsam, fir, white spruce or jack pine. Conifers are warmer than trees that shed their leaves because they absorb energy from the sun. And, like most of us, deer also try to limit the amount of time spent out in the elements. As far as how our current winter will affect Minnesota’s deer population, it’s too early to tell. That impact depends on snow depth coupled with how long the snow stays on the ground.

- Frank Swendsen, DNR Wildlife supervisor


How did Minnesota stack up in terms of temperature and precipitation for 2007?

The Minnesota mean annual temperature for 2007 finished above the long-term average. Most communities reported above-average temperatures in eight of the 12 months. Final data are still being evaluated, but it appears the 2007 state-averaged mean annual temperature for Minnesota will rank 12th in a modern record that extends back to 1895.

The 2007 annual precipitation totals demonstrate the caution one must use when evaluating climate statistics. The state-averaged annual precipitation total finished well above the long-term mean. However, this masks the fact that much of Minnesota was in the midst of a severe drought during the mid-summer. The dry weather of the spring and summer was more than counterbalanced by extraordinarily heavy August rains in southeastern Minnesota, and a wet autumn throughout the state.

- Greg Spoden - DNR assistant state climatologist


Now is the time of year when Minnesota residents can contribute to the DNR's Nongame Wildlife Checkoff Fund. What is this money used for and how does it help wildlife?

Donations made to this fund are used by the DNR's Nongame Wildlife Program for a number of comprehensive statewide efforts to help protect and manage the state's "nongame" wildlife species, which includes more than 700 kinds of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies and selected invertebrates that are not traditionally hunted or harvested. This also includes conservation efforts for threatened and endangered species. Specifically, the species that have benefited from these efforts are bald eagles, trumpeter swans, peregrine falcons, eastern bluebirds, Blanding's turtles, bats, timber rattlesnakes, great blue herons and other colonial water birds like egrets and grebes. The money raised also helps acquire land and easements to protect habitat, manage prairies, forests and wetlands, create buffer zones along lakeshores, assist to private landowners and local governments with habitat management, and fund educational programs. Contributions to the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff Fund can be made on your 2008 Minnesota tax form.

- Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor


DNR Question of the Week Archive