January 2009

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.





Now is the time of year when Minnesota residents contribute to the DNR's Nongame Wildlife Checkoff Fund on their state tax forms.  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. Those include more than 800 kinds of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies and selected invertebrates that are not traditionally hunted or harvested. The fund also finances 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.  In addition, funds are used to acquire land and easements to protect habitat, manage prairies, forests and wetlands, create buffer zones along lakeshores, assist private landowners and local governments with habitat management, and support educational programs.  Contributions to the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff Fund can be made on your 2008 Minnesota tax form or online any time of the year at: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/nongame/checkoff.html.

- Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor


Winter heating bills have been relatively high the past couple winters. How can planting trees help lower energy bills in the winter and summer?

Shade trees can reduce air conditioning bills by nearly 25 percent and reduce annual fuel bills by up to 20 percent. Also, trees around the community help keep us cool in summer and shelter us from harsh winter winds. In order to achieve these savings and benefits, trees should be strategically located on your property and throughout your neighborhood. For example, avoid planting shade trees near south-facing windows. If a tree already blocks a south-facing window, remove the lower branches. The angle of the sun is much lower in the winter, so not blocking these windows will allow you to take full advantage of the free solar energy when it’s cold outside. On a regional scale, trees could significantly reduce energy use during peak load periods and reduce air pollution. More information on how trees can lower your energy bills can be found on the DNR’s Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us/treecare/energy/index.html.

- Ken Holman, DNR Community Forestry 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



DNR Question of the Week Archive