March 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.






With spring here, wildlife is beginning to become more active, and in some cases, perhaps too active. There have been reports of nuisance squirrels finding their way into homes. How can homeowners deal with these critters?

The best method for dealing with squirrels is prevention. Remove trees or over-hanging branches and close off any external openings that might allow access to a home or other structures. Repellents such as mothballs or ammonia soaked rags are an option to help convince a squirrel to leave. However, care should be taken to ensure that human occupants are not affected. Once the squirrel is out, one-way openings, such as an 18-inch section of 4-inch diameter PVC pipe placed at a 45-degree angle pointing towards the ground, can help keep squirrels from returning until the opening can be sealed permanently. State statute does permit the use of lethal removal methods - traps or shooting - but before pursuing this option, homeowners should check local ordinances. Trapping squirrels and relocating them to other areas is not recommended because they typically do not survive.

Bryan Lueth, DNR Urban Wildlife Specialist


What are the requirements to become a volunteer safety instructor for the Minnesota DNR? What type of training is required?

The main requirement to become a DNR safety-training instructor is a love for hunting or other outdoor activities, and a desire to teach ethics and important safety techniques. A certified volunteer instructor for DNR Division of Enforcement safety training programs must be 18 years of age or older and pass a thorough background check. The typical instructor training session lasts four hours, where new instructors are introduced to policies and training techniques; course outlines for specific programs are also discussed. Information about specific programs and instructor training opportunities is available on the DNR Web site at DNR Safety Safety training instructor training, or by calling 1-800-366-8917.

Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Division of Enforcement education coordinator


After a long winter, Minnesota's lakes, rivers, ditches, ravines and wetlands are in need of a good cleaning to remove accumulated garbage. Does the DNR have a program where people can volunteer to help clean public waters, and if so, what does it involve?

The DNR's Adopt-A-River Program helps volunteers organize their own cleanup by providing a free "how-to" kit, bags and gloves, recognition for their effort, and other assistance as needed. An annual cleanup is required, and many people decide to do cleanups several times per year. Although adopting does not give property rights to those who adopt stretches of a river, it does help develop a sense of responsibility and participation in the welfare of their community and public waters. Since 1989, there have been nearly 2,000 clean ups involving about 62,000 volunteers, who have removed 4.6 million pounds of rubbish from 7,000 miles of shoreline. For more information visit the MN DNR Adopt-A-River's Program website.

Paul E. Nordell, DNR Adopt-A-River Program Coordinator


The number of great gray owls coming to Minnesota this winter has been impressive. What makes them so unique compared to Minnesota's other well-known native owls?

Many Minnesotans and out-of-state visitors this year have been able to observe and photograph great gray owls, which are in fact native to the state. Their large size and daytime habits is what makes them especially unique. Whereas nearly all of Minnesota's owls are nocturnal - active at night - great grays are the exact opposite; they hunt during daylight hours, which makes them much easier to watch. The wingspan of a great gray is nearly a foot longer than our common great horned owl, but they weigh less. The great gray owl feeds primarily on voles - a type of mouse - and will travel considerable distances when vole populations decline in their home ranges. Now that it is March, it is expected that most of these owls will soon head north to their nesting areas in northern Minnesota and Canada; some may stay and nest in Minnesota. There have already been some reports of courtship vocalizations - a deep, muffled series of whoos, slightly lower and weaker at the end.

Pam Perry, DNR Nongame Specialist, Brainerd


By now, ice fishing houses should have been removed from frozen Minnesota lakes in southern Minnesota. Houses in the northern third of the state must be off by March 15. What happens to the houses that remain beyond the deadline?

Minnesota law (?97C.355) states that a conservation officer must confiscate a fish house or dark house left on the ice in violation of the removal deadline. The officer may remove, burn or destroy the house, and seize the contents of the house and hold them for 60 days. Any seized items not claimed by the owner may be retained for use by the DNR Enforcement Division or sold. In 2004, a total of 95 shelter owners received citations for leaving their fish houses on the ice past the deadline. Many of these owners were allowed to keep their houses if they removed them. If a conservation officer is unable to identify a shelter owner, the officer may sell it to someone else. The new owner would then be responsible for removing the fish house. DNR officers are responsible for removing any unclaimed houses that remain on the lakes.

Major Jeff Thielen, DNR Division of Enforcement


DNR Question of the Week Archive