October 2012

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.

Oct. 1, 2012

Q: Where can I find current information about fall colors in Minnesota?

A: Colors typically peak between mid-September and early October in the northern third of Minnesota, between late September and early October in the central third, and between late September and mid-October in the southern third (which includes the Twin Cities).

For a map showing where colors are peaking across the state this week, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/fall_colors or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The DNR website and Information Center can also provide information about free, family-oriented programs designed to enhance enjoyment of this colorful season at Minnesota state parks, trails and water trails (including hiking, paddling, biking and ATV excursions).

-Amy Barrett, communications project supervisor, DNR Parks and Trails Division


OCT. 8, 2012

Q: I was surprised the other day to find a small gray frog in my watering can. I helped the frog get out, then filled the can with water and watered my flowers. The next day, the tiny frog had taken up residence again in the empty can. What kind of frog is it, and why is it still around as the weather is turning colder?

A: It is likely to be one of two species: Cope’s gray treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) or Eastern gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor).These two species so closely resemble each other that they can only be reliably distinguished in the field by the breeding calls of the males. The Eastern gray treefrog has a musical, birdlike trill. The call of the Cope's gray treefrog is similar, but is a faster metallic, buzzy/burry trill.

The Eastern gray treefrog has twice as many chromosomes as the Cope's gray treefrog. They also differ somewhat in their distribution in Minnesota. Currently there no records for the Cope's gray treefrog in northeastern Minnesota, and no records for the Eastern gray treefrog in southwestern Minnesota. Eastern gray treefrogs reportedly prefer more wooded habitats than Cope's gray treefrogs.

Both species actually overwinter on land under shelters of bark, leaves, rocks or logs. Their bodies can withstand partial freezing; converted glucose from the liver protects their vital organs from freezing.

People should check their potted plants before bringing them indoors – Copes' and gray treefrogs like to take shelter in the leaves and watering trays where they can stay moist (like in a watering can). If possible, people should let soil dry thoroughly before bringing plants in. That way there will be less of a chance for the frogs to hitch a ride inside.

For more information on reptiles and amphibians of Minnesota, go to:

For distribution maps of reptiles and amphibians in Minnesota, go to:

-Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, regional nongame wildlife specialist
Ecological and Water Resources Division, Minnesota DNR Southern Region



OCT. 15, 2012


Q: Buckthorn has become a major problem throughout the state. When is the best time to remove it and treat the stumps?


A: The best time to cut buckthorn and chemically treat the stumps is in late summer and throughout the fall. Chemical treatments can be very effective in the fall, plus buckthorn plants stay green later in the year than native trees, making them easier to identify. Information on identifying buckthorn and buckthorn control methods are available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/invasives/terrestrialplants/woody/buckthorn.

-Laura Van Riper, terrestrial invasive species coordinator
Ecological and Water Resources Division, Minnesota DNR



OCT. 22, 2012


Q: I recently saw a gray squirrel with black fur. How rare are they?


A: Good question! I don’t know how rare they are. They are a color variation that is not as well adapted to typical squirrel habitat and life in the wild. However, under the right circumstances and in some locations (probably where predators are less prevalent) they can survive well. There are certain locations, usually small towns and cities, where they are relatively common and where there appears to be a strong component of the genes for that color variation in the squirrel population. I grew up in a small town that had another variation quite commonly. We had white squirrels.

-Diana Regenscheid, DNR area wildlife manager



OCT. 29, 2012

Q: With snow just around the corner, folks are getting ready to ride their snowmobiles. What are the educational requirements for the legal operation of a snowmobile?

A: Current statute requires anyone born after Dec. 31, 1976 to take a safety-training course before operating a snowmobile on public lands or waters. Two types of courses are available. First, for those 11-years-old and older, an 11-hour introductory course designed for youth or the rider with little or no experience, which includes hands-on training. Second, for those 16-years-old and older, an independent study CD-based course where students learn at home.

Once they have successfully completed their courses, students follow a path by age to receive a certificate of completion from the DNR. Both these courses show students the most common causes of snowmobile accidents in Minnesota, and how to avoid them. Volunteers teach classes across the state. Information regarding snowmobile certification classes can be found on the DNR's website at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/vehicle/snowmobile.

- Capt. Mike Hammer, recreational vehicle coordinator, DNR Enforcement Division


DNR Question of the Week Archive