DNR: Duck, turkey populations up

Published 7:53 am Thursday, September 22, 2011

In spite of abnormally wet conditions earlier this year, waterfowl hunters may find access to lakes and wetlands challenging in some areas this fall.

“Some hunters may be surprised by water levels, especially at the very shallow sites,” said Ken Varland, area wildlife supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Some wetlands are significantly lower than they were at this time last year.”

With above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation during the past couple of months, the water evaporates quickly, Varland said.

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Wet and dry cycles are a natural part of healthy wetlands. Low water levels during the growing season allow germination of emergent vegetation such as cattails and bulrushes. These plants filter nutrients and create a healthy balance in the wetlands, which provides food and protective cover for waterfowl and other species of wildlife.

“Wetlands will naturally fill as we get rain,” Varland said. “But without precipitation, access by boat will become increasingly more difficult on some wetlands through the fall.”

Hunters who make the extra effort to access wetlands may be rewarded, though. According to the annual DNR spring waterfowl survey, the state’s breeding population of mallards is estimated to be 17 percent higher than last year. The combined population of ducks such as wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads is estimated to be 22 percent higher than in 2010.

“This year it is especially important to get out before the opener and do some scouting,” Varland said. “It could make the difference between a disappointing waterfowl opener and a successful one.”


Turkey hunters are being asked to provide input before Oct. 10 on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) proposal to consolidate the state’s 77 spring turkey permit areas into nine larger areas.

“Our turkey populations are doing exceptionally well, and we no longer have a need to manage turkey on such a small scale,” said Bill Penning, farmland wildlife program leader. “These changes will provide additional flexibility and opportunity to hunters.”

The changes will allow increased hunting access afforded by larger permit areas and will simplify administration and population management. Permit numbers available to hunters are not affected by this proposal, according to a DNR press release. The number of permits available in the new larger permit areas will be the sum of all permits from the original, smaller permit areas.

The Whitewater, Carlos Avery and Mille Lacs wildlife management areas would remain as separate turkey permit areas.

Hunter comments will be taken online only through Monday, Oct. 10, at mndnr.gov/hunting/turkey. A map of the proposed turkey permit areas and a feedback form are available online. Additional comments can be e-mailed to wildlife.dnr@state.mn.us.

Public input will be reviewed and considered in October. A decision on the spring turkey season will be made in early November.

The wild turkey was extinct in Minnesota from about 1900 until the late 1960s. Failed attempts were made to reintroduce turkeys using game farm stock. In 1971, wild turkeys trapped from Missouri were introduced into the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area in Winona County. The reintroduction was successful, and formed the basis of Minnesota’s current turkey population. The DNR, with financial assistance from the National Wild Turkey Federation, trapped and relocated more than 5,250 wild turkeys to suitable habitat throughout the state from the late 1970s through the 2000s.

Those efforts were successful, and today the wild turkey population thrives throughout the non-boreal forest portion of the state. During the growth years, the DNR had to regulate hunting on a geographical basis to ensure populations could rapidly expand into new areas. Today the regulation is no longer necessary, hence the proposed consolidation of hunting areas.