August 2007

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.



The switch from summer to fall is beginning but some trees have already made an unexpected transformation to their fall colors. Why is this? Does this mean this year's fall color display will be early and not as vibrant?

Some tree species, such as ash, are known to get a jumpstart on the fall color change. So it's not uncommon for people to see one or two ash trees in their neighborhood that have colored leaves. However, early coloration in other tree species can mean the tree is stressed, either from a disease or physiological stress, such as lack of water or too much of it. As a result, these trees will shut down operations for the year before other individuals of the same species. For example, stressed maples are prone to early coloration and will change color up to a month earlier than their healthy counterparts.

People who enjoy fall foliage should expect an early change in most areas of the state and, in fact, fall color change has just become noticeable in the northern part of the state. Even though a number of trees are already in the midst of their annual transformation, people should expect this year's fall colors display to be quite brilliant in most areas of the state, provided we have warm days and cool nights. For the latest information about fall colors, visit the DNR's Web site at

- Jana Albers, DNR forest health specialist


Although the loon is a bird, it differs from songbirds and waterfowl. How?

The bones of most birds are hollow and light; however, loons have some solid bones that make diving easier but flying more difficult. This extra weight enables them to dive deep - in excess of 100 feet - to search for food. Once underwater loons can remain there for several minutes. Even though loons are capable of diving deep and for long periods, most dives are shallower and shorter. Because their bodies are heavy relative to their wing size, loons need a runway of 60 or more feet in order to take off from a lake. When airborne loons can fly more than 75 miles per hour. Another unique characteristic of a loon is its legs. These extremities are set far back on its body, which means a loon cannot walk like other birds. If on dry land, a loon must push itself along on its chest.

- Pam Perry, DNR nongame wildlife specialist, Brainerd


What can deer hunters do to prepare for the upcoming hunting season?

Getting ready for deer season can be a time of great anticipation and anxiety. Do I have the right license? Is my gun sighted in? What's the weather going to be like are just some questions that can run through a hunter's brain. The best way to avoid problems and pitfalls during deer season is to be prepared. The regulations book just came out so now is the time to figure out how many deer you can take in your area. If you have a question, contact the DNR Information Center or look at the DNR deer hunting Web site. As for getting ready, go over your gear now and make a list of equipment needs. Get your gun sighted in early and make sure your knife is sharpened and GPS unit has fresh batteries. You don't want to be scrambling the night before the opener buying a license or finding ammunition. It's also important that you spend some time scouting prior to your hunt. Deer will change their movements based on the availability of three life requirements: food, cover, and water. The stand you hunted last year may not have the deer traffic this year because of changing habitat or water availability. So, the key to having a successful deer season and being prepared is to know the rules for your area, get your license and equipment early, spend some time going over your equipment needs, and take some time to scout prior to the season.

- Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game coordinator


It appears to be that time of year for insects and diseases of trees to surface. In recent weeks a number of outbreaks have been reported. Is there anything homeowners can do to protect their trees from insects and diseases and possible mortality, regardless of tree species?

There are a number of things that homeowners can do on their own to help keep their trees healthy. Since many areas of the state are experiencing some type of drought conditions, a good place to start is watering your trees. The lack of water can cause trees to be more vulnerable to serious insect and disease pests, to suffer dieback in the upper branches and perhaps to become so stressed that they die. So, wherever possible, homeowners should give their trees about one inch of water each week. In addition to watering, organic mulch two to three inches deep around the base of the trees will guard against lawn mower injury and keep the roots moist. Homeowners should also avoid using weed and feed fertilizer products, which contain herbicide. While the product makes lawns look good, it does kill tree roots. Picking up and properly disposing of fallen leaves and tree branches can also help prevent the spread of tree diseases now and next spring. For more information, log onto the DNR's Web site at

- Jana Albers, DNR forest health specialist