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.
Q: Given the drought situation over most of Minnesota, how will turtles and frogs fare in finding suitable places to hibernate?
A: Drought can have significant impacts locally and regionally on aquatic reptiles and amphibians, depending on the length of the drought.
Species that breed in seasonal wetlands and ponds may be forced to find alternative breeding and overwintering sites. These alternative sites are often larger wetlands, ponds or lakes that have a more permanent water source. These sites often have fish and other predators that prey on amphibians and amphibian larva. Local populations can be depleted as a result of this use of alternative breeding and wintering sites.
Another concern with prolonged drought is low oxygen levels. Species that can breathe air can survive in lower oxygen conditions during no-ice conditions. However, many species can only exchange oxygen with the water. In low oxygen conditions caused by prolonged drought, local populations can be lost. During winter, it is harder for amphibians and aquatic reptiles to get oxygen due to ice conditions. As a result, it is common to see frog and turtle die-offs in ponds when they thaw in spring.
Overall, most species can survive short-term droughts, with some localized impacts. Many species can re-inhabit seasonal wetlands and ponds as conditions improve, provided there is a permanent water source in proximity to these seasonal sites.
Prolonged droughts over three to four years can have larger-scale negative impacts on aquatic species.
--Jaime Edwards, Nongame wildlife program
Q: It seems like you see more and more wild turkeys these days near urban areas. Is this just cyclical, or has their population shifted?
A: Turkeys are another species of wildlife that have adapted to living in close proximity to people. Prohibitions on hunting, the relative lack of predators, and the abundant food sources found in urban and suburban landscapes contribute to high reproductive success and low mortality for turkeys and other wildlife in urban areas.
The preservation of natural areas, including river corridors, wetlands, parks and backyards provide habitat for many wildlife species that many people feel contribute to a higher urban quality of life.
-Bryan Lueth, DNR forest wildlife habitat team supervisor
Q: I'd like to go cross-country skiing. How do I find out about which trails are open, and the conditions?
A: Throughout the winter, DNR personnel monitor the condition of dozens of ski and snowmobile trails maintained by the agency. Snow depth and trail condition information from Minnesota's state parks, state trails and state forests is made available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/snow_depth.
The information is updated at least once a week on Thursdays after 2 p.m. and more frequently when conditions warrant. Available information includes a map of snow depths across Minnesota; and a trail-by-trail description of snow conditions, trail base and grooming activity. Additional location-based information such as driving and parking directions, trail maps, facilities and a landscape narrative is also provided.
Remember that all cross-country skiers age 16 and older must carry a Great Minnesota Ski Pass on ski trails in state parks or forests, or on state or grant-in-aid trails. The ski pass fee ($6/daily, $20/one-season, $55/three-season) helps support and maintain Minnesota's cross-country ski trail system.
For more information on how to purchase a pass, visit www.mndnr.gov/skiing or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367.
- Kaija Helmetag, information officer – Parks and Trails Division