February 2006

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.






Last winter, hundreds of great gray owls moved into northern Minnesota. Have any returned this year and how do we know if, and when, an event like that will happen again?

Last winter was a truly remarkable, and unprecedented, year for great gray owls in Minnesota. It has been estimated that more than 5,000 great grays were observed, a number greater than 10 times what had ever been recorded in a previous year. Two other northern owl species, the northern hawk owl and the boreal owl, were also observed in record numbers. So far this year, very few great gray owls have been seen, and those that are reported are in areas where they occur most every year, such as the Sax-Zim Bog northwest of Duluth. There is no way to know when another large winter invasion of great gray owls will occur, as their movement depends largely on food availability. Although the number of great grays in the state has not reached last winter's totals, another northern owl species that visits Minnesota in the winter, the snowy owl, has been observed in greater numbers.

Pam Perry, DNR Nongame specialist, Brainerd


The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently unveiled, and is accepting comments on, its draft plan for recovering duck populations in Minnesota, thereby improving duck hunting. What are the most important factors that will drive success and restore ducks?

The plan identifies challenges and suggests strategies that the DNR feels will move Minnesota in the right direction; however, any effort must be viewed as another step in what will be a long journey. High-quality habitat is essential to the success of any plan, but the most important factors differ by area of the state. For example, ducks, and hunters, in the prairie landscape will benefit most by the restoration and protection of wetland and grassland habitat complexes, including shallow lakes. In the forested areas, management of wild rice lakes, shoreland protection, and trees large enough to support cavity-nesting ducks are important.


What are the DNR and other state agencies in Minnesota doing to make sure habitat and clean water initiatives are a top priority in the 2007 farm bill?

The federal farm bill is an extremely important law that affects the management of millions of acres of private land in Minnesota. The existing farm bill expires in the fall of 2007. It is expected that a new federal farm bill will be passed at that time to take the place of the current one. Presently, Minnesota's Clean Water Cabinet, created as part of Governor Pawlenty's Clean Water Initiative, oversees progress on priorities such as impaired waters restoration, drinking water protection, and fish and wildlife habitat enhancement. The state agencies represented on the Clean Water Cabinet - DNR, Board of Water & Soil Resources, Department of Agriculture and Pollution Control Agency - are in the process of developing draft recommendations for public review and comment this spring, and submitting those recommendations to Minnesota's Congressional delegation.

Wayne Edgerton, DNR agriculture policy director


It is not uncommon for swans and other birds to fly into power lines, power poles and radio towers. What does the DNR and power companies do to deter birds from striking these objects?

Some hazardous sites are identified as potential problems and addressed during new construction. However, potential problems from others sites are not always foreseen as birds may move into new territories with existing hazards. Increased recognition of the problem for all migratory birds has prompted action to reduce bird mortality at both federal and state levels. Bird diverters in the form of balls, flappers or spirals, for example, can be placed on power lines to make them more visible to birds. Lines may also be placed underground or moved to another location out of major travel corridors. Shorter towers may also reduce bird mortality, as they do not require hazardous support wires.

Steve Kittelson, DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife


DNR Question of the Week Archive